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Dodd Caldwell is the founder of Bellstrike and holds the title of ‘Whip Cracker’. He’s also the president of a non-profit organization and passionate about improving the lives of others.
Previously, he led the international and chain sales efforts for his family’s manufacturing business, selling to over 100 countries and some of the nation’s largest retailers like Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Feeling the entrepreneurial urge, he packed his bags and moved to Panama, Central America where he started and ran his own boutique real estate development firm. Dodd graduated with a degree in business from Furman University. Some of his interests are the Spanish language, developing countries and writing minisagas – stories told in exactly 50 words.
Bellstrike lets nonprofits of all sizes set up attractive, donation-enabled websites in about 1-2 minutes. Signup is free and there are no monthly charges. Bellstrike takes a percentage of online donations but caps its fees every month.
MO: Why did you start Bellstrike? How did your background and experience contribute to its development?
Dodd: Because I lead a nonprofit myself, I tend to bump into a lot of other nonprofit organizations and the people who run them. I started noticing that as I met with many of the smaller, local nonprofits, they struggled with creating or keeping up with even a simple web presence, not to mention online donations. When I really started looking at the nonprofit industry in the US, I realized that there are a lot of these small nonprofits and many of them either don’t have websites, have sub-standard ones, or don’t accept online donations. I didn’t really see anyone trying to solve this for this particular niche, so I decided to start Bellstrike.
MO: Where does your passion for supporting non-profits come from?
Dodd: Growing up my parents were heavily involved with a wide range of nonprofits so I feel like I was always around charity work. That certainly inspired me. I really like helping people, providing value to others, and the entrepreneurial scene so supporting nonprofits fits within those passions.
MO: How long did it take to get Bellstrike from the inception of the idea, to going live online?
Dodd: I had been contemplating the idea for a while but once I actually got my ideas on paper, our team got to work with design and development soon thereafter. It took just over a year from the time that we first started the design and development process to when we launched – a lot longer than what I initially thought. Building web-based software is pretty tricky.
MO: What does your business model look like and how easy has it been to attract a network of partners and attract interest and business from potential customers?
Dodd: We don’t charge anything for a nonprofit to set up their website and we don’t have any monthly fees. We charge 6% of any online donations but cap our fees at $80 per month. The company that handles the credit card transactions charges 3.5%. Custom acquisition within our target market is definitely a challenge because the market for small nonprofits is really fragmented. We’ve been fortunate to get some great PR which has helped with that and we’re constantly testing new methods to reach nonprofits.
MO: Bellstrike isn’t the only venture that you’re involved with. What are your other projects and how do you find time to balance them all?
Dodd: I also run Rice Bowls, which is a nonprofit that works primarily with kids here in the US to help educate them about the global orphan crisis at the same time that they’re running fundraising projects. We then use the funds that are raised to cover all of the food costs to our partner orphanages in 8 different countries. I’m also testing out a side business called Loft Resumes. Job seekers can come to our site, shop for a professionally designed resume, and then upload the content for their resume. We then custom typeset their content and email a PDF back to them. It’s definitely a challenge juggling all of this and I certainly wish I got more sleep. I’d love to be able to say that I have some great system that helps me balance everything but I kind of just wing it.
MO: You’ve received a lot of press mentions and PCMag.com even named you one of the best new apps of 2011. With launching less than six months ago, how have you managed to gain such traction and recognition in such a competitive market?
Dodd: I think one of the keys is having great design. Part of great design is making everything look aesthetically pleasing but another part is just making a product that’s easy to use, that’s a pleasure to use. With great design comes the opportunity to create a real emotional connection that resonates with everyone, journalists included.
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