Meet The Female Founder Using Tech To Change The Way Nonprofits Receive In-Kind Donations
Mondays can be rough—sometimes we need a little motivation to get the week started. Our #MondayMotivation blog series brings you tips and life hacks from Project Entrepreneur Alumnae—female founders who applied to the Project Entrepreneur Venture Competition to attend our two-day PE Intensive and join a nationwide community of hundreds of women entrepreneurs. Get to know more about the PE Community and #beinspired by how these women motivate themselves each Monday to tackle the week ahead.
Hannah Yang is an alumna of the 2017 PE Intensive and the Co-Founder and CEO of TheShareWay, a startup that solves a real problem for nonprofits looking for donations. At TheShareWay, Hannah has created a directory of companies that donate food, raffle items and other “goodies” to nonprofits—nonprofits can then apply to directly to those companies to receive in-kind donations. We sat down with Hannah to chat about what sparked her genius idea, the ups and downs of creating a team, and her advice for other early-stage female founders.
What inspired you to start your business?
I once had to find enough free food to feed 100 students at a conference. I was going door-to-door to [several] Chipotles and Mimi’s Cafes asking them to donate burritos and muffins. It was a frustrating experience, and I wished there was a website that aggregated companies that donate to events so I could apply to them with a few clicks.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
When things aren’t going well with your team, that emotional rollercoaster eats you up more than any other challenges. I had to part ways with one co-founder, go through a couple months as a solo founder, and then search for and eventually find a new co-founder. Wrapping things up with my first co-founder was one of the toughest things I had to do. There were many days when I didn’t sleep well. During those times, you talk to friends, go back to your why, learn to let go, and move on.
What’s been the greatest reward?
“I just tried your service and it’s amazing! I’ve worked in the nonprofit sector for 28 years and rarely have I found a resource this helpful.” [That was a testimonial] from Eric Wallner, the Executive Director of Zaccho, a theater nonprofit. Incredible testimonials like these keep us going during the toughest of times.
What changes would you most like to see in your industry, and how are you working to make those changes happen?
[I’m creating] an easier way to donate products to nonprofits. Not everyone has the ability to give money. If you are a small business owner that owns a bagel shop, you might not have a lot of cash lying around to donate to a cause, but you can easily donate 200 bagels to a food bank. Starting with food, beverage, and auction item donations for nonprofit events, we are building the tech platform that makes it easy to donate product. And by making product donations easier, we aim to increase the total pool of product donations!
Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough?
I’m motivated by our social impact: 1) helping nonprofits save more time and get more donations, and 2) increasing total philanthropic dollars. Over 1,000 nonprofits have used our service, and we have early data that show that companies donate three times more when they use TheShareWay (because we have made it so easy to donate).
Can you provide a few updates on what’s new with your business or what you’ve accomplished since you attended the PE Intensive in April 2017?
Since attending PE in 2017, we started earning revenue and changed our pricing model once, which increased our revenue per customer by ten times. We have also worked with leading brands like Vita Coco and Hubert’s Lemonade. We participated in Transparent Collective, which is a fundraising bootcamp for under-represented founders. The program was recommended by another female founder I met at PE!
Can you describe a problem you solved in your business that other early-stage founders face and tell us how you went about solving this problem? How can other early-stage founders repeat your success?
One of the classic challenges with marketplaces is the chicken and egg problem with your supply and demand side. Our demand side are nonprofit events, and companies that donate are the supply. We hacked our supply by first simply creating a listing of companies that donate. It turns out that that was good enough of a product and nonprofits were willing to pay for it before these companies were even partners with accounts on our site. My advice would be to take a step back, break down all of your assumptions, and put something super minimal out there. You might be surprised by what people are willing to pay for.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out?
Make sure you know why you are working on this idea. I would even dabble in a few ideas over a few months before fully committing to one because once you commit you are in for the ups and downs that come with it for the next 3 to 7 years.
For more motivation from our PE Alumnae, check out our interview with PE Intensive 2017 Alumna Stephanie Alves, a fashion insider and Founder and CEO of ABL Denim, which makes jeans for adults and children with limited mobility or dexterity and sensory processing issues. We caught up with Stephanie to discuss the inspiration behind her company, her biggest mistakes, and where she sees the adaptive clothing industry heading next.