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Delaware company focused on rebates goes global

BRANDYWINE HUNDRED, Del. — A Delaware business group, grown on high-tech innovations to ease customer frustrations with mail-in rebates, is taking its nationwide service area to the global level.

The Ohana Companies of Brandywine Hundred, focused on Internet-based rebates and marketing, has acquired Rebate Delivery LLC of Atlanta, an electronic rebate provider serving software companies worldwide. Finances of the deal were not disclosed.

Eric Rubino, president and chief operating officer of Ohana — Hawaiian for “family” — said the company negotiated for some time with Rebate Delivery founder and Chief Executive Officer Jason Foodman.

“We liked what he was doing,” Rubino said, adding Foodman has patents pending on his processes that automatically produce forms in local languages and pays rebates in local currency. Rubino said he deftly solved the two most critical issues of international transaction.

Ohana has “an excellent ally” in Foodman, who saw the companies as “a natural fit,” he added.

The global jump follows skyrocketing revenues and staff increases that landed Ohana on the last Inc. 500 list of the nation’s fastest-growing small companies.

Ohana was placed at No. 272 for its 2007-10 growth rate of 1,187 percent, with two other Delaware firms in the top 500: SevOne, No. 315; and HeadStream, No. 487.

Noting Ohana ranks 18th in its business product/service industry, Inc. listed its annual revenue rising from $651,967 in 2007 to $8.4 million in 2010, with the company growing from five to 28 employees. Rubino said that, under Ohana company policy, he cannot discuss such information, even to say whether Inc.’s details are correct.

But he does acknowledge massive growth in the creative think-tank and e-marketing innovator with new staff to create more.

He also said it’s fun, partly because of Ohana’s company culture built on valuing people, recognizing their efforts and rewarding results.

The Foulk Road headquarters sit at the cutting edge of a booming industry of online solutions to longstanding problems with mail-in rebates.

The company marks its success in such milestones as receiving patents with more pending for its processes, pioneering rebates’ conversion from paper checks to prepaid cards and achieving an industry first with the ability to combine multiple rebates into single payments.

Rebates grew as a marketing tool in the 1970s, with customer frustration along for the ride from the start.

They paid slowly, if at all. Elaborate instructions made them hard to redeem. Those taking UPCs and original cash register receipts left customers unable to return purchases. Some major problems, tied to some companies’ efforts to avoid paying rebates to save money, led to investigations and fraud charges. Rebates have been so fraught with problems, some stores quit them altogether.

Quinlan first saw the problems of rebates working after college for a consumer products brokerage firm, then another he began in 1990 in Wilmington, where clients included 3M, Mattel, Maybelline and Polaroid. His next business streamlined rebates and rewards for clients such as Happy Harry’s, Rite Aid, Pep Boys, Auto Zone and others.

Grown from that company, Ohana last year launched rebates.com. It tempts potential members with free, 30-second registration, easy browsing and a chance to “be the first to hear about special offers and other great money saving promotions.”

In the booming new world of e-rebates, Parago of Texas, which calls itself the largest U.S. rebater, serving Fortune 500 companies, reported 33 percent growth in 2010. Parago attributed its growth to market changes that now find consumers seeking more deals and once-simple rebates evolving into customer loyalty builders.

In its first year, rebates.com boasts of having served more than 10 million customers, fulfilling more than 124 million rebates, “100% online and 100% hassle free,” with “no more mailing in receipts or waiting months to receive a check in the mail.”

Ohana also created a strategy — “return of customer spending” — to offer rebate customers other deals to boost their savings and sponsors’ business. That line has created a new revenue stream for Ohana from small handling fees and a small share of the added sales. It also handled Sears’ Energy Star appliance rebates.

As business has grown, so has leadership, said Rubino, hired in May. Latest key hires are Peter Albers as executive vice president/digital, and Mike Devine as executive vice president/sales.

Last month, Ohana added Senior Vice President Matthew Van Meter, who led Aurora Financial Systems’ sales and revenue stream development. In October, Ohana hired Client Delivery Director Michael Avon, who had led operations for Relay Network, and, two months earlier, Product Development Manager John Deal, from Infologix.

Deal called Ohana “a revolutionary company led and staffed by intelligent and ambitious people” and Van Meter praised its “dynamic, collaborative environment that cultivates thought leadership, strategic thinking and aggressive mindsets.”

Pioneering the e-marketing frontier with its new global platform, offering consumers easy rebates and options, providing businesses creative new marketing and growing itself in hard economic times, aims to embody its dot.com address that doubles as the Ohana Companies’ motto.

“Everybody wins.”

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