As a Marine stationed in North Carolina, Aaron Serrano realized he and his comrades were not taking full advantage of all the discounts offered to military personnel. Local businesses were offering price reductions, but they weren’t working together to create a database of all the discounts that members of the military could easily reference.
Additionally, after serving, veterans aren’t given an official card for their proof of military service. Aaron saw the need for a credible form of identification so military veterans could have access to the various discounts offered not only in the Military Cost Cutters program and database but perhaps nationwide. “I knew that veterans needed some kind of verification of their identification, so we created the mobile ID,” Aaron said. “Veterans were having to provide discharge papers to get discounts at some establishments, which is a way that leads to identity theft.”
Passionate about creating change, Aaron contacted Marsha Rinetti, the former Eastern Iowa Small Business Development Center (SBDC) regional director, for assistance in moving forward his military business ideas. Marsha quickly became a valuable asset to Aaron’s new business, Military Cost Cutters.
“Marsha helped me with everything from my business plan to connecting me with the correct resources,” Aaron says. “She helped push me in the right direction and helped identify my target markets and the best way to approach them.”
Furthermore, Aaron was able to access professional contacts through Marsha, making it much easier to network. “She’s introduced me to a lot of people I probably never would have gotten the chance to meet,” Aaron said. “It has been phenomenal.”
Working out of Davenport, Iowa, Military Cost Cutters has been in business for two years. The former Marine captain and four others are working to secure military rewards and to equip Iowa, Illinois, and North Dakota veterans with mobile military IDs. The discount system is currently set up in Iowa, Illinois, and North Dakota and is accessible via website in addition to a conveniently developed smart phone application. Nearly 7,000 mobile downloads have occurred and Military Cost Cutters has partnered with nearly 300 local military-friendly businesses.
“The validation that veterans really want this is probably the most rewarding part,” says Aaron. “There are plenty of generations of military members signing up for this program and receiving the IDs.”
With each stage of development in this successful military discount and loyalty rewards program, Aaron is able to ask his military members how they feel about the improvements. Every opinion or suggestion helps to advance the company and is an opportunity for Aaron to connect military members. He hopes to expand the programming and military IDs into California, Texas, Colorado, and North Carolina within the next year. The company will continue connecting veterans with everything from smaller, privately-owned businesses to larger companies offering military perks across the nation.
Aaron is active with the Greater Quad City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and participates in community events by coaching sports teams in Davenport. A combat veteran, he is also a member of the American Legion and supports the Marine Corps League. As his company continues to grow, he hopes to enrich the community by hiring on more personnel to expand Military Cost Cutters’ reach.
“I’ll continue to always reach back to the Small Business Development Center for guidance,” says Aaron.