Waking up to wallets stuffed with collections of bar and club receipts helped Mike Tatarowicz and James Wachowski realize that going out was getting too expensive.
So, they decided to make it cheaper.
Seizing the entrepreneurial spirit, the former Nazareth Academy buddies started Audum Live in January 2012, a website that sells coupons to Chicago nightlife spots for as low as $3.
The service differs from other online coupon sites like Groupon, which validates deals when a certain number of people have bought them.
Instead, Audum Live customers can buy and use coupons at any time. A typical offer on the site is $5 or $7 for 30 percent off your tab at a certain bar, which can be applied to an entire table. Tatarowicz and Wachowski get the cost of the coupon, and the businesses don’t pay anything.
Also unlike Groupon or DailyDeals.com, which sell coupons for everything from manicures to pet supplies, Audum Live limits itself to nightlife, selling coupons for bars, clubs, concerts and the like.
“These are the types of things we would do just as two guys hanging out,” said Tatarowicz, who, like his business partner, is a 2003 Nazareth Academy graduate. “We came to the conclusion that we spent far too much money doing it.”
By offering coupons that are usually less than $10, the site gives people a way to have fun on a budget.
“What we set out to do is provide young professionals with a cost-conscious outlet to find things going on in their area,” Tatarowicz said. “[Finances are] typically the biggest barrier for people of our age whether it’s going out or going on vacation.”
In between their social lives – which are now also their professional ones – the young entrepreneurs spend plenty of time on the phone and computer.
“It’s taken forever to get to this point,” said
Wachowski, of Lyons.
It also required some odd hours – and not just late ones spent feeling out nightlife spots.
“There was a stretch for six months where I was waking up at 2 or 3 a.m., working with our programmers in India … log out with them, shower, go to work with Jimmy, test the stuff [the programmers] did,” said Tatarowicz, of Hinsdale.
It’s starting to pay off. Eighteen months in, the site has drawn 50,000 different customers and won its first big partner, Four Corners Tavern Group. Tatarowicz and Wachowski are making some money, though it took $250,000 in private investments to start the site.
“As long as we’re getting by, that’s fine,” Tatarowicz said. “We can get money later. Right now, we just want to drive this company as big as it can be.”
They’re hoping to expand the site to New York, San Francisco and Denver, where the site’s designer lives. And they think their model – single-digit offers for young professionals without a ton of discretionary income, plus a free service to businesses – will catch on.
“There really isn’t anything like it,” Tatarowicz said.
A recent study of their social media operation found that more than 100,000 people have interacted with the Audum Live brand.
Tatarowicz estimates he goes out three to four nights a week, not only to bars and clubs but also to concerts and restaurants.
“We are currently not together in the office because we were out last night,” he said.
Work is work.