Inside USD

Alumnus’ Entrepreneurial Idea is a Rock for Charity

Monday, October 22, 2012

When’s the last time a rock made you smile? The last time a rock made you think positively? When’s the last time a rock contributed to saving another person’s life?

Chava Mercado-Cano’s answer to the first two questions is simple: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What’s the solution to the latter? He’s working on that now with an entrepreneurial business idea called iRockweHelp. The more colorful $5 rocks he sells via iRockweHelp.com, the bigger the monthly donation to a designated nonprofit charity organization for them to perform essential community services.

This month’s iRockweHelp sales beneficiary is the San Diego Center for Children, an organization that helps children trauma, abuse, emotional, or mental health challenges to thrive. A new charity will benefit from the rock sales each month.

“A rock has always been a symbol for solidarity, strength, protection. In religion, it symbolizes the foundation, a refuge, a safe haven. It has powerful connotations. When you’re crumbling down, a rock reminds you to stay strong. It motivates you,” Mercado-Cano stated on iRockweHelp.com.

The 2006 University of San Diego alumnus earned degrees in Psychology and Communication Studies and an Event Management Certificate through USD’s Professional and Continuing Education in 2009, but his approach to iRockweHelp combines two mainstream, effective business marketing examples: Groupon for its collective buying power method and TOMS for its business-with-a-heart promise.

“Groupon and others like it are using a marketing strategy that’s so simple and yet it’s one of the fastest-growing companies,” he said. “And if you buy one pair of TOMS shoes they’ll donate a pair to a less-fortunate child. It’s a chance to help someone else and that makes you, the consumer, feel good.”

iRockweHelp, which has a Facebook page and Twitter, @iRockweHelp, is a tangible idea. By purchasing one or multiple rocks, it produces what Mercado-Cano calls “Collective Helping Power.” It’s another example of his true desire to help others.

“I once did a charity 5K run to benefit research for Multiple Sclerosis,” he said. “I didn’t know anyone, no one in my family and no friends had MS. I only knew it was a terrible disease. I ran it twice on the same day. I did it for fun, I’m in good shape. One of the ladies who saw me after I’d run it again asked whom I was running for. When I said no one and that I just wanted to support a good cause, she hugged me. It made a difference to her. Doing something like that just makes you feel good.”

He has sponsored children in El Salvador. He regularly sent $20 to help and the gesture made him feel good. When the $20 became tougher to part with, he took a page from the Groupon idea.

“I was sure I could get 19 friends to each give me a dollar to help feed a starving child,” the energetic, outgoing Mercado-Cano said.

His concept for iRockweHelp takes that idea and, for $5 per rock, adds up to a significant donation for organizations such as those that help veterans, fight cancer or help abused women, children or homeless.

“I have lots of friends on Facebook. I know 90-95 percent of them can afford a $5 rock and it won’t change their lifestyle,” he said. “What it will do, though, is help someone else. You don’t have to give up much to make a big difference. That five dollars is a Subway sandwich or a coffee at Starbucks.”

“A rock,” he continues, “is easy to carry. You can have it in your pocket as a constant reminder, you can leave it on your desk at work, leave it in your car or on the nightstand next to your bed. Whenever you see your rock, it’ll make you smile.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

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