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Sunday, November 7, 2004

Student develops 'ultimate' business

BU entrepreneur's discount card provides savings at Tier shops

Press & Sun-Bulletin

VESTAL -- While many of his peers were off on internships to further their careers this past summer, 20-year-old Binghamton University student Adam Gilbert decided to skip all that.

[ photo ]
Binghamton University senior Adam Gilbert, 20, runs Ultimate Discount Card. For $15, the card holder can receive discounts at local restaurants and businesses. For more information on the card, go to
JACOB KINNE / Press & Sun-Bulletin

That didn't make his mother too happy, but the School of Management senior had a business that he needed to get off the ground. He couldn't balance working at an accounting firm and starting his own business.

The result of Gilbert's summer off is the "Ultimate Discount Card," a $15 card that gives its holder often generous discounts at a number of local businesses through August. Gilbert said he's sold more than 1,000 cards. It's a business the young entrepreneur would like to take nationwide and those who work with Gilbert said he has what it takes to do just that.

"When he attacks something and gets something in his head, he goes at it 100 percent," said Giancarlo Porto, owner of Port-o-Bagels on the Vestal Parkway.

Porto said the card has worked out well for his bagel shop and brought new customers into the shop.

The discount card grew from another business the BU student tried last semester. allowed students to mention the Web site and get discounts at local business. Gilbert charged business $40 a month to be listed on the site, but he saw a problem on the horizon. His research told him that students wouldn't print out coupons from the site and having students just mention the site to get discounts was hard for merchants to track.

Before the concept could go stale, Gilbert re-tooled. He decided to charge students instead of merchants. This approach allowed Gilbert to increase his merchants to 60 from 25. Gilbert spent the summer negotiating deals with local businesses, no easy feat. He called some businesses day after day just to get an owner on the phone. Once he spoke to them, business owners often thanked Gilbert for his persistence, he said.

"It was very upsetting at times," he said. "You almost want to quit."

Gilbert, whose parents are both business owners, said he considers himself a born entrepreneur. He shoveled driveways and had lemonade stands growing up. He said he enjoys making deals and helping people make money. Gilbert plans to expand the card college by college. SUNY Cortland and Cornell University in Ithaca are the next schools in his sights. He hopes to have the leading discount card in the country and to have the accounting firms that have offered him jobs working for him someday.

BU senior Greg Costanzo said he uses the card two or three times a week. It paid for itself after the third time and now he is saving money. Costanzo started selling the card as a fund-raiser for two campus groups that he's a part of.

"He has an information card that shows you what discounts you can get," Costanzo said.

Gilbert's mentor James Barden, a BU accounting professor, said his student is unusually focused for a college student: He's a true entrepreneur who thinks innovatively to come up with new ideas.

"He's the type of person that looks at something and says how can I make it easier and better for the consumer," Barden said.

Madeline Miller, owner of Compu-type resume service in Vestal , said it took her a few minutes to see the benefits of Gilbert's business as she was blown over by his salesmanship. She said she hopes to gain in word of mouth from students who have discovered her business through the card.

Miller said she was surprised by his organization and result-driven nature.

"I expect big things in the business world from him," she said.

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