Chattanooga startup business Text Request has a new service that lets users send and receive text messages through their existing business phone number.
It should be a "game changer" that draws in thousands of new customers, say those at Text Request, since texting is the preferred mode of communication for many people, especially the millennial generation. Meanwhile, most businesses use voice-only phone systems — and are out of luck when someone tries to text them.
"This is the biggest technological advancement that we have had, for sure. This is the biggest jump," said Brian Elrod, co-founder and CEO of the seven-employee business that launched in 2014. "There's only a handful of companies in the entire U.S. that do that, and we are now one of them."
"[Businesses] can now say call or text us," Elrod said.
Users will pay a monthly fee to sign up for Text Request's online platform that works with computers or smart phones.
The cost ranges from $25 for a starter plan that includes 400 texts per month to an enterprise plan for $399 that includes 20,000 texts per month. The business' website, textrequest.com, also offers a seven-day free trial.
"It's no-contract, so it's a very low starting cost for anybody to try it out. For $25, anybody can try it out," said company co-founder James Dawson. "If it works well for them, they go ahead and stick with us."
Text Request's online "dashboard" gives businesses oversight, for example letting managers read the texts their employees make — none of which can be deleted by users.
"You can't delete it out of the system, so it's compliant with things like FINRA," Elrod said, referring to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. That means financial advisers can use the system to text clients, he said.
Text Request operates out of an office building on Shallowford Road near Lee Highway that's also home to the Palms at Hamilton restaurant. The startup has five founders: husband-and-wife Brian and Jamey Elrod, James Dawson, Matt Holland and Rob Reagan.
"None of us were telecom guys," Elrod said. "We just recognized that there was a need."
The concept for Text Request came to the Elrods when they needed to leave a restaurant but couldn't find their server to get their tab. The Elrods also founded two other Chattanooga-based companies: Jock Sale and Educational Outfitters.
The company has grown about 12 to 15 percent every month, Elrod said.
"We've not gone outside for any money," Elrod said. "We've been able to do it all from the founders to this point."
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu @timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or on Twitter@meetfor business or 423-757-6651.