2018-11-01 / Start Here

Paying It Forward

Giv Local helps businesses seemlessly support nonprofits.
Katie Defiore

Imagine a company that empowers small businesses to become local superheroes in a way that takes no extra resources. In fact, the small business will actually be saving money, and animal shelters, food banks and other nonprofits receive a new, fairly steady source of donations. This dream-scenario is reality: that’s State College startup Giv Local in a nutshell.

State College locals Sam and Shiz Buckley, husband and wife, founded the merchant processing company with business partner Christian Baum in June, and they’re already gaining traction and community interest.

Sam and Shiz say they have always wanted to start a business together and, apart from raising their two teenage sons, Giv Local is their first venture. Shiz’s background is in working to empower female entrepreneurs, and Sam has been working in commercial banking with a focus on business and development financing.

“My entire career has been working for large commercial banks, learning how their world works, and then learning what needs to change in their industry,” Sam says.

Giv Local changes the way local businesses process credit card purchases in three huge ways. By taking on the role a large bank would normally take on as a merchant processor, Giv Local ensures three things: the processing fees no longer go toward large banks’ bottom lines; hidden fees set in place by the business’s former merchant processor are removed, largely reducing the credit card processing fee for the business; and a percentage of this fee the business was already paying gets set aside to be donated to a local nonprofit of their choice.

“The core of the business is giving back by creating a bridge between local businesses and charities that otherwise might not be connected,” Shiz says.

As they were brainstorming dozens upon dozens of business ideas on their whiteboard wall at home, both Sam and Shiz found that giving back to the State College community remained their No. 1 priority, with utilizing their specific skillsets and backgrounds coming in second.

“(State College) is where we met, it’s where we raised our kids, and so it was super important for us to do something that was meaningful and something that would make a positive impact on the community,” Shiz says. “That was for sure.”

Any business that wants to accept credit card payments has to pay for merchant processing services. Currently, almost every business across America is paying a large bank or corporation to process credit card information every time a customer swipes a card in their store, Sam says.

“We created a model that focuses on the community rather than the shareholder, and your neighbors rather than your executive team,” Shiz says.

Giv Local uses the same equipment, vendors and encryption process as the large banks, only changing the coding in the credit card processors so the processing fee is lower and transacted through Giv Local.

“And the greatest part is that it doesn’t cost them anything,” Sam says. “We are in fact saving them money on their processing and then donating 20 percent of that processing to the local charity of their choice. There is no losing scenario, it’s not a zero sum game, and everybody turns out to be a winner except for the large banks that are the current processors.”

Ameron Construction of State College and Cool Beans Café in Bellefonte are two businesses that have already switched over to Giv Local’s merchant processing service. Ameron has chosen to donate to the State College Food Bank as well as to local environmental causes. Cool Beans has chosen to donate to the Centre County PAWS animal shelter.

“It’s helping the local businesses become local superheroes,” Sam says. “Running a small business is hard — they have a budget to keep to and there’s a limited amount of funds coming in… Some businesses don’t necessarily have the ability to have a nonprofit or charitable contribution budget, so doing something like this, we can not only save them some money on that expense side of their budget, but it also gives them the opportunity to actually bridge and connect with some local charities that they might not have been able to support prior.”

Shiz says the amount of support Giv Local has received right off the bat has been phenomenal, and she hopes it continues to spread upward and outward.

“Giv Local is something that would resonate with anyone and everyone, no matter where you are,” she says. “I hope that Giv Local is something that will become common. If I went to my hometown or New York, I hope it’ll be something where I would see the window cling in all businesses everywhere.” •SCM

Katie DeFiore is a Penn State journalism student who produces podcast series for the Bellisario College of Communications, the Daily Collegian and Global Entrepreneurship Week.

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