How The Phoenix Startup Community Is Giving Back During The Holidays

Beth Cochran
Feb 25 · 5 min read

This past year, StartupAZ Foundation has amplified the importance of the performance and generosity flywheel. The concept is simple: Startups that perform well have the capability to give back, help grow the local community, and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to reach the same level of performance.

For the flywheel to work at scale, Phoenix startups must take the initiative and not only perform well, but be truly generous. Thankfully, many of the area’s highest performing startups are taking the responsibility seriously.

In the spirit of the holiday season, here is how some members of the StartupAZ Collective are giving back to the community.

A Qwick helping hand

Qwick, whose CEO Jamie Baxter is a member of the StartupAZ Collective 2020 Scale cohort, is an on-demand staffing platform that connects service industry professionals with food and beverage shifts.

Many of the professionals who use the Qwick platform are living paycheck to paycheck. So to provide them much-needed financial assistance, Qwick recently launched the Quick Cares Foundation, which will donate 1% of all gross profits each month to professionals on the platform.

Recently, one of the earliest professionals on the platform, someone who had worked hundreds of shifts through Qwick, reached out and told them he was going through a rough patch.

“Earlier in the year, this same professional sent us a picture of his three little girls and thanked us, because without the shift he received that day through our platform, he said he didn’t know how he would be able to feed them,” Baxter said.

This time, the professional reached out because he needed help. His wife had recently been laid off, and he asked for a $1,000 advance on his future shifts so he could pay December rent. Qwick knew an advance like that would put even further financial strain on the professional and his family, so they decided to just pay his December rent for him.

“We want to do more of this,” Baxter said. “We also want to help our professionals continue to upskill themselves through different trade schools and pay for their tuition so they can further their careers. There are so many ideas our team has on how we can give back to our professionals and I’m excited to kick this off.”

Assisting a fellow company in need

During tough times, it can be tempting to take an “every man for himself” mentality. That’s not the case for Kegelbell and its founder Stephanie Schull (SC 2020 Growth).

“This may sound unorthodox, but we are giving money to help a company that’s been hit hard by COVID,” she said. “They helped us when we were starting out, and we felt it was important to help a company that’s being hurt by this phenomenon.”

Kegebell is also donating to the Sojourner Center, a shelter for battered women and children, and their pets.

“One of the most common reasons women don’t leave is because they can’t take their beloved pets with them, so it’s significant they allow pets in the shelter,” Stephanie said.

A “Giving Tuesday” surprise

Like most companies in the ecommerce industry, Postscript, a text message marketing service for Shopify stores, had a very busy Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

“After cranking through the busiest time of the year and with the holidays approaching, we wanted to take some time to focus on gratitude and giving back,” said COO and co-founder, Collin Turner (SC 2020 Scale).

They started a new tradition this year of raising money for “Giving Tuesday.” This year, the team voted to raise money for Thorn, an organization dedicated to ending child sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children. With PostScript matching employee donations, the team raised over $2,000 for Thorn.

Later that night, Turner received a text from Thorn telling him they sent the highest Giving Tuesday donation this year. That’s when an already magical experience turned into something the staff will never forget.

Unbeknownst to PostScript, the prize for donating the most to Thorn was the opportunity to play video games with Ashton Kucher and Mila Kunis. The employee who led the initiative played and beat Ashton Kucher, while many other team members jumped on the Zoom call to watch and be a part of the excitement.

“It was a hilarious and fun experience,” Turner said. “We’re looking forward to growing our Giving Tuesday initiative next year.”

Spreading the holiday cheer

Several members of the StartupAZ Collective got into the holiday spirit by adopting a family. Scarlett Spring, CEO of TapRoot Interventions (SC 2020 Growth) said they adopt a student from William Jack Elementary School, a school in a lower-income neighborhood, every single year.

“It allows us to provide Christmas to children who otherwise would not have been able to experience it or haven’t had it in years,” Spring said. “It’s fun selecting their gifts each year, and participating in this awesome event brings me and (co-founder) Linda Buscemi so much joy.”

Chris Ronzio, CEO of Trainual (SC 2020 Scale), a Phoenix tech company that has demonstrated a commitment to socially responsible efforts, personally sponsored the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Promise Ball. This month, they also adopted a family for Christmas.

“It was fun getting our kids involved and buying presents for the whole family,” he said.

More than one way to give back

This holiday season, BioMetrica Systems CEO Wyly Wade (SC 2018) and his team dropped off turkeys at local firehouses and police stations. Michael Hunter, co-founder of Spiffy (SC 2019), participates in the Forgotten Angels toy drives and the Homeless ID Project, which helps homeless people get back on their feet.

While they both have given back to the community this season, both acknowledge that many businesses aren’t currently capable of donating after a tough 2020.

“COVID has impacted a lot of us, and maybe some people aren’t in a position to give stuff, money, or even spend dedicated time volunteering this year,” Hunter said.

That’s why both Hunter and Wade emphasized the ways businesses can give back regardless of their circumstances. One of Wade’s suggestions is to buy local, putting money back into the community.

“I have switched all of our purchasing and meals to local organizations. Even my daily Starbucks is now Black Rock Coffee,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hunter said a little bit of kindness can go a long way.

“There’s one thing we can all afford to give…kindness and compliments,” he said. “More than stuff and money, we all want to be SEEN, and it doesn’t cost anything to let someone know you see and appreciate their positive attitude, their extra effort, or exceptional service. The small things can be big things, especially his year.”

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