Startup Showcase: Giving when you buy, to yourself and to others By LEAH KODNER | James J. Hill Center
According to a recent poll conducted by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 48 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 have no retirement savings.
Susan Langer of Live.Give.Save. wants to try to fix that problem, while at the same time providing a way for Americans to more easily donate to charities. Live.Give.Save. allows users to add a small amount of money to each purchase they make using their smartphones, allowing them to painlessly build retirement accounts and contribute to worthy causes.
Susan Langer Name of company: Live.Give.Save. Inc. Website:www.livegivesave.com Business Start Date: Feb. 1, 2016 Number of Employees: 2 Number of Customers: 0
ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE Name: Susan Langer Age: 55 City you live in: Red Wing City of birth: Red Wing High school attended: Ellsworth High School, Ellsworth, Wis. College attended: University of Minnesota
Q. What led to this point? A. I am a wife, stepmother and entrepreneur. My professional background spans banking, marketing and philanthropy. At U.S. Bank (then First Bank), I installed and managed their first customer-relationship management system. I later helped build and launch First Bank’s first website, as well as market their credit card portfolio. From there I launched my own marketing firm, Mosaic Marketing, where I blended branding with direct marketing before it was in vogue to help small- and medium-sized companies move to the next level. My international and philanthropic work — traveling to over 30 countries — is what drives my passion for creating a virtuous ecosystem that encourages, empowers and equips all to be better.
Q. What is your business? A. Live.Give.Save. is an all-in-one mobile platform that empowers and rewards consumers to effortlessly boost retirement savings and increase charitable giving. We do this by leveraging existing behaviors in spending with one-touch simplicity. Our proprietary three-way payment process allows consumers to add a self-defined amount of money to each purchase they make using their smartphone. These micro amounts are automatically applied to their retirement savings and charity (or cause) of choice. One act = three gifts: Spend on self today, save for tomorrow and help someone in need.
Q. Where do you go for help when you need it? A. I have a very strong network that is ever-present to support me as needed. I am blessed.
Q. What is the origin of the business? A. In 1995, I was a marketer for First Bank. I observed the rise in consumer spending on credit, the demise of consumer savings for retirement and an ongoing desire to give more to charity. I was living it. That same year, I traveled to Africa on a mission trip. To show my gratitude to the host organization, I tracked all my trip-related spending and then donated the same amount to the organization. The chaos and clutter of tracking receipts spurred the idea of Live.Give.Save. What if we could leverage the technology in card processing so that consumers could automatically “self-tax” and deposit a set amount (or percentage) to their charity or cause of choice? Recalling the issues with consumers not saving for retirement, why not set up a consumer-driven system that would use buying behaviors to instigate micro-savings and micro-giving, thereby not requiring a change in behavior, but creating a different outcome? As consumers, we purchase items for a set price, then pay something else when we check out as a result of the various taxes added to our final bill. It’s a system we’re already familiar with, and it makes it easier for consumers to take charge of their giving and saving. Q. What problems does your business solve? A. There are three main problems that Live.Give.Save. solves. Firstly, approximately 50 percent of Americans are not saving for retirement — and it can be upwards of 80 percent depending on age, gender, or ethnicity. Secondly, nonprofits still haven’t recovered from the 2008 recession, yet demand for services continues to rise. Thirdly, the Millennial Disruption Index predicts there will be a seismic change in banking within 5 years. Q. Where did you pivot in your company’s journey? What big obstacle or hurdle did you have to overcome? A. I can’t say that we’ve pivoted just yet. Refining our go-to-market strategy occurs every day as we reach out to prospective partners to see who will eventually come aboard. We are still targeting the same sectors (financial services and nonprofits); it’s a matter of time and who “gets it/us.” We are also considering the possibility of transitioning from a C-Corp to a B-Corp, though we need to assess all the factors and impact of that decision. Q. What personal strengths or skill sets do you bring to the business? A. Three words best describe me: Observer. Planner. Connector. I am a life-long learner and lover of people. My 30-year professional journey within financial services, marketing and advertising, international development, and nonprofit industries has taught me the value of listening to understand, the significance of appreciating others’ differences and the extraordinary power of collaboration. Q. What are you most proud of? A. From 2011-2015, I supported the launch of a successful startup nonprofit founded by General Mills (a signature public-private partnership with USAID) to leverage the expertise of its corporate employees to strengthen the capacity of food companies in Africa. During that time, I helped build an international brand that attracted best-in-class partners, recruited 700-plus volunteers and garnered the attention of President Obama, hosting him and his entourage in Ethiopia in July 2015. Q. What obstacles must you overcome to be wildly successful? A. Balancing the growth of the company with the investments and protecting the integrity of the company along the way amidst all the competing interests. Q. How are you funding your business — organically, angel or VC investments? A. We raised over $200,000 in seed capital to fund the fundamentals of the business. We are now seeking to fund our next stage of development through angel investors and strategic partners, which will bring us to generating revenue. Q. What would be success for your business in the next 2-3 years? A. Realizing profitability by Year 3. Q. In your opinion, what does it take to be a great entrepreneur? A. Without question: a spirit of perseverance. When the going gets tough, you need to be able to reach deep down and muster whatever it takes to see the light, and to be able to lean in and press on with confidence. In doing so, you will not only get through that present valley of darkness, but you’ll arise smarter and stronger from the momentary, tangential struggle. Q. What is your business model, and how do you make money? A. There are three primary revenue streams: affiliate fees from referrals and conversions to sale, in-app purchases, and transaction fees. Within three years, as we continue to build our data bank, we will market our data within the data marketplace, while protecting consumer privacy at every level. This is where we see the greatest return on investment from this endeavor. Manufacturers, retailers, researchers, marketers and nonprofits will have access to unique, rich consumer data currently not available in today’s marketplace, thereby allowing them to better design, develop and deliver products/services/offerings to consumers … how, when and where they want it. Q. Why do you do what you do? What is your “why,” your purpose? A. I believe that every person has a purpose which drives their relationships, choices and behaviors. How we choose to manage our money reflects our priorities, and our priorities and actions determine the well-being of our future. When we have access to relevant information, we make wiser, more satisfying financial decisions, and we transform our financial future when we live, give, and save with purpose. Q. How did 1 Million Cups St. Paul help you? Did you get valuable feedback? Did you get connected to resources? Did you pivot because of the experience? A. It was a terrific experience presenting at 1 Million Cups. I need all the practice pitching that I can get. The questions and feedback were extremely helpful, and I have since adjusted my pitch accordingly. I also made good connections that I am still following up on … connections that could lead anywhere. It’s all good. You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visitwww.JJHill.org/go/1MCSPL.