These companies aren’t just thriving, they’re making an impact through philanthropy
In the midst of the holiday season, we’re all in more of a giving mood. But across Ohio, startups and small businesses are in the giving mood all season long, contributing to the less fortunate in their communities, helping boost public projects and propping up organizations that make a difference.
Here are just a few of the Ohio startups that have worked to give back in 2021:
A charitable element is built into the very business model of central Ohio startup Spritz Tea. Spritz makes zero-calorie, zero-sugar, vegan and keto-friendly drinks that they think of as “the next generation of sparkling water,” and they’re also helping to support the next generation of female entrepreneurs. The company donates 1 percent of its revenue to female-focused local nonprofits like Dress for Success and the Women’s Small Business Accelerator, writing their largest donation check yet in 2021.
“This is important to me because women still only raise an incredibly small portion of venture capital and have fewer resources to support through our networks and mentorship,” said Founder and CEO Kathryn Dougherty. “Capital, power, and influence continues to be held predominantly by men and giving back, even in a small way, to these organizations is one way I can be part of the change I want to see. I am also doing this by being a role model as an entrepreneur myself, building a brand that is empowering in how it represents our consumers.”
Columbus insurance startup Branch makes affordable and accessible insurance its mission, but the company also makes a major philanthropic effort. Branch has set up a charitable arm called SafetyNest, aimed at allowing more access to insurance and lowering what CEO Steve Lekas calls the financial exclusion barrier. A small percentage of Branch customers’ payments go toward funding SafetyNest, which allows people in need to apply for assistance through the program.
“There’s a huge financial exclusion problem in this country,” Lekas said. “Just in Ohio, more than 500,000 people drive uninsured. You pay premiums to your insurance company to cover the possibility of an accident with an uninsured driver. People who are excluded have no margin for error and are typically living close to or underneath the poverty line. These are good people who have to make hard choices and insurance is the thing they don’t buy. But if they get in an accident or even get a ticket, they can’t get out of a hole they’ve dug themselves into. For us, it was really important that we were doing something good for the world. The beautiful part about the impact that we’ll make is that as you drive the cost down, the exclusion barrier lowers naturally. Doing the thing that makes you a profit naturally creates a societal benefit.”
In 2021, FinTech startup Lower.com made a major splash in Ohio, sponsoring the home of the Columbus Crew, Lower.com Field and announcing a $100 million funding round that will continue the company’s rapid growth. But Lower is making big waves in the community as well. Partnering with the Crew, Lower donated $37,000 to Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Healthy Homes program. For each goal the Crew scored from the opening of Lower.com Field on July 3 through the end of the season, Lower donated $1,000 to the program.
The company has also partnered with Healthy