Serving Up Change is a new way to raise funds for charity by connecting organizations with restaurants that care.
Johnathan Mayo, Co-founder of Serving Up Change
What does a typical day look like for you?
Before starting my work day, I am usually getting my two daughters ready for daycare and dropping them off. Seeing my wife and daughters in the morning gives me great joy and energy to start the day!
A typical day as CEO of Serving Up Change is excited and evolving. Now that the platform has officially launched, I typically start the day taking a look at our metrics to include financials, as well as our platform uses that includes restaurants, organizations, and individuals. I also look at current and upcoming fundraisers. As a startup founder, no two days are ever the same. I will typically split some of my day between working on marketing ideas and programs such as our upcoming involvement in a statewide VA PTA Conference. Since the Serving Up Change platform is essentially a two-sided marketplace, much of my time is spent recruiting community organizations and restaurants. This is done through a variety of activities under our sales and marketing strategy.
At the moment we have one sales professional on the team and we spend time strategizing and working on our sales initiatives. In addition to direct sales, we also explore opportunities similar to a national fundraising partnership we are currently exploring.
In addition to growing the platform, I also spend time talking with current users and conducting focus groups. Early in the life of the company, we feel that it is important to understand what our users think about the platform and get input into new features that will enhance their experience. With this input, we work closely with our web development company to add these new features to the platform. Spending time analyzing the priority features and balancing that with the budget is a consistent balance.
In regards to budgeting and financing, as a founder, I also have to balance time raising capital for the company. This can also be a time-consuming process prospecting, pitching and following up with potential investors. In addition to prospecting for new investors, I also spend time meeting with and updating current investors. As someone who has had the entrepreneurial bug since I was a pre-teen, the constant change, uncertainty and challenge of the startup world excites me. I love the challenge that each and every day brings and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else!
What inspired you to start your company?
I was initially led to start Serving Up Change to address my concern with society. For some time, I have always felt that we are very proactive as a society and only react when there is a crisis. There are so many community organizations that need support each and every day and I wanted to create a platform that allowed people to address and support these causes.
With my experience supporting the nonprofit sector and co-owner of Mama J’s restaurant, I was aware of the opportunity that restaurants had to engage hundreds and thousands of customers on a daily basis. Working with my business partner, Lester Johnson, who is the son of Mama J (Velma Johnson) and operating partner for Mama J’s, we founded Serving Up Change. While the initial idea focused on volunteer engagement, we took a pivot and decided to use the platform to address actual problems in the donation and fundraising process for restaurants and organizations.
We recognized that it was often difficult to try and respond to the numerous donation requests received by restaurants when they came in the form of emails, brochures in-store, phone, social media, etc. Therefore, one element of Serving Up Change is an online donation management platform where restaurants can receive and respond to donation request using the website and their personal dashboard. This streamlines the process for both the organizations and restaurants. In regards to fundraising, with my experience working with restaurants and organizations, I realized the traditional spirit/give-back nights could often become a challenge to get participation. People are busy and it’s tough for them to dine out on a specific day and time which is usually on a weeknight.
With Serving Up Change, we created an online “virtual give-back” event where the organization and restaurant created a fundraising page. Supporters purchase eGift cards from the restaurants and the organizations earn a percentage as fundraising profit. The benefit is that the supporters can do this remotely and then use the eGift card at any time at their convenience.
What’s your favorite thing about Virginia?
I love Virginia because of the diversity of its people and its geographic regions. You have everything from the beaches to the mountains.