Launching a successful startup requires more than just a great idea and a strong business plan. Creating connections with the right people—and the right communities—who can help push your idea forward is just as important.
That’s evident when you look at the story of one of my clients, the Cleveland company SIVAD (dba Food Stretcher Plus). SIVAD’s Founder and President, David Davis, learned that coupon-based promotional methods didn’t reach people who don’t “clip and save” on a regular basis. Lower-income consumers, who are less likely to buy Sunday newspapers and have limited access to the internet, don’t reap the benefits of coupons. Incredibly, this disconnected group of consumers actually represents a revenue stream of $ 71 billion essentially untouched by major brands in the U.S. grocery industry.
David’s Food Stretcher Plus is an innovative, targeted e-couponing system that gives Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) manufacturers and grocers a gateway into this underrepresented consumer market. Food Stretcher Plus partners with retailers to promote discounted CPG food and household products—especially products which encourage healthier lifestyles—to people with low income and those who are participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or what used to be called food stamps) or WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Program. It’s a way to empower these same low-income consumers to make their dollars and government benefits go further while making smart, healthy shopping choices. In addition, the Food Stretcher Plus program does not require any government approval or regulatory oversight.
David realized very quickly that finding partners was the smartest thing he could do. To ensure Food Stretcher Plus reaches those who would benefit most from the program, he found allies in the community. “We partner and share our resources with many community organizations, like food banks, church organizations and social service programs,” David says. “It’s a family.” He also connected with a seasoned grocery industry professional with 50 years of experience. His support and endorsement opened a lot of doors for us with grocery retailers and gave David valuable insights into the business.
Through trial and error, David also secured and perfected the technology necessary to make Food Stretcher Plus work. More important, he also figured out how to help retailers and CPG manufacturers easily implement this technology. As a result, Food Stretcher Plus has been receiving interest from both CPGs and retailers.
In fact, the feedback across the board from almost every presentation David makes is that he has a great idea. It’s easy to see why; it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. The CPGs sell more products to an undertapped market. Retailers get more business. Both entities feel good because they are directly improving people’s lives and helping shoppers extend the value of their low-income or subsidized benefits.
Still, each of these beneficiaries needs the others involved to reap these positive rewards. The question is: Who’s going to be bold enough to get on the dance floor first and make David’s dream a reality?
David’s already put in years of hard work. At this juncture, all he needs is a CPG to say, “Food Stretcher Plus fulfills my mission of having a positive position in the community. I’ll be a partner in order to reach people and make a tangible difference.” Or he needs a grocery retail chain to champion the cause of ensuring that every customer has access to affordable and healthy food. Or he needs a socially conscious financial backer who thinks it’s both profitable and valuable to promote health and wellness within the low-income community.
Food Stretcher Plus is on the brink of great things, thanks to David’s tenacity, smarts and passion. The benefits to everyone involved will be enormous. With the right partners on his side, it’s not a stretch to say his targeted system can revolutionize the way low-income shoppers shop, eat and live.
Lamont Mackley is a Senior Advisor for JumpStart. Lamont spent most of his career in the banking industry, where he led three community banks as president and CEO. His ability to create environments of high achievement led to his selection as leader of two entrepreneurial businesses, providing him with insight into the challenges of managing such enterprises. These experiences fueled Lamont’s daily passion for working with and coaching entrepreneurs and their growing companies. He attended Boston University for his BS and Columbus School of Law, Catholic University, for his JD. He also has led a series of workshops and seminars on economic and business development.