Solving Problems Cordell Eddings  | June 13, 2018

How do you pitch feeding the hungry as good business? What one CEO is learning.

The bright light illuminating the cold and empty refrigerator still haunts Jasmine Crowe.

In front of the refrigerator stood her old roommate, who she was visiting to catch up on old times. Laughing and joking just minutes before, now her old friend desperately tried and failed to hold back tears.

She was a former celebrity makeup artist, fellow millennial, young, happily married,  fashionable, and college educated. And she had no clue where her next meal was going to come from.

“She tried to hide it, and it was a wakeup call,” said Crowe. “You never, ever know what people are going through.”

The plight of the hungry inspired Crowe, and her team to create Goodr, a platform, mobile and Web apps to make it possible for businesses like restaurants, hotels, airports, and convention centers to redirect their surplus food to organizations like nonprofits who feed people that are food insecure. Goodr uses blockchain technology to track every food item from the source to its final destination, helping the companies who donate food generate tax savings along the way

More than 72 billion pounds of food that are wasted each year, as many restaurants throw away fully cooked food every night, afraid of liability issues and lawsuits if they give it away. And then there is the problem of transporting the food to the communities that need it the most. That is where Crowe saw the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

In the last five years Goodr has served more than 80,000 meals around the country. But proving to people that she can turn a profit while providing a crucial social good hasn’t always been easy. FreeEnterprise.com spoke to Crowe about being a small business owner, running a business for good, and what she’s learned along the way. Here’s what she said:

1. The problem is bigger than you realize.

“One-in-seven people go to bed hungry every night, and it’s not because we don’t have enough food. We have more than enough. If the system wasn’t broken we wouldn’t be getting calls from parents, veterans, senior citizens, and college-educated professionals calling to inquire about their next meal. The face of hunger is much broader and diverse than most people realize. Odds are someone you know closely is suffering and you don’t know it.”

2. Businesses need skin in the game.

“Everyone knows that hunger is a problem, but businesses have to be convinced that helping to solve the problem is good for them. We could have gone the nonprofit route, but we’ve found other businesses become more invested in taking care of their food waste when they are paying for the service. And the ones who have worked with us have been rewarded. They see the tax savings, they see the public relations value, they understand that operating as a force for good in society will help them gain traction with the next generation.

Some businesses are hesitant. And that’s ok. It’s our job to show them clearly why it makes business sense. I know as our platform gains traction, we’ll be back.”

3. Fundraising is really hard.

“Getting someone to buy into a business and your vision can be really, really hard, especially in a business like this. I sometimes meet with 20 investors in a week, and I get told no’ by 19 of them. And the 20th person might just want another meeting. It’s a marathon, and it can hurt, but you have to keep the vision at the forefront,  remember what you are fighting for and let that lead you. You are going to get told ‘no’ a lot. You have to keep the faith.  If you focus on your vision and getting better, they will be back. ”

4. Relationships matter.

“You already know they are important. But they are even more important than that! Develop and value relationship. You never know where they will lead or what doors they will open.”

5. It can be tough to stay motivated.

“Being a startup is a vulnerable position to be in. There are just four people on my team. We don’t have the luxury of doing anything halfway. As the leader, you have to keep a team motivated. You have to be the voice of reason and the team’s biggest cheerleader.”

6…But you have to keep going.

“I have to give myself this advice all the time. You have to believe it’s going to happen, even if you don’t always see the solution right away. We are always learning, succeeding and failing at the same time. You have to take it in stride and keep going by any means necessary.”

7. Everyone has their opinion.  They’ll be back. 

“That’s just the reality. But I know what I’m about. And I know that this is a problem worth solving. My job is to make them regret it and come back to me. And I have to be ready to try to turn every no I’ve gotten into a yes. I can’t wait to do it.”