Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

How Business and Non-Profits can come together for Giving An Interview with Kelly Reddington of Givengi

How Business and Non-Profits can come together for Giving An Interview with Kelly Reddington of GivengiI recently caught up with Kelly Reddington of Givengi to find out more about his most recent project and learn about his unique story. For the last two years Kelly has been working to consolidate his other business interests and responsibilities in order to devote the much-needed attention to Givengi, which he claims is “the future of fundraising”. At only 22 years old it’s hard to believe he’s accomplished so much – from building a consumer packaged goods company where he negotiated distribution deals with seasoned executives more than double his age to competing in National Championships while travelling the country as a Professional BMX rider (BMX is one of the fastest growing action sports in the country) – It’s safe to say he’s had his fair share of experiences. Now, ready for a new chapter, Reddington hopes to re-imagine the traditional relationships between business and Non-Profits to build a fundraising Goliath – Givengi.

So, what is Givengi and how did you get involved with something like this?

Givengi is a fundraising tool that merges business with philanthropy by allowing customers to give 25% of their gross purchase to a cause they care about.

I have always been involved with charity work and have always been looking for ways to re-imagine the way we currently fundraise for charities. The current fundraising model, where a charity sends out emails, direct mailings, or cold-calls individuals to ‘guilt-trip’ them into donating isn’t working efficiently. There’s way too much waste. For example, a charity spends around $43 for every $100 raised just on raising that $100! That means that nearly half of the money raised is burned up before any of it goes to serving the actual cause. One of our main goals is to dramatically reduce the cost of raising capital so that more money can go to employing people for the actual cause and making a difference. We are efficiency nuts!

That sounds great! How exactly does Givengi work?

Well, the product we have up now is a first iteration of our grander vision. A brand lists their products on our site, tells their fans to buy on Givengi if they want to give to charity at the same time, and a charity also tells their community members to buy on Givengi to benefit their cause. The fans of the brand or charity go to Givengi, buy what they want, and have 25% of their entire sale go to charity. So if a customer spends $100, they will have donated $25. There is no sacrifice in the giving because the fan received a product, which is something special.

So no sacrifice?

Nope. None.

Tell us more about the relationships you’d like to see between businesses and Non-Profits.

Great question! I want to see businesses merge with Non-Profits, and I think we’re coming to that now. We’re just a bit ahead of the curve, but there is a wave coming that is at the beginning of the curve, and it’ll be huge. I think every business should be infused with a social purpose. I mean, all the great entrepreneurs and businessmen started their businesses to make a difference in people’s lives, not to collect dividends… Steve Jobs wanted to make a difference, Walt Disney wanted to bring families together to enjoy family friendly entertainment, Howard Schultz wanted to touch people’s lives with Starbuck’s coffee! Whenever you go into a Starbucks, it’s a delightful experience, you know? And Starbucks brings us to the next field of competition for businesses. I think we’re going to see a huge return to the ‘small town ethos’ of business. Where people actually care about the general well-being of each other again and aren’t only absorbed in themselves. Look at JC Penney’s new plan to have ‘town squares’ in the stores, it’s a prime example of what we’re talking about! Anybody can compete on price and product, but very few can compete on a customer experience level, and that’s what we’re moving towards, a better customer experience.

Also, Non-Profits are notorious for being incredibly inefficient and ‘behind-the-times’ as far as innovation goes, but we’re seeing a great shift in entrepreneurial activity in the Non-Profit world – from Charity Water in NY to Aspire coffee in Chicago, more and more Non-Profits are coming up with creative and innovative ways of raising funds and doing good.

Do you think more businesses are going to be formed with a social purpose at their core?

Absolutely! We’re already seeing it with the proliferation of BCorp status, which allows a company to pursue social purpose based objectives while being insulated from shareholder lawsuits about things such as the ‘utilization of capital’. Generally insulating the companies from greedy shareholders who’d rather destroy a forest and leave nothing behind than plant a few trees on the way out! BCorps are huge, and NY and California are leading the way there as

well.

