Campus Corner

Kansas City start-up BidSpot Cares partners with Mario Chalmers’ charity

Updated: 2013-06-25T17:15:58Z

By RUSTIN DODD

The Kansas City Star

There’s a pretty simple maxim when it comes to professional athletes and charities. Most have them, a ploy to enhance their image and brand. But most charities also fail, becoming nothing more than hollowed-out organizations that do little to make money or support the causes they profess to.

Cheryl Womack, a long-time Kansas City investor and entrepreneur, believes she has an answer for this problem. And it begins in the digital maze of social media.

“Statistics show that a lot of these business fail fairly early on,” Womack said. “Not because they didn’t care about their charity, but because they’re so busy trying to have a career in (professional sports) and have a whole new life.”

The answer, or at least part of it, Womack says, is BidSpot Cares, a digital crowdfunding platform that is attempting to be something of a super-charger for athlete and celebrity charities.

The official launch for the Kansas City area start-up came on June 19, and Womack’s brainchild stumbled into a bit of fortunate timing when its first client, former KU star Mario Chalmers, won his second NBA title with the Miami Heat last week. Chalmers is playing host to an online auction that began on Monday, with the bidding on memorabilia and other items beginning at just a few cents.

The business model is similar to that of other websites that have begun running memorabilia auctions for athletes. The difference in this idea, Womack says, is to develop a long-term relationship with a specific athlete.

“They have huge awareness and superstar power,” Womack said, “and they want to have a good charity, but they don’t harness that power and influence for that charity.”

Womack, of course, is not secretive about how she landed Chalmers. She is a Kansas graduate and board member of Bill Self’s Assists Foundation, the KU coach’s foundation. Womack, a KU basketball fan, says she noticed that most athlete charities become dependent on high-dollar donors to keep the operation afloat. The goal with BidSpot is to lower the barrier of entry for fans, while harnessing the power of athletes’ thousands of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram followers. For example: Chalmers has more than 650,000 followers on Twitter. If BidSpot can get 10 percent of his followers to take part in an online auction or other social media games, well, do the math.

“Once they’re done being a superstar, and the light goes out, what do they have?” Womack says. “Well, if while they were being a great athlete, they also built a great charity, they have that to fall back on.”

To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to rdodd@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/rustindodd.

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