Students Create Web Site for Missionary Correspondence

By By U Wire

By U Wire

PROVO?Two Brigham Young University students are tackling the challenge of going to school and running a business at the same time.

Dave Bateman, a junior majoring in business from Billings, Mont., teamed up with Benjamin Zimmer a senior majoring in English from Port Orchard, Wash., to start DearElder.com.

The Web site promotes a quick and easy way to write to missionaries. A way was needed to improve the correspondence for missionaries, Bateman said.

Zimmer and Bateman don’t plan on making money from DearElder.com. Their purpose was to gain experience in business operations while offering a useful service.

Marketing has proved to be a bit difficult. The budget is small and the service is free. Advertising is the only source of income, Zimmer said.

“Word of mouth has been our biggest marketing tool. We actually receive more hits from outside of Utah,” Zimmer said.

In summer 2000, Bateman spent up to 18 hours a day during a four-month period programming the site. DearElder.com was launched in October 2000.

“We received close to 30 letters per week at the beginning. Now we’re receiving nearly 2,100 letters each week,” Bateman said.

DearElder.com had to upgrade from enlisting help from friends to a machine. The machine has cut back on the number of man hours required to fold and envelope the letters, Bateman said.

Recently, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints approved limited email access to its missionaries. This will have a small effect on the number of people using the site, Bateman said.

“Most of the letters we receive are for missionaries in Third World countries and don’t have access to email. We will still be able to provide service to those missionaries,” Zimmer said.

The missionaries themselves have been a great help in getting the word out to their families.

“The missionary sees that the letter sent by DearElder.com arrived faster than those sent directly to the pouch. The missionary passes the word along to family and friends,” Bateman said.

Frequent users of DearElder.com appreciate the help of the site in speeding communication with their missionaries.

“I use the site quite often and have found that the service is excellent,” said Drew Mann, a junior majoring in International Studies from Seattle, Wash. “It really helps to know what’s going on in the lives of the missionaries.”

U WIRE