The Mission to Connect a Million Local Businesses, One Neighborhood Eatery at a Time

When Minng! managing director and founder Adah Ojile walks into a local restaurant, bar, coffee shop, or tea shop, the first thing he does is he glances around to locate what he calls the “promo wall” – the wall (or counter) in many local establishments covered with promotional flyers from nearby local businesses. “Local businesses cross-promote already,” Ojile says as he grabs a few flyers from the promo wall at Sen Yai Sen Lek (left), an authentic Thai restaurant on Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis. “Minng! leverages smartphone QR-reading technology to make cross-promotions a much more viable experience for local businesses and their patrons.”

Instead of a wall of flyers, Ojile proposes one Minng!-generated QR code with clear instructions to guests on how to use it. Ojile pulls out his iPhone and launches the app, which is also available for Android smartphones. He selects the scan option in the app and holds it in front of a QR code. After a couple of seconds, a promotion from Sen Yai Sen Lek appears.  Ojile then selects the “Alliance Rewards” option. He scrolls up and down, showing promotions from other local businesses. “These would have all been flyers in your pocket or handbag, most of which you would probably lose, forget about, or eventually toss away. Now, they’re all on your mobile device.”  A Google mapping function also directs you to the nearby businesses. Plus, each time a cross-promo is redeemed, the referring business gets a token commission equal to 5 percent of the promotion’s purchase minimum or 50 cents, whichever is greater. Minng! gets the same. Redemptions can be tracked by businesses on their Minng! business dashboard.

Minng! wants to create a super-network of local cross-promotional alliances. Just like sending a friend request on Facebook, Minng! enables local businesses to send cross-promotion alliance requests to other local businesses. A local business sends cross-promotion terms to another business on Minng!, and the other business accepts, rejects, or sends a counter-proposal. Once the local businesses have entered into an alliance, a guest can scan the Minng! QR code at one local establishment to electronically clip promotional offers from all the local businesses in the referring business’s alliance. Minng! believes the bigger the network gets, the less relevant traditional forms of advertising will become. Minng! ranks your alliance rewards based on a guest’s self-selected preferences and proximity to the location where the QR code was scanned.

“Our goal is to connect a million local businesses nationwide by the end of 2013. Minneapolis is now ground zero for the movement.” Ojile says. “And local restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and tea shops form the cornerstone of that endeavor. Some of us prefer to have our food experience uniquely local, fresh, and neighborly.” Minng! believes that referring patrons to other local businesses, neighborhood eateries, and waterholes is central to ensuring a thriving local neighborhood business-buying culture.

Minng! also wants to replace your paper punch cards. Ojile pulls out several paper punch cards from his wallet.  “We think it’s better to reward loyalty than to reward group coupon hoppers,” Ojile says as he selects the “Punch Card” option on the Minng! app to display a row of dots. A guest can scan a QR code presented by a cashier after payment to record each visit. Each dot has a timestamp and a visitation code assigned to it. He scrolls up and down the screen, displaying additional rows of dots. “We’re techies, but with the majority of patrons now carrying computers in their pockets more powerful than the one I had when I was in college, we think it’s time for paper punch cards to also go mobile,” Ojile says.  “We have maintained the traditional concept of the paper punch card for rewarding loyalty, but by taking it mobile, we’ve made it much easier for local businesses to track and manage.”

Each time a guest visits a local establishment, they can now use the Minng! app on their smartphone to scan a QR code to record their visit, work toward a loyalty reward, and electronically clip local alliance promotions at the same time.

Minng! has decided to keep the platform open to all types of businesses, allowing users to decide for themselves who to cross-promote with. Minng! sees a lot of opportunity for more cooperation between small businesses. Ojile, who moved to Minneapolis from New York four years ago and left the information technology department of a large retailer in 2011 to get Minng! off the ground, calls the Big Apple the epicenter of neighborhood family-owned businesses. “Now that most local consumers have smartphones, we’re taking ‘Tell Sammy I sent you’ mobile in a viable, scalable way. We believe that’s essential if we want the neighborhood family-owned business to remain a relevant part of our buying experience.”

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Scan the QR code below using your Minng! app to earn discounts from Sen Yai Sen Lek and other local businesses.