When it comes to social impact work, most people take the nonprofit route to tackle systemic issues, such as food insecurity. But when Jasmine Crowe, founder and CEO of Goodr, saw the systemic impact of hunger in Atlanta, she had a vision for using logistics and technology to bring the community together to feed more families.
According to Crowe, food insecurity is an issue of distribution, not resources, and she’s passionate about using technology to reroute millions of pounds of food from businesses to communities in need. Goodr is a technology company with a vision to “feed more, waste less” and uses logistics to provide food waste solutions to feed families experiencing food insecurity.
But as a social enterprise, Crowe experienced challenges in raising capital to support the growth of Goodr. AfroTech speaks with Crowe to discuss how Accion Opportunity Fund opened doors for Goodr and many more Black entrepreneurs.
AfroTech: How did you first become interested in addressing food insecurity?
Jasmine Crowe: Prior to founding Goodr, I ran a consultancy that I started in 2011 called BCG where I primarily worked with African American celebrities on how we could use their giving blueprint for good. I would tell my clients that the same people standing in line for turkey in November are probably hungry in June. It’s not always just about feeding people around Thanksgiving, Christmas and back to school. Unfortunately, for a lot of my clients, they were entertainers, athletes and singers, so that’s just where they focused.
When I moved to Atlanta, I was driving through downtown and I just saw hundreds of people that were experiencing homelessness. I was like, “Wow, I want to do something, I want to help. I don’t want to live in a city where this is happening and I’m not involved.” I went home and posted on Facebook, “Hey, I’m going to start this feeding initiative. I’ll be feeding every weekend downtown. Come and join me!” And I started. Every weekend, I was feeding anywhere from 300 to 500 people, cooking all the food myself. But I needed more help, and when a video of my work went viral on Facebook, more people saw what I was doing. That’s what ultimately led me to really go after and start Goodr.
AfroTech: What helped you decide to start a for-profit to address food insecurity when people typically take a nonprofit approach?
Crowe: I think for me, I had a lot of experience in the nonprofit realm. So I always tell people I was working in the nonprofit sector for years before I ever started Goodr. Initially, I just thought “I’m going to come to them, and I’m giving them the opportunity to not throw food in a landfill.” To give it out and to get it to people in need, which is an amazing thing and everyone should be doing this.
And then when I started to look into it, I saw they were already paying these waste management companies to throw this perfectly good food away. That’s what made me see it as a bigger opportunity because they are paying someone else to throw perfectly good food away, and I was able to keep it out of a landfill. I thought I was giving them a better kind of use case for their items. I was a waste company as well — I was just helping them divert it from the landfill. That’s what I really started to push: that I’m helping them not waste, and this is why they should work with me.
AfroTech: This relates a lot to your point on hunger being a matter of distribution and not a matter of scarcity. What helped you reach this conclusion?
Crowe: We’re living in a country that’s wasting nearly 40% of all the food that it produces. What that says to me is that it’s not that we need to be producing more food; we need to distribute the food we produce better. I don’t look at it as “let’s go and start growing more food,” but instead, “why don’t we distribute this good food to the people that need it the most?”
AfroTech: Nonprofits fundraise, while for-profits fundraise with venture capital. What were some of the challenges of getting access to capital as a startup with a social mission?
Crowe: There were so many challenges. One being a woman, one being a Black woman, and those were things that I couldn’t change. I also had a demographic challenge, I was in Atlanta. I was trying to raise capital, and most people know most money for venture is in New York, San Francisco, Boston, sometimes Colorado and now Miami. But Atlanta just wasn’t the place. A lot of people were reaching out and asking who had invested in me in Atlanta and I would say, “No one. You don’t have a lot of investors here.”
But those were the big three issues: being a woman, being a person of color and being in Atlanta. It was also challenging because we were trying to solve these real problems. I remember meeting with an investor and they said hunger was already being solved, and I said, “So is cancer.” There’s still people that have it. It’s not solved. Those were some of my biggest challenges.
Accion Opportunity Fund is on a mission to create solutions that address the challenges facing Black business owners by offering low interest loans, expert coaching and online resources. By providing the tools for small business owners to reach their goals and scale sustainably, Accion Opportunity Fund can continue to reinvest in communities and help small business owners use technology to expand their impact.
AfroTech: How has technology played a role in the starting and scaling of your business?
Crowe: It’s been huge. The fact that we have technology as an actual product that we’re actually selling helps us track what we’re doing. We can deliver compelling reports and results to our customers. Technology has helped us connect, especially around the pandemic. I don’t know where we would have been without technology. Technology really helped the company keep going. Whether it’s from Zoom or being able to connect to people or send things to people, everything we’ve been able to do has been because of technology.
AfroTech: How do you envision the next evolution for your organization and mission to fight hunger?
Crowe: Getting more customers and looking for alternative sources of funding. It’s not always going to be venture capital. Is there government funding we can go after because we’re solving this problem? Those are some of the things internally I’m always thinking about: “How can I do this better and what does that look like?” We’ll probably focus on funding so we can continue to grow the team.
We are introducing more products. You may or may not know, but we have two free-standing grocery stores right now that live inside of senior homes and inside of Title I elementary schools where 100% of the students are getting free or reduced lunch. We’re building more of those. I think you will start to see that [Goodr] is really solving hunger. We’re doing what we said we were going to do. We’re stepping out to make sure more people have access to food that otherwise wouldn’t have, and it feels really good.
Funding opportunities for Black social entrepreneurs can impact food access and hunger in entire communities, which is why the work of Accion Opportunity Fund is instrumental in bridging the gap for business leaders with a vision to create social change.
This editorial is brought to you in partnership with Accion Opportunity Fund.