Payback is a glitch, so ‘Glo’ guru strikes again

Let there be light (and cash back): Northport innovator Celestina Pugliese has some more bright ideas.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Celestina Pugliese has had another lightbulb moment, and while it’s not quite as literal as her first, it could prove another boon for booze barons.

Pugliese, founder and CEO of Northport-based Ready Check Glo, has already made a splash with her flagship product, promoted as “the world’s first illuminating check presenter.” The small leather folder features a small window that lights up to alert servers when diners are ready to pay their bills and can be customized with corporate logos – and they’re a hit, with a wide-ranging international customer base including brewers, bottlers, restaurateurs and hoteliers.

Now, the inventor is ready for her next round: a mobile app that facilitates super-quick turnarounds on liquor and wine manufacturer rebates.

Cash-back rebates are a staple of the crowded, competitive alcohol-related industries, where a small edge can make a big difference. The problem, as Pugliese sees it, is they’re too slow, and therefore self-defeating.

“When you buy a bottle of wine or liquor and the company offers a rebate, it can take as long as six to 10 weeks to get it,” she said.

Not so with BevBate, a working title blending “beverage” and “rebate” (exact name TBD). Whatever it’s ultimately called, the app is designed to scan a bar or liquor store receipt using existing smartphone technology and to deposit any due rebates directly into the user’s Venmo or Paypal account.

Those deposits occur “within two days,” according to Pugliese, who contracted with Indian software firm DevelopTech to bring the app alive. The speed’s the thing, the CEO said, noting those slower traditional rebate methods often fail to generate the sales boost they might – a lose-lose for the manufacturer and the customer alike.

“You go to a liquor or wine store and sometimes they have these little things hanging on the bottle: ‘Buy this bottle and mail this in and you’ll get a rebate in two years and five days,’” Pugliese said. “They know that 95 percent of people will not even send those rebates in.

“This is a different opportunity for everyone,” she added. “People will say ‘I wasn’t going to buy this brand, but if I’m getting back $5 in two days, maybe I’ll give it a try.’”

Welcome to the fold: Ready Check Glo will soon have some company.

While some manufacturers might actually bank on the likelihood that consumers won’t bother with those lengthy rebate processes, Pugliese is counting on the idea that making it easier for consumers to cash in will help those rebates do what they’re actually designed to do: drive up sales.

“This would be a lot better for a smaller brand that’s trying to launch,” Pugliese noted. “And really, any bigger brand, too, that’s interested in selling more product.”

With DevelopTech programmers now polishing the first commercial version of BevBate, Pugliese plans to debut the app April 18 at TechDay New York, a New York City conference self-billed as “the largest startup event in the U.S.” BevBate will be available for download on iOS and Android devices as of that date.

Meanwhile, things are “going fantastic” with her flagship check folders, with the entrepreneur already considering potential exit strategies.

“I might look to exit this year, but I’m not really sure,” Pugliese told Innovate LI. “I’m not sure I’m ready to let go of my child yet.”

Ultimately, she’d like to license out Ready Check Glo to a third-party manufacturer, distributor or both – and she even has ideas about some additional bells and whistles for her glowing check folders, though the innovator is remaining mum for now.

For the immediate future, the plan is to continue pushing the leather portfolios to hospitality clients around the world, including the likes of W Hotels, Ciroc vodka and Anheuser-Busch – and to use those strong global contacts to give BevBate a running start.

“We’ll look to take our liquor and wine clients and turn them into BevBate clients,” Pugliese said. “I have an existing customer base, so I’m not starting from scratch here.”

Wherever the BevBate app catches on first, the inventor believes she has another spirited winner on her hands.

“Hey, if I can get $5 back right away if I buy this today, I’m buying it, versus a brand that’s not offering a rebate,” she noted. “Who wants to wait six weeks for a $5 check?”