I don’t think anyone could have known what 2020 had in store for them, but I know that launching a non-profit wasn’t even on my list, let alone launching a non-profit during a global pandemic. Andrea and I have been friends for a long time, like Grade 10 first term gym class long time. Until now, we have been classmates, laughing buddies, crying buddies, drinking buddies, we’ve been on the opposite sides of arguments and on the same side of arguments, but again, we didn’t think we’d become business buddies. When I think back on it now though, this whole thing happened because we were all those things, especially friends and drinking buddies.
In summer of 2019 we moved within 2 blocks of each other in downtown Calgary and started a little tradition of meeting at the brewery halfway between our apartments every Friday for a drink or two. Andrea, with her very hoppy IPA’s and me always asking what the fruity beer of the week was, knowing it would always been the same one and that I would always order it (but honestly I still don’t know what it’s called so I couldn’t have just ordered it without asking). One of these average Friday nights we were sipping and chatting and I was telling her about how I would often keep gift cards in my wallet and give them out when someone in downtown was asking for some change or a bite to eat. I never keep change on me so gift cards were the next easiest thing since I always forgot that I had them so wouldn’t miss them if I gave them away. I could see a light turn on in her head, she saw an opportunity.
It felt like almost immediately we had a couple pieces of the waiter’s note pad and one of his pens and were spewing ideas all over the place. We had the idea for re:give, a service that consolidates unused and unwanted gift cards and giving them to organizations that were dedicated to helping our community. I had experience starting a non profit in undergrad and had just taken a few entrepreneurship classes as part of my Master’s program so had a good idea where to start logistically. Andrea had some tricks up her sleeve with huge ambition and unending ideas to make sure we were making this thing the best it could be.
Our first step, in our note pad scribbles, was listing all the problems with our idea. Yes, of course we thought it was an amazing idea, but there had to be problems and those were the things we needed to focus our effort on in the beginning. I remember being told in one of my contract classes, “write your contract as if you will be using it in court”, which essentially means you have to prepare yourself for everything to go wrong so you can anticipate and prepare your follow up. This was what we were doing, even in this first day of the idea, and I think it was this headspace that allowed us to get re:give to the point it is at now and will allow us to continue to grow and improve.
From there we started writing our Business Plan, talked to Andreas partner (who is now also our Technology Advisor), Tyrone, who has started a couple business’ of his own, and started working through the ins and outs of our vision for re:give. This, similar to our list of questions and problems to solve, really helped us flush out our idea and get a solid grasp on what our business was going to look like and how we were going to start tackling what felt like an insurmountable goal at the time. Not sure we’re even halfway to what I would consider having ‘tackled’ the goal, but we’re a hell of a lot closer, that’s for sure.