Bingo Business and Technology Generate Success
Bingo business and technology generate success
By Jacque Crouse
Melanie Tawil admits being a Bobcat was not her plan but says Texas State helped her discover what she wanted in life
When Melanie Aranda Tawil (B.A. ’07) first prepared to go to college, there was one thing she absolutely was not going to do — become a Texas State Bobcat.
There was a family history — her aunts were both Strutters but Tawil thought the university was too close to her home in San Antonio. Instead, she headed off to Lubbock to get a degree in cell and molecular biology.
“I hated it,” she says today, sitting in her San Antonio office filled with brightly colored furniture and children’s play space equipment at the company she runs with her husband, Fred. Today, she is CEO of SwipeTrack Solutions, a tech company she helped to develop to meet the needs of a growing business. It has since morphed into a business that helps many firms — including Legoland, Disney, and Nordstrom Rack — keep their software and hardware working smoothly together.
When Tawil returned in 2005 to San Antonio, dejected and without a degree, her dad told her she had to attend college somewhere. She started classes at Texas State and became involved in Young Democrats and College Democrats of America. She learned the “soft skills” of negotiating, teamwork, team building, and community organizing. After changing her major to political science, Tawil joined the Barack Obama campaign team and spent a summer in Chicago where she co-founded Students for Barack Obama, mobilizing high school seniors and college students. It was during this period of political organizing that she ran into Fred, a fellow San Antonian and techie who was working for the candidate quietly in the background.
After graduation, Tawil was helping the campaign organize in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and began doing some software development for political websites and donor responses. She and Fred married in 2011. That same year, he was diagnosed with cancer. “We had just married and, well, I’ll tell you, that kind of thing changes the way you look at things,” she says.
His family owned bingo halls, and she and Fred took the company from two halls to three by July 2011. Tawil was on the road to becoming what she calls an “accidental entrepreneur.” With her marketing background and his technical expertise, they were moving the businesses toward high-tech. Bingo requires a lot of reporting, statistics, and technical knowledge. In Texas, the games are required to be charitable and show it every step of the way with every number that is called. It operates with bar codes. The Tawils discovered there was no software and no hardware for an inventory management system.
“We developed a swiper and bar code reader that even allowed us to build a VIP rewards system,” Tawil says. “And we used the data gathered to plan where to put the next bingo hall.”
They eventually thought that if they had problems with hardware not talking to software, maybe others did. The answer was a resounding “yes.” Through trial and error, they developed a $200 handheld swiper. It sold out in 48 hours. Today, SwipeTrack Solutions serves a myriad of customers and industries providing devices and technical support.
The bingo business is thriving with halls in Bexar, Travis, Hays, Guadalupe, Nueces, and San Patricio counties that provided almost $10 million to charities in 2018. The tech business is booming and keeps expanding. The Tawil family has grown to include 7-year-old Lizzie and a 5-year-old John Paul.
SwipeTrack Solutions has been named as one of the top workplaces in San Antonio for two years in a row, Fred is well, and Melanie says she strives to keep herself grounded in both home life and work life.
“I would not be as passionate about helping others without those people — they and Texas State helped me discover what I wanted in life.” ✪