From classmates to business partners: An idea sparked in business class leads Luke Nunnally ’07 and Elliot Barcak ’07 to develop successful web marketing company
By Sarah Nunez ’11
For two alumni, a class project took on a life of its own and has now become what they say is the top hyper-local website in the country in a market of 100K. As a student in Dr. Barbara Dalby’s Strategic Management class, Luke Nunnally ’07 was challenged to create a compelling, profitable business model. The assignment sparked an idea that quickly became something more than a mere class project. Along with his roommate Elliot Barcak ’07, Nunnally developed a successful web marketing company built around selling online advertisements.
Nunnally, a business management major from Marble Falls, and Barcak, a sport management major from Friendswood, were inspired by a lesson Dalby taught on The Million Dollar Home Page, where a student made a million dollars in four weeks by selling online advertisement spaces. The two friends took this concept and gave it a local gaming spin.
“We developed a website and broke it into a large grid. We then started selling portions of this grid to local businesses,” Nunnally said.
And with that, Belboard was born. What makes Belboard—and subsequent sites Wacoboard, TAMUboard, Athensboard, and Bearkatboard, among others—unusual is that when registered users click on advertisements, those ads may hold a prize. A user can receive anything from a free cupcake to a camera.
Belboard was an instant hit among 20-somethings and has quickly seen its age demographic increase as the concept spread through social media sites and word of mouth.
“Like Facebook, it started out with college kids and then went to the mass public,” Nunnally said. “Our return on investment for our advertisers keeps them renewing each year. One company is tracking a $4 co-purchase on a 25-cent coupon. That’s $3.75 every time a customer walks through the door with one of our coupons. That’s something a small business gets excited about.”
Nunnally also serves as the chairman of the Temple Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours events. He often bumps into website users at the Chamber gatherings. Nunnally said, at the last meeting, “a fellow came up to us and said how much he loved Belboard. He said he had been to every place advertised on the board except for Molly’s Deli, which was pretty new. Through our site, he had just won a free brownie there, so he was planning on going the next day to get his brownie. He was so pumped about it!”
Nunnally and Barcak hope to reach more areas in Texas, including Tyler, Lubbock, and Abilene. They recently received funding to expand to 15 new markets, and they currently manage a staff of 16, including recent UMHB grad, Matt Wilson ’11. Nunnally continues to operate the business from Belton, while Barcak operates the Huntsville and College Station markets.
Nunnally attributes the company’s success to their faithfulness in tithing. “We tithe ten percent of everything we make through the company. We have noticed that the months we don’t tithe, we run out of money. We have found that if we tithe, we are blessed. It’s easy to see God’s faithfulness in that. That is the testimony of our business.”