States are struggling in the recession. From the collapse of the housing market to climbing unemployment rates and budget shortfalls, it is hard to ignore the toll that these tough economic times are taking on their economy.
Texas, however, has found a novel way to get some relief by partnering with a company that can monetize the “specialty plate,” in turn delivering more revenue to the state then one might ever have imagined.
My Plates, an Austin-based company that designs specialty license plates, is an exclusive vendor for the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.
From “Lone Star” themes and a rainbow of colors to collegiate designs and charity plates, My Plates offers a broad selection – a crucial move to its prosperous livelihood.
Steve Farrar, the president of My Plates, sat down for an interview with Digital Journal to talk about his company, its achievements and what the future holds for this specialty plate producer.
Vendor Reacts to Marketplace to Create Successful Program
The state’s relationship with My Plates came about because of the persistence and patience of Farrar and the willingness of state officials to think outside the box and embrace a program that would produce revenue for the state without costing tax payers a dime, Farrar explained.
My Plates has a 15-year contract with the state that is broken into three 5-year terms.
Farrar told the Digital Journal that the company must meet specific goals and revenue marks each term in order to be eligible for an extension on its contract. For example, in its first term My Plates must contribute $25 million in revenue back to the state.
“We have already contributed $12 million to the state fund, and that’s at 33 months,” he said. “So with where we are now, on track to deliver over $30 million in five years, I am very confident [the contract] will be extended.”
Farrar said he has encountered such success because of his company’s flexibility and ability to adapt to the ever-changing market. Private sector companies like My Plates are nimble, and this agility allows them to easily adjust to any situation and create a winning recipe on the marketing front.
One example of this is its partnership with dozens of auto dealerships across the state.
Essentially, My Plates has offered dealerships free vouchers that they can give to customers upon the purchase of a car, which can be used for a free specialty plate (the voucher covers the cost of the plate for one year).
“The dealerships have no financial obligation to us; they make the sale, and as the cherry on top can offer their customer a free specialty plate for one year,” he said. “We figured people customize everything else on their car- the interior, color, size, make and model- why not add the custom plate at no cost to them?”
Farrar said it was a great way to reach out to new customers and offer its product in a risk-free way.
“It is a win-win, win-win situation- for customers, dealerships, the state and our company,” Farrar said. “It builds a strong relationship between the customer and the dealership, and encourages future revenue by offering drivers a free plate with the hopes they will renew in the following years.”
It has been a very successful venture, Farrar told the Digital Journal, and has added a great number of repeat customers who end up signing on to five and 10 year deals for its plates.
State Isn't the Only Winner
Beyond just finding innovative ways to raise revenue for the state, My Plates is also dedicating its efforts to donate back to charities and colleges across the nation.
Their website gives customers the option to browse a plethora of agencies which will benefit through the purchase of a specialty plate. From education funds to medical research, the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund, they offer over 100 plates, available for cars, motorcycles and trailers, that each benefit a different state fund, charity, or national cause.
Texas Lone Star License Plate in Black
One of its biggest ventures just this month has been supporting the medical research for a cure of breast cancer. For all of September, Farrar told the Digital Journal that My Plates will donate $10 to the National Breast Cancer Foundation for every “Pink” plate sold.
In addition to supporting charitable causes, My Plates also offers a variety of collegiate-themed plates that benefit university scholarship funds.
In the spirit of competition, they have broken the colleges up into “divisions” much as they are in real life, and which ever university sells 100 plates in first will receive $2,000 from My Plates for scholarship funds. Additionally, any schools that reach the 100 plate mark after the winner is declared will still receive $1,000 for scholarship funds.
To check how your school is doing, visit the “Plate Playoffs” site.
The business venture embarked upon by Farrar with My Plates has surely seen a great deal of success in each one of its outlets in just the few short years it has been operating.
“There is a whole host of reasons as to why people buy,” he said. “Birthdays, graduation, anniversaries, even to support their college or sports teams. People already customize their car, so why not take it one step further and add your own personal signature.”
With a great amount of revenue planned to be added into the state fund, it’s a wonder why other states have yet to approach Farrar with proposals of expansion.
“In a formal sense, no, I have not been approached by representatives of other states,” he said. “There have been some brief inquiries, but right now our focus is on Texas. We want to make sure this program is the best it can be here before we expand to other states.”
Farrar said one of the main pillars of his business was providing impeccable customer service, another main reason why he wants to keep its focus in the Lone Star State.
Is My Plates looking at other states to expand?
“[Legislators in Texas] were the ones who stepped forward and offered this partnership,” he said. “Our goal is to revive the economy there and contribute as much as we can back to the state. We’re not taking our focus off them until we accomplish that.”