Interview with

November 19, 2007 · 0 comments

Recently I had the opportunity to talk with Mitch Wander, founder and CEO of MyTroops is a fairly new rewards program, just launched in January of this year. Thanks for taking the time to take my questions, Mitch!
First of all, what’s your background? Did you use rewards programs before starting one of your own?
I’m a proud veteran who has been in the Army Reserves and National Guard for 12 years, including a deployment to Iraq on a Military Transition Team in 2005-2006. My buddies in Iraq and I talked a lot about all the wonderful support we received from our unit’s Family Readiness Group and friends. We thought about all the innovative ways that people were helping us out. One loyal supporter even sent us a $150 gift certificate. We used that to buy a loud horn for our Up-Armored Humvee and some comfort items. Anyway, after talking to my buddies, I thought about whether a rewards site could be another way to support the troops. My wife, who has a background in online retail, and I launched MyTroops and haven’t looked back.
Prior to launching MyTroops, I used Upromise and FatWallet. I think they’re both wonderful sites – very easy to use.
How does MyTroops work? Do I have to donate my earnings to a military person or can I keep them for myself? What if I want to support a troop but I don’t know anyone — can I adopt one?
Anyone in the military can sign up for a free rewards account. Friends and supporters can only sign up for a free shopper account to earn rewards for the troops. However, anyone can benefit from coupons on the site. The site is designed to earn rewards for troops from anyone’s shopping even for themselves. Troops can use the store gift certificates to buy gear for themselves, flowers for their spouse, toys for their kids, or almost anything. We automatically suggest a Featured Troop who earns rewards if you don’t know a specific troop. That’s extra points for the troops. Or, feel free to look through the troops with rewards accounts and adopt one. That works too!
If a military person wanted to sign up to be supported on the site, how do they go about doing that? How often do you find someone signing up to MyTroops that picks a random troop to support?
It takes a minute or two for a troop to sign up for a free rewards account. If a troop wants to do so, he or she can also upload a picture and write a brief message to everyone.
Our rough estimate right now is that probably 3/4 of the shopping is for the Featured Troop and the remainder is for a troop who they know personally.
Do you send out any newsletters or occasional emails to remind members about the site?
We send out an occasional newsletter to troops and shoppers ranging from one to three times a week depending on whether we have anything really interesting to write. We offer one-click opt out of the newsletter for members who prefer not to receive emails from us. Most of our updates are published in the MyTroops Blog.
I like that MyTroops provides coupon codes for many of the merchants in the program — how often do you update the codes? What if I find a coupon code on another website that’s not on MyTroops, can I still use it?
We update the codes a few times per week. If something comes in that is really hot, we’ll post it same day. We try to focus on the coupons that are really a great value, especially when a merchant who doesn’t offer many promotions has a compelling coupon.
Per our agreements with all of our merchants, if you use a coupon code from another site on MyTroops, the merchant may decide not to pay us. And then we’re not able to reward the selected troop. If you see a special offer on another site that we don’t have, please drop us a line. We can often get the merchant to provide us with a similar offer.
What if the merchant where I want to shop isn’t listed on MyTroops?
Please drop us a line. We add new merchants on a regular basis. For our first couple months, we had 60 to 80 merchants. Now, we have over 400 top stores.
We appreciate all feedback from our troops and shoppers. That makes the site better for everyone.
How long does it take for my shopping points to get credited? How long after that do I have to wait to cash out?
We try to credit points within three to five days of them being reported to us by the merchant. Sometimes we’re a bit faster and sometimes a bit slower.
We currently have no limitations on cashing out, though if there were a single large transaction could – although we never have – decide to wait until after the merchant’s return period if we were concerned about that possibility. Our emphasis is on getting rewards to the troops as quickly as we can.
You’re approaching the site’s first anniversary of going live — are you where you wanted to be at this point? What changes do you have in store for the program in year two?
Has it been a year? Wow! We’ve completely redesigned and relaunched our site based on user feedback. We didn’t expect that there was so much we could do to make it better. Although it was a lot of work, we’re happy that so many troops and shoppers made suggestions how to make it better. We wanted to have 400 stores by the end of our first year and are very happy about that. As we build up sales volume and credibility with the merchants, we hope to be able to attract even more merchant coupons. Also, we’d like to obtain better commission terms from our key stores so that we can increase the rewards for the troops.
What would you say to someone considering joining MyTroops? What sets you apart from other rewards programs? Who would be the ideal member?
We hope that all Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen setup a free account. It’s an easy way to earn rewards that troops can use for themselves and their families. We’ve got many of the coupons and discounts that other sites have… except that we’re combining discounts with reward for the troops.
We try to set ourselves apart by having a great respect for our troops. We have a very strict privacy policy and we’re a HackerSafe site to protect information relating to our member accounts. The military community is rightfully very concerned about privacy and we want to set a great example by honoring that expectation. We also seek out coupons from merchants where troops like to shop.
We’re here to serve our military community. One troop who had earned enough points for a reward deployed to Iraq for a third time before he had a chance to redeem his reward. He emailed me and I made sure the anniversary flowers for his wife were purchased using his points and delivered to his wife. We’re willing to go the extra mile for our fellow troops when a special situation arises.
One type of member who has earned lots of rewards for the troops has been small business owners. They buy large amounts of office supplies and computers for their companies. MyTroops gives them a great selection so they can shop at their favorite stores and earn rewards for the troops, too.
We certainly appreciate any members who want to support our troops. I have great respect for other rewards programs and would encourage shoppers to consider any highly-rated rewards program. MyTroops is one great option for those shoppers who want to earn rewards for the troops.
Those are all the questions I have for you today. Thanks so much for your time!
Folks, at this time of year many of us start thinking about making donations to charitable causes and helping out our fellow man. Our soldiers are out there working hard, often risking their lives, to help keep the U.S. safe. Please consider making at least one purchase through MyTroops this holiday season and donating your rebate earnings to the Featured Troop or to a troop you know personally. You can sign up for a free MyTroops account here.

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