Round up your bill, feed the hungry with Spare NYC

by Fergal Gallagher
November 16, 2015

Looking at her two-month old son in 2012, Andra Tomsa wanted to do something to make him proud.

A few months later, she quit her job as a financial advisor and launched nonprofit startup Spare to try and solve New York’s hunger program.

Fast forward to today and the company just launched a new app and is helping feed thousands of people across the city. Once signed up, the platform rounds up your restaurant and bar bills and uses this extra change to donate to a good cause.

Tomsa (pictured left) said she originally got the idea when she saw the amount of money New Yorkers spent each night when she was bartending as a college student. “I knew restaurant owners wouldn’t give me money because it’s a difficult industry,” said Tomsa. “But nobody’s going to care about rounding up their bill."

Initially, Tomsa used paper inserts in restaurant bills that asked customers to round up the bill. Using this method she raised $1000 dollars in just six restaurants over a two month period.

Tomsa knew this wasn't a scalable business model, and decided to reach out to the New York tech community to find help. “I googled the top 50 people in tech in new york, found an article and emailed all the people on that list,” Tomsa said.

Rameet Chawla, cofounder of Fueled, was number four on the list, and eventually became a Spare NYC cofounder.

Tomsa pivoted from a nonprofit when her new partners came on board. “I wasn’t seeing traction with grants, but now we’re attracting investment...we’re closing in on a half million dollar funding round within the next 45 days,” she said.

Once registered, the Spare iOS app integrates with the Plaid banking API, which operates with 17,000 banks across the country. Your bills automatically get rounded up, and you get a notification each day detailing your donations.

Spare currently has four registered partner charities: Food Bank for New York, City Harvest, City Meals on Wheels and New York City Rescue Mission. Users vote for their favorite charity and at the end of the year the winner will receive all the funds.

“They all fight hunger in different ways,” said Tomsa. “I believe that one large donation will have the biggest impact as opposed to filtering it out.” 

The platform also has a built-in rewards program. Certain member restaurants offer incentives, like three donations in a month at any one member restaurant will win you a free cocktail, five donations could get you a free appetizer and 10 donations might get you $15 off your next bill.

Currently New Yorkers miss 235 million meals per year. Tomsa estimates that if 10 percent of New Yorkers could donate $6 per month, that this gap could be wiped out in one year.

Images via Spare NYC

Main image via Shutterstock

 

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