Editor's note: The first part of this story appeared in the Oct. 28 issue of Tire Business.
COLUMBUS, Ga.About three years ago David Epperly, owner of Epperly Tire & Auto Centers in Columbus, had a dilemma that many dealers have: how to choose a worthy local charity to support among the dozens in the community.
His idea: Why not support them all? Thus was born the Changing Oil, Changing Lives program.
About each month, the dealership selects a charity to receive a day's worth of oil change proceeds. It chose the third Wednesday of the month, because it is the slowest, and promotes the charity fundraiser on its signage. The selected charity of the month also is expected to promote the event among its supporters to draw in more customers, and thus, more donations.
With an oil change averaging about $37, a Changing Oil, Changing Lives event can generate about $1,500, on average, for the charity. The side benefit of the program is that some of those charities' appreciative supporters have returned for other services.
The idea recently caught the attention of Epperly Tire's parts supplier, Mighty Auto Parts, which is now helping the dealership take the program nationwide.
Gary Vann, Mighty's senior vice president of sales and marketing, visited Epperly Tire during a recent Changing Oil, Changing Lives event. I was really impressed with what I sawthe enthusiasm of the volunteers, of the employees, he said.
It's a simple program that works. There are very few programs that are win-win-win. They're a win for the customer. They're a win for the business. They're a win for the community. To me I love the simplicity of it...not that it doesn't take work and organization, but it's a fairly simple concept and that's what appealed to us.
As a participating sponsor of the newly created non-profit organization, Changing Oil, Changing Lives, Mighty will help coordinate a test launch with some of its customers before deciding whether to roll it out nationally.
For dealerships interested in hosting an event, Mighty will pay the $199 event fee to cover the costs of press releases, charity vetting and organization services under the direction of Lindsey Epperly, Mr. Epperly's daughter. The distributor also will contribute the oil filters used during the event, Mr. Vann said, as ways to help get the program off the ground.
Mighty has been promoting the program through its newsletter distributed to its 12,000 customers. I've been getting calls from Florida and Pennsylvania and New Jersey and all over. So we've been sending out information, he said, adding that Mighty sales reps also are discussing the program with the distribution customers they visit.
We're excited about taking a concept that one of our customers has and taking it to other communities. So we can help out a little bit and get the whole thing rolling, getting it started. Usually that's what it takes to get started if we can get a conduit for the ideas. That's what we're doing is sharing the ideas that the Epperlys have put together and contributing financially to help get it started, he said.
Already, he said a couple of dealerships in Florida and Pennsylvania are considering hosting events in November. My goal is to get five to 10 events going in 2014 and refine it. We'll probably have a webinar for our fellows internally, he said.
In addition to word-of-mouth, Mighty's website will provide a link to the Changing Oil, Changing Lives website that features stories, what charities are benefitting and guidelines for hosting an event.
People are looking for a way to give back but have a difficulty in trying to find one cause and something they can do that will benefit the community. And this is so simple and yet it can be very rewarding and easier to implement than some other things, Mr. Vann said.
We think it has a lot of merit and we want to give back as well. And so if we can help pay for some of the administrative costs and help with the cost of oil filters, it's not much but it's being a facilitator or conduit and we can kick in a little bit. If everyone kicks in a little bit, it's not a burden for anybody and you get more in return than you give.
The Changing Oil, Changing Lives program is open to any multi-location tire dealership, car dealership or quick lube shop in protected markets. The nonprofit, operated by the Epperlys, offers a $199 package of services for those interested in hosting an event: contacting and interviewing charities; writing press releases and distributing them to local media; counseling charities and dealerships on social media posts; and advising on event organization. A dry erase sandwich board to publicize the event in the store is provided for a fee. The organization also provides participants access to an education video and a Facebook page to share events and interact with other participants.
For more information, visit http://epperlytire.com/changing-oil-changing-lives or contact Mr. Epperly at [email protected]
To reach this reporter: [email protected] crain.com; 330-865-6127.