I can definitely see BCorp’s becoming the norm with companies. Consumers are demanding that companies are more socially responsible. My book, The Give Economy will cover this new way of doing business and give insights into how to implement strategies that will help any business navigate the give economy.

How did you get involved in business? And tell us a bit about your history.

I was sitting in the dentists one day when I was about 14, and in the waiting room there was a Forbes magazine. I started reading it and I quickly realized that I have absolutely no clue what is going on in the world. So I asked to take it home with me!

How Business and Non-Profits can come together for Giving An Interview with Kelly Reddington of Givengi

Kelly Reddington

I got home and devoured the thing! Then I wanted to try out this little business thing myself. It sounds great on paper! I started a consumer products manufacturing company when I was 14 – we made household products like scent dispersal machines and accessories. I incorporated when I was 15 and was well on my merry way. Simultaneously, I had been competing and travelling for bike racing. I started racing when I was around 5 and just stuck with it and progressed and things took off with racing as well. It got to the point where I was gone every weekend at a different track and during the week I was barely able to stay in classes. I tried to manage things better in college, but it didn’t work out. I ended up leaving college after my sophomore year. I was lucky to have lasted that long.

Tell us more about what things were like being so young?

Well, I didn’t tell anybody my age, and I made it a point to tell my co-workers not to mention it to anybody, because I knew there would be this weird vibe if people knew. I remember this one time when we were right about to close a deal, where my age was then disclosed. The guys just stopped and stared at me like I was an alien. It was so awkward! I didn’t know what to do, because they weren’t saying anything and I didn’t want to say anything because I just wanted to get the contracts signed. My Mom had always told me that if I didn’t know what was going on, just smile, so you at least look good! So I smiled! I think the smile made it worse though! I was 19 at the time, I didn’t think it was a big deal, because I’m thinking “it’s all good, as long as I’m over 18 they won’t care.” But apparently it sort of was a big deal. They were dumbfounded. Considering that they’d been talking about their daughters and their punk boyfriends and stuff and I’m the same age as their daughters. Here I am doing business with these guys and they’re old enough to be my Father!

Then there’s the time people offer to buy you a beer, that’s when they find out you’re not over 21, and that you don’t drink. Double wrong there! Most people don’t understand people who don’t drink. That was the most common one, everybody picks up on something when you’re at a restaurant and they all get a beer except you. If only most business wasn’t done in restaurants! Things are a lot easier now. I’ve established a reputation so people just accept that I’m young but now with the long track record and reputation that precedes me, they don’t try to maneuver themselves to take advantage of me. When you’re young, some people think they can get away with it. They think you’re young, dumb, and inexperienced, so you have to be alert and watch out for things like that. I chose early on to not do business with those people. Just completely pull out. There are plenty of other people out there that won’t be as selfish. That’s a bit of advice: don’t do business with anybody who rubs you the wrong way. One way or another, things will sour. So you’re better off just waiting for another deal to develop than taking the one at your fingertips.

When did Givengi launch?

We tested the business model out on a local level for a few months, to see if people would actually like what we’re doing. After that huge success, we soft-launched in June of 2011, worked out a few kinks and now we’re ‘officially’ launched as of January 2012. Your readers can find our press release here: http://www.givengi.com/press-release-launch

What are your plans for the future of Givengi?

We like to play our cards close to the vest, but really our plans are just to iterate and continue to build a more robust product which offers more tools to charities and businesses alike.

What can you tell other social entrepreneurs who are deciding to make a difference?

I can say to just find what you love to do and are super passionate about. We all have some cause that stokes our flame, so find what excites you first, then start thinking about ways you can incorporate your cause into a business.

Any advice before we sign off?

Read as much as possible, but don’t read for leisure, always look for tid-bits of information. People are dropping knowledge everywhere, you just have to be alert and ready to use it. I’d recommend some great books to help people get started in their quest:

  • Onward by Howard Schultz – great book about Starbucks and how he puts the social purpose of his business before profits
  • Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh – you’ll learn a lot about entrepreneurship in general
  • PhilanthroCapitalism by Matthew Bishop and Michael Green – you can expect to learn about some interesting business models that are making a serious impact on the world

These books are a solid start, and then just go with the flow of your curiosity.

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