Louise Downing and Alex Pengilly wanted to help companies give back to their local communities. Combining their expertise in sustainability and sales, they created BizGive.
BizGive is a tech platform that promotes consumer-led corporate giving for B2C brands. The company uses machine learning and automation to match companies with charities that resonate with their consumers. Then, customers can vote for charities they want to donate to.
We spoke to founder Louise Downing about BizGive’s origin story, the challenges of being self-funded and her experience as a Pitch 2018 finalist.
The inspiration behind BizGive
Downing’s interest in charitable causes began with her first business, Spotdeco. It was an interior design blog and store, but she also wanted to raise awareness around social issues. So, she decided to use her platform for exactly that.
“The technology allowed users to input their location and search for charity projects with different themes. They could then vote for their favourite and I would donate according to what they voted for,” Downing said.
“I published some blogs about the project and it went down really well. When I started talking to retailers to see what the interest levels were, the response was overwhelming. I spun out BizGive from that – it’s been a constant evolution since then.”
How BizGive uses tech to match companies with charities
One of the companies BizGive works with is Pukka Herbs, a herbal tea and supplement business.
BizGive’s technology identified nine charitable projects at different locations where Pukka’s customers are based. When customers visited the blog, the technology could automatically locate them and show them the nearest charitable projects. Then, they could vote for their favourite one and Pukka would donate according to what they voted for.
We can capture how much consumers are spending and the types of products they’re purchasing
“What we provide for the company itself is reporting around that. For example, information about the charitable affinities of their consumers and how they relate to where their consumers are based.”
BizGive aim to develop their technology, in the hope of providing companies with even more insight into consumer behaviour.
“We’re now extending the reporting to the post-checkout screen. It means we can capture other on-page insights, like how much consumers are spending, the types of products they’re purchasing and how that connects to their charitable passions project base,” Downing explained.
Succeeding with limited time and money
BizGive has always been self-funded, but Downing believes that limited cash flow has worked to their advantage.
“It’s forced us to be lean and agile with our development. I think sometimes there can be a trap if you have too much money – you end up down several rabbit holes. Being self-funded has forced us to be extremely focused and validate every one of our investments and product developments.”
To stay on track, BizGive set key objectives before they embark on new projects or tasks. As a startup with limited time available, Downing tries to question the value of every task in the business.
“Before you do anything, ask yourself what your objectives are and align those to the higher business function. So if you’re looking to grow sales, how exactly is that particular task going to help you better align with that?”
Taking part in The Pitch
While searching for different startup competitions, founders Downing and Pengilly discovered the Pitch. After applying in 2018, BizGive was shortlisted as one of the 15 finalists.
Downing pitched BizGive to the judging panel and an audience full of entrepreneurs, journalists and investors. She believes this experience really benefited the company.
“For one, it helped to put us in front of potential new supporters and investors. Secondly, the people I met there have been brilliant for sharing learning and insight. We’ve also kept in contact with some of the judges from The Pitch, who have provided really useful insight and advice. We might start to work with them in the future too,” she said.
It was really valuable in terms of boosting my confidence and helping me to shape how we pitch our product
The experience also helped Downing to articulate the company’s ethos and the services they provide.
“It was a huge learning curve – I’m not a natural public speaker. It’s something that I find completely terrifying, so it was really valuable in terms of boosting my confidence and helping me to shape how we pitch our product.
“We learned how to package our product and turn something multifaceted into bite-sized nuggets. It’s especially useful when you’re delivering it to people who don’t know anything about it.”