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Mob Mentality

The Innovators

Nov 16, 2012

by Alberta Venture Staff

When Gary Ellis and Scott Lawrence approached ATB Financial and asked it to sponsor their new charity-minded website called, the bank decided it had a better idea. “We said we didn’t just want to be the corporate sponsor, and we didn’t just want to give the money,” says ATB Financial senior marketing manager Shannon Pestun.

Photograph courtesy of ATB Financial

Instead, the company helped them organize their first ever “good mob” at Reid’s, a small stationery store on 17th Avenue in Calgary. People were encouraged to show up and shop at Reid’s from 12:30 to 1:00 p.m., and as an incentive the store promised to donate 10 per cent of its sales during that period to the Janus School for Autism. Afterwards, everyone retired to a nearby bar for some drinks and socializing.

What’s the appeal? “It’s a feel-good experience,” says Lawrence, a web designer by day. “Once they got on board and experienced it, they really can’t say enough good things about it.”

Take Groupon’s business model, combine it with the cultural phenomenon of so-called “cash-mobs” and add a heaping dose of goodwill and you get, a website that connects Calgary-area charities, small businesses and individuals.

There’s no one set way of setting up a good mob. Retailers can approach a charity with an idea or vice-versa, and the nature of the charitable contribution can range from a percentage of sales to the donation of a particular item that’s in need. “We’re going to continue to refine the model and explore different ways of performing good mobs,” Lawrence says.

Gary Ellis, 45 years old

  • Bachelor of Commerce
  • MBA
  • Background in marketing and advertising

Scott Lawrence, 43 years old

  • Graduate of: ACAD & Vancouver Film School
  • 14 years working in web design.

They met through Jay Baydala, the founder of, a web-based charity that allows people to dedicate a portion of their Christmas giving to eradicating global poverty.

ATB’s Shannon Pestun thinks the model has great promise for both the businesses and the charities that decide to get involved. “Small businesses typically don’t have big marketing budgets, but there are also a lot of small charities who don’t have corporate funding and have trouble creating awareness,” she says. “This is a really great way for both of them to put themselves out there.” Ellis and Lawrence, meanwhile, hope to spread the model, and make a bit of a profit themselves. “As it scales up, there would certainly be some opportunities to generate some revenue,” Ellis says.


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