Our hope is that by removing the cumbersome logistics of a typical, collection box drive, we will enable more people to donate and in turn get more goods into the hands of those who need them. The fact is that growing our business directly translates into more people receiving tangible aid and support when they need it most. That makes the success of YouGiveGoods even more rewarding not just for me personally but for all of our employees.
People use our platform to start a charity drive (toy drive, school supply drive, food drive, animal shelter drive…and many more), supporters of these drives buy needed products (actual items – not a cash donation) from us as an online retailer and then we ship those goods directly to the charity. Our service and platform is free to use — it does not cost the charity or the drive organizer anything to have friends, family, and coworkers help a charity in need. We’ve designed our platform to help create an experience for users: drive pages are fully customizable with photos, logos and content; donations are tracked by item and in real time; and, challenge drives enable groups to enjoy some friendly competition as they compete to raise the most goods for charity. Finally, our drives are made for social sharing which is where more and more people are spending their free time.
What did you eat for breakfast?
Who has time to eat breakfast…?! OK – so most days I try to get my protein in early in the day, watch the carbs and drink copious amounts of coffee. That could and should pass for breakfast most days!
What’s your favorite sport or exercise?
Working out (I try to get there more than a few days a week) has become more fun since I discovered a kettle bell. Who knew that swinging and lifting a Russian cast steel weight (think a cannon ball with a handle) would be such a great workout?
How large is your business?
Our business is growing every day and we continue to expand our footprint in the tangible giving arena. From the look of our results for 2016 – we may actually achieve a 100+ revenue growth rate this year!
What do you see as challenges for you and your business?
Our core business strategy of facilitating the donation of needed goods to charity instead of just making a cash donation is so new and unique in the giving world that we face the gigantic challenge of changing the current charitable giving mindset. When the average person thinks about giving to a charity, they normally only think – “Where do I send the money?” We want to provide an alternative and additional way to give back and make a difference. Cash donations to charities will always be important – but, tangible giving, with the associated transparency, can be another giving option. The more people and companies we talk to about the benefits of tangible giving, the more doors to opportunities have opened for us.
And, since the idea of an online drive is brand-new, we’ve had to do a lot of education. The fact is that many traditional, collection box drives end up collecting damaged, expired, and otherwise unusable goods that the charity then has to find a way to dispose of. The amount of time volunteers must spend sorting, packing and transporting is completely removed with our online process, and volunteers can be freed up for other, perhaps ultimately more useful work. So, we feel like our online drives are truly a win-win situation for all involved!
What about your business matters most deeply to you? How does it engage your values?
Having a business that helps others do good in the world and give back to their local community matters the most to me. Our family and my personal experiences and beliefs have always centered around succeeding, but also knowing that success does not come without a sense of obligation to give back and help others. Running YouGiveGoods provides me the avenue to fulfill both of these values.
Who is the entrepreneur you admire most right now? Why does s/he inspire you?
The world is full of wonderful, exciting and brilliant entrepreneurs, but the person that inspires me most is Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoe company. Blake has successfully combined the for-profit corporate structure with the ability to provide people a way to give back and make a difference in the lives of other people. Our goal at YouGiveGoods is to strike a similar balance and achieve a similar ultimate success story.
What the best advice you ever got, and from whom?
The best advice came from my father who told me that I can be anything and be anyone that I wanted in the business world. That knowledge and belief is power.
What’s the best and the worst thing about being a female founder?
To be asked questions about being innovative, creating a company and guiding other people to success has tremendous value to me. Being an entrepreneur brings me in joy and fulfillment every day. The flip side of the entrepreneur coin, as a woman, is that people too often want to put me in that “woman” category instead of just being that person that can succeed and bring success to others.
What would you say is your “entrepreneurial superpower?”
Caffeine – definitely caffeine. With a number of daily trips to Starbucks, we can do anything!
How did you get started?
The idea for our company started in 2010 in and around the earthquake in Haiti. After that earthquake, a close friend of the family was going to Haiti to help in the disaster relief effort. We asked him if he needed us to donate cash and he told us that he really needed things like flashlights, batteries, tents and mosquito netting. My husband and I thought to ourselves – we should start an online retail company that can cater to that need – a place where people could buy actual things (not cash donations) for people and causes in need. Next thing you know, we had a business plan put together and YouGiveGoods was launched near the end of 2011.
Now, well into our fifth year of operation, we are working with companies and individuals every day to run all sorts of charity drives. We get the opportunity to work with wonderful organizations like the New York Foundling, the National Diaper Bank Network, Operation Homefront and a ton of local schools, community organizations and food pantries. Local is a great way to look at our business model. We have the technology and means to help the average person or a company (big and small) reach out and make a difference in the local community. Just on the food front – we have shipped over 1 million pounds of food to local food pantries and food banks.
Connect with Lisa Tomasi