The Early Years
At the age of 10, a young boy named Jason Wolfe was left without a mother or father to take care of him. With the kind help of a catholic school nun, he was led to an orphanage located on a 486-acre farm in Hershey, Pennsylvania The Milton Hershey School was founded in 1909 by Milton Hershey, creator of the Hershey Chocolate Company. It housed poor and disadvantaged boys from around the country.
Jason spent the majority of his childhood at the Milton Hershey School before graduating in 1987. He then put himself through college at Bloomsburg University where he earned his diploma in 1992. After college, he moved to West Virginia and worked as a bartender and white-water rafting guide. A few years later, Jason suffered a tragic accident and suffered spinal cord damage, hearing loss, and internal and external facial damage. Over the next two years he underwent six surgeries and had to have his spine fused. Bedridden and left with $80,000 in medical bills, the young 22-year-old was determined to find a way to support himself.
The First Coupon Website
Deciding that he wanted to build a website, Jason bought two books titled “Perl in 21 Days” and “Building the Perfect Website”. He quickly cobbled together a website called CouponsDirect, the Internet’s first coupon website. The website supplied merchant coupons and hosted a shopping forum where users swapped and discussed the latest coupons. Although he was told that his Internet ideas were just a fad and to look for “real work”, Jason was determined his idea would be a success.
Living out of his car, Jason worked 18+ hours a day and sacrificed meals and a roof over his head to make his dream come true. A friend generously allowed him to use an office space and internet connection, allowing Jason to further develop the coupon site.
His Biggest Supporter
In it's early years, the shopping forum on CouponsDirect had many active members. There was one member of the community, however, that stood out to Jason. Barb Sherman, a retired newspaper editor living in Florida, was very active in the forum and strongly supported the website. Her small, kind gestures and encouraging words had a great impact on Jason; Barb gave him the motivation he needed to continue to build his dream.
It was 1996 when Jason made his first income from the site, totaling $4,950. The following year was even more profitable, when Jason earned $35,000. As the shopping boards continued to gain success, Jason hired a developer to write code that monitored traffic from CouponsDirect. Jason was also able to hire his longtime supporter, Barb Sherman. He paid her $50 a month to help add coupons to the website, manage the very popular shopping forum, and remain a positive person in his life.
History Of The Shamrock
In March of 1997, Jason sat in a café and read the ‘City Paper’, a Pittsburgh weekly newspaper. He read an interesting article about the origins of the shamrock, a symbol of Ireland. It was a fascinating story about St. Patrick, who traveled from Italy to Ireland to find the shorelines of Erin covered with snakes, so he planted shamrocks to deter them. The shamrock eventually became a symbol of good over evil, and is told to represent the trinity. After finishing the article, Jason returned to the office space his friend had let him borrow. Deciding it was time to create a logo for CouponsDirect, he opened a clip-art book hoping to find some ideas. Jason was shocked to see that right there on the page he opened to, was an image of a shamrock. Figuring it was a sign, the shamrock was incorporated into the company’s logo, and remains a personal sentiment to Jason to this day.
Jason changed the name of his company to CouponDirectory, then years later renamed it to MyCoupons – which is still its name today. Jason also invented a tracking technology that followed people who left his coupon site then bought something on a third-party site. He eventually took that tracking technology, and turned it into its own company. That company, called Direct Response Technologies, eventually grew to power 16 billion ads tracked per month and was sold to Digital River in 2006 for $22 million.
Shortly after incorporating the shamrock into the logo, Jason closed a sale with a partner called CoolSavings.com, his largest sale to date. He generated $150,000 in revenue in 1998, and a year later raised $500,000 from Internet.com (now named Jupiter Media). Jason was able to open his own office and expand to 15 employees. Still his biggest supporter, Barb Sherman remained in Florida, but was given a full-time position and stock in the company. In 1999, Jason’s company earned over $1 million, and in 2000 he received local and national coverage when he sold MyCoupons to Save.com for $23 million. With his faith, his drive, and his supporters, Jason was able to overcome growing up in an orphanage, several injuries and heartbreaks, and eventually find great success.
The Fate Continues
For three years, Jason had only communicated with Barb through email. He was heartbroken to find out that Barb was suffering from debilitating arthritis, could hardly lift her head, and was nearly blind. She never shared her own pains or struggles, but constantly gave Jason the positive faith and determination he needed. Jason decided it was time to finally meet Barb in person, so he boarded a plane with his employees and headed towards Florida to meet Jason’s first and most dedicated supporter. The Associated Press covered this special event, and was one of the most memorable times of Jason’s life.
A few weeks later Jason received a letter from Barb thanking him for the visit, and tucked in the letter was an article clipped from a newspaper. As Jason read the article, his jaw dropped and his hands began to shake. He was reading the same exact article he read in the café in 1997. The article that influenced Jason to use the shamrock in his logo was written 10 years earlier by Barb Sherman herself. Jason could not believe it, and still gets goosebumps to this day!