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Eric Pratum is Head of Marketing at Empower.me. Previously, he was the Director of Digital Strategy at Grizzard Communications Group, a 95+ year old marketing and fundraising firm that focuses specifically on nonprofits. He specializes in social media analytics, SEO, & PPC – both social and keyword-based.
Empower.me, launched recently with the goal of helping teens get better grades, study for their SAT/ACT, find careers they love, and learn life skills such as personal finance – all while increasing family harmony. Empower.me allows teens to earn financial rewards for learning, performing chores, and doing one time tasks.
MO: Where does your strong entrepreneurial spirit come from?
Eric: On my father’s side of my family, my great-great-grandfather was the police chief of Oslo. His son ran his own farm. My grandfather ran his own eye surgery clinic and property holding company. On my mother’s side of the family, my grandparents ran their own bakery. My parents ran their own medical clinic for 10 years, and my father now manages the finances for my grandfather’s property holding company. As a result of being raised around entrepreneurs, I was conditioned to be hard working, creative, independent, and problem solving.
MO: How does Empower.me work? How does the user experience differ for parents and teens?
Eric: In the most basic sense, teens watch videos and take quizzes on Empower.me with the goal of getting better grades, being accepted to the college of their choice, finding a career they can really love, and learning life skills not typically covered in school. With Empower.me, teens earn financial rewards from their parents for learning. We are not a content creator, but rather a content aggregator with a quiz and rewards layer added on top of the videos.
For parents, Empower.me is intended to take as little time as possible. While they can go into the website, proactively review what their teens are doing, watch videos themselves, and manage the incentives they set for their teens, we really want parents to be able to set up their account and incentives, invite their teens, and then only have to go back when they need to review money requests from their teens.
For teens, the Empower.me experience is all about finding new things to be passionate about, learning, and earning rewards. In the future, we will expand beyond just financial incentives, and there will be much stronger networking abilities.
MO: What was the biggest lesson you learned while working for an Angel investing group?
Eric: The success of a business and the ability to raise capital has very little to do with whether or not you have a great idea. A great idea is a minimum requirement. It cannot be left out, but everyone has a great idea now and then, so the great idea isn’t really anything special in the eyes of most investors. Investors want more than that. They want to see that you have a plan, you’ve done your research, you have a strong team, you have experience in the space, and you know you can make the most of their investment.
When you pitch an investor, it’s not like you’re asking your big corporation for a few thousand dollars to send you to some training seminar or big conference. You’re asking for tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of dollars of an individual’s money. When you start thinking about that, it’s easy to see why they need more than just your great idea before they’ll invest in you.
MO: What are some of your favorite features of Empower.me?
Eric: I like how easy it is to find information about school subjects, careers, and life skills that you otherwise might not get in school or from your parents, and this will get even better in the future as we continue to add content around careers, sports, hobbies, and even school subjects that a lot of schools don’t offer. For parents, I like how easy it is to use Empower.me. We have done our best to make it so that there is little to no time commitment on the parents’ part, and this will also get better in the future. One of our goals is to make it so that a parent can receive a text message, email, or app notification and simply respond via text, clicking a button in a email, or clicking a button in a phone app in order to approve or disapprove money requests from their teen.
MO: Can you talk about your marketing strategy and what approach has worked best so far?
Eric: We’re still very early on in the life of Empower.me, so we’re much more in the testing and data collection phase of marketing than in the expansion and refinement stage. That being said, we use advertising, content creation, social media, word of mouth, community seeding, and competitions for our marketing. To this point, we have spent the most time on advertising, but we are ramping up the other efforts and have seen tremendous pickup in some online teen communities.
MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
Eric: Professionally – Taking Empower.me to a larger audience. I have a strong background in analytics, social media, SEO, PPC, and marketing management, and Empower.me is giving me the opportunity to expand into branding and a number of other areas. Personally – I have been very fortunate to travel a lot this year for both personal and professional reasons, and it looks like I will likely be in either Africa or Australia again before the end of this year.