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Columbus entrepreneur creates app giving customers deals, putting businesses 'in the black'

Maria Scott said she got the idea for “In the Black VIP” after she was approached by a large promotional company during the pandemic.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — One Columbus-based massage therapist is trying to help other local business owners like her gain and keep clientele by creating an app that allows customers exclusive discounts while paying business owners.

Maria Scott said she got the idea for “In the Black VIP” after she was approached by a large promotional company during the pandemic which offers discounts to customers.

“I was wanting to promote my business, get customer acquisition again,” Scott said.

She didn’t realize the company offered customers those discounts by having the businesses slash their prices and then take half of that profit. It’s an experience Massage Loft owner Deborah Kutasy said caught her by surprise years ago.

“The actual cost of your massage or service, you just cut that in half and then they want you to take half of the remaining half and then they’ll take the other half of that,” Kutasy explained.

For smaller businesses like Kutasy’s, it means getting on average $15 after that promotion is used versus about $90 for a massage at her spa.

Scott said those were numbers she couldn’t afford to keep her business going, which is why she created “In the Black VIP”.

“The app downloaded is $12.99, from that $12.99, every single business that participates in our app makes a percentage of it. So you’ll make a nickel, dime or a quarter depending on the size of the business,” Scott said.

Scott then promotes every business and their deals on her app through various platforms to customers who have downloaded “In the Black VIP”.

It’s an opportunity for local businesses to get that promotion without taking money from them. Instead, money from downloads pays those businesses and allows customers access to exclusive deals.

“I think we offer a $45 massage, in some situations, it’s cheaper than other [platforms],” said Kutasy.

Kutasy is one of several local businesses taking advantage of the app and is now working with other small businesses she met through “In the Black VIP”.

Members who download the app also gain exclusive invites to monthly socials which allow for raffled prizes and networking opportunities.

Scott said her goal is to make small business owners think differently about how they advertise, realizing it can be a profit that can put them in the black.

There are currently 29 businesses that are on “In the Black VIP” including Massage Loft, J’s Sweet Treats, Fujiyma, Neighborhood Boxing and Stems & Stone among others. The app can be found in app stores on any device and more information about the app, including businesses who wish to join can be gathered by contacting intheblackllp@gmail.com.