When Keith Novotny saw a post on Facebook about local teen Kyle Koenig’s battle with bone cancer, he was incited to help.
This wasn’t the first time the Cousins Subs franchisee had been called into action. The previous summer, a Facebook friend approached Novotny about fundraising for twin girls from a neighboring town who were being treated for leukemia.
“That day back in June was the busiest day my store has ever seen in sales,” Novotny says. “Customers and crew were honestly put to tears, because they were just mind-boggled by the support and people I’ve never seen before coming in.” He adds that during both the twins’ and Kyle’s fundraisers, the donation bucket had $50 and $100 bills in them.
For Novotny, social media serves a multifaceted role. From a business standpoint, platforms like Facebook help him promote specials and show customers that his two units in West Bend, Wisconsin, are locally owned and operated—something he attributes to driving sales. But beyond sales, social media has also helped Novotny connect with families, like Kyle Koenig’s, who are going through difficult times.
After Novotny reached out, Kyle’s father Dave wanted to hold the fundraiser as soon as possible, but Novotny knew the campaign would be more successful if they first laid the groundwork.
“The dad wanted to do it within the next two weeks, but I wanted it to be as best for him as possible,” Novotny says. “I had [Dave Koenig] write a story for me that I could put on print material … and I paid to boost ads on Facebook, and over 5,000 people saw the post on Facebook and it had like 200 shares.”
Six weeks after the initial exchange, the Cousins Subs on Paradise Road and Main Street in West Bend held a special on February 5 where $1 for every ham, turkey, and Provolone sub went toward Kyle’s treatment.
Not only did Dave Koenig order 80 subs for his office, but Kyle’s old elementary, middle, and high schools also ordered dozens of subs. Despite the high volume from open to close, Novotny says, crew and customers alike were positive throughout the day. He adds that the Koenigs had been longtime Subway fans, but now they’ve converted over to Cousins.
“The night his dad came in there … he said when you’ve got a second, I want to talk with you, and I said absolutely,” Novotny says. “When I went over by him he said, ‘I just have to give you a hug, man. This is unbelievable.’ It was pretty cool.”
Novotny has kept in touch with the Koenigs via social media, and he will continue his philanthropic efforts later in May. This time the special promotion will benefit family friends whose child has cancer.
By Nicole Duncan