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HOW MEMO IS RAISING THE BAR FOR SCHOOL AND NONPROFIT FUNDRAISERS

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Three years ago Baton Rouge entrepreneur Travis Broussard and his wife, Summer, had grown increasingly disillusioned with hawking candy, magazines and cookie dough to raise money for the school their children attend.

“We got tired hitting up our family and friends selling junk we can buy at the grocery store,” Broussard says. “We really started thinking about what we could do to help our kids’ school.”

Around the same time, Broussard noticed the family was spending hundreds of dollars annually on custom photo books to commemorate important life events. The classic combination of frustration and opportunity sparked an idea for a startup.

Broussard and his technology company Impression Works soon launched MEMO, a software product that enables users to create customized photo products such as photo books, calendars, greeting cards and posters, with half of the proceeds going to support the organization of the customer’s choice.

MEMO has grown steadily since releasing its first product in 2014, raising $1 million for schools and nonprofit organizations and positioning the company for rapid growth in the multibillion-dollar fundraising market.

Filling a Big Need

Broussard says he founded Impression Works in 2011 after growing “tired of building other people’s companies.” The company launched with two employees at the Louisiana Business & Technology Center at LSU Innovation Park, and has since expanded and moved to a larger space at the Louisiana Technology Park.

By the time they set out to create MEMO, Impression Works developers had several years of experience creating software products, including Mobile Job Force, a job-recruiting platform that remains popular with the food services and construction industries.

The development team focused on making MEMO easy to use so it would stand out among other photo-book software products, many of which Broussard says are too time-consuming and complicated.

The response from users has been overwhelmingly positive. At LSU’s University Lab School, for example, students and parents designed their graduation invitations using MEMO. The students and parents uploaded photos, picked a design and added text to create their personalized graduation cards.

“They click submit; five to seven days later they get their cards in the mail, and the school gets 50 percent of the proceeds,” Broussard says.

Schools have been overwhelmingly receptive to the new fundraising model, says Broussard, who estimates the company will work with 60-70 percent of all schools in Louisiana over the next 24 months.

“They’re so sick of selling junk,” he says. “And our system is so easy. It costs nothing for the school to set up; it’s all online. Parents are already ordering it. They upload their own photos, create the product and we ship it to the parents, not the school.”

Poised for Growth

While MEMO has focused on the Louisiana market, the company hopes to make waves nationwide, Broussard says.

“Every school system that we walk into, they say yes,” he says. “So we just need to duplicate that across every state. There’s nothing like this right now, so I think we probably have a three-year window to really capture the market.”

Impression Works has been laying the groundwork for a major expansion, acquiring Personera, a technology company in South Africa, and raising $1 million in funding from a venture capital firm.

The company has secured an additional $1.5 million from 10 angel investors in Baton Rouge, Broussard says, and hopes to nail down additional capital to fund a sales and marketing push across the country. “Now we’re ready to really expand,” Broussard says.

Making a Difference

MEMO has also made inroads into the nonprofit and charity markets, forging partnerships with groups such as the Foundation for Woman’s Hospital and Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge. Broussard says the opportunity to help raise money for organizations that make a real difference in the community is particularly gratifying.

“I’ve been in technology sales all my life and I’ve never been so excited to go out and sell a product,” Broussard says. “I get to walk in and learn about these unbelievable organizations.”

The opportunity to make a positive impact has also helped the company recruit top-notch developers looking to make a positive impact through their work.

“It’s very rewarding for me and everybody who works here,” Broussard says. “I know that our employees are very talented people and could work anywhere. They chose to work at MEMO because they’re making a difference.”

Stephen Loy