The mission of Milwaukee-based Ezbuzz, a subsidiary of marketing agency Barthell Digital, is as easy as sipping your favorite beer: build a digital platform for small businesses to grow – even during a pandemic
“Now any group of small businesses with retail locations can join forces to create an all-digital ‘Trail’ of deals that they sell online, offering a fun money-saving checklist for consumers and a new revenue stream for the businesses,” says co-founder Tom Barthell.
Barthell Digital was founded in 2016 by Barthell and Mike Rooney, both of whom graduated from Homestead High School and later Big Ten universities. The two men and their team have worked to grow myriad Milwaukee businesses – including local heavy hitters like Usinger’s and Rite Hite – through app development, video, design and digital marketing.
Under the Barthell Design umbrella, Ezbuzz was officially announced in Spring 2019 at the 2019 Craft Brewers Conference in Denver.
Through Ezbuzz, businesses offer digital coupons that can be shared anywhere online, which lead online customers to storefronts and turns online traffic to foot traffic.
So how does it work? Businesses start by requesting an Ezbuzz account at https://www.ezbuzz.app/ and once approved they have full access to the platform. From there they can invite businesses in their neighborhood or city to add deals to a Trail.
After each participating business has added a deal, a product page is auto-generated where people can purchase the Trail. Participating businesses can then share their Trail product page anywhere online, distributing revenue to one or more participants and tracking when people redeem a deal at each spot. The redemption process is 100 percent contactless, involving two taps by the customer on their phone. In the last month, Ezbuzz has already onboarded over 40 restaurants, bars and breweries around Milwaukee.
“Our early small business users tell us the Trail function is perfect for staying in business during COVID. Consumers can support local businesses by purchasing Trails online, sending revenue directly to the retail businesses who need it most. Then they can either use the deals now for to-go or dine-in with 100 percent contactless redemptions, or wait to redeem later in 2021 as most Trails are valid for 12 months,” says Rooney.
Considering Barthell and Rooney are Brew City natives, it’s not surprising that they eventually gravitated toward working with the local Milwaukee brewery scene. The fun began in 2017 when they started a social media video series called SipMilwaukee where they interviewed brewery owners and shared their stories.
“We really just wanted to support our home of Brew City and help the craft beer scene take off any way we could. By getting behind the scenes with MobCraft, Third Space and most other Milwaukee breweries, we’ve made a bunch of new friends in the scene but also witnessed first-hand the challenges that many breweries and other small businesses face,” says Barthell. “It’s fitting that the craft beer scene is what inspired us to build Ezbuzz. The brewery scene is the most collaborative, supportive industry we’ve ever encountered.”
Earlier this year, OnMilwaukee and iHeartMedia approached Ezbuzz to organize an alternative to the annual Let’s Brunch Festival which was canceled this year due to COVID. By creating a Trail of deals at 20+ restaurants around Milwaukee, the “Let’s Eat MKE” represents a virtual food fair where people can redeem over $200 in deals over the next 12 months.
“Mike and I are small business owners and many of our friends and family members run startups and small businesses. When small businesses do well, people get employed and families get fed. Everything we do at Barthell Digital is to help these small businesses grow, and our Ezbuzz venture is no exception,” says Barthell.