Ann Arbor’s Own Hopes To Get Michigan Coffee Houses Buzzing Again

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can offer customers a free cup of Joe on their birthdays, or e-mail them a receipt. Having this data then allows coffee shops to follow the customer on Twitter or Facebook rather than counting on the customer finding them online. This part might sound a little creepy, having your favorite coffee shop “follow” you, but this is where Ergun says he’s in new territory and he’s still exploring.

“If we can be innovative for coffee houses to start with on the loyalty programs—you know, really taking them to the next level—involving the loyalty cards with Facebook, involving them with Twitter, doing all that from the checkout system, then I think we’ll create a compelling solution that could work for other stores.”

“Some companies pay people just to be their evangelist online,” Ergun continues. “If you don’t have that kind of budget, you lose to Starbucks and you lose to Caribou.” Own’s system gives store owners the ability to evangelize without having to hire a full-time social media marketing coordinator.

Ergun plans a beta launch of Own in November with a couple of Michigan coffee houses, and to create some buzz around what he hopes will be Own’s early success. Own recently received $50,000 from the Michigan Microloan Fund program and has won an additional $20,000 in various grants and business plan competitions.

Ergun has come a long way from the frustration of being a burrito eatery owner trying to figure out a lousy cash register system. Even better, he used his anger to create something new and innovative that he hopes will also light a fire under local coffee shops. “People are pissed off about this industry because nobody’s doing anything,” Ergun says. “The big players are resting on their laurels and somebody needs to create some buzz.”

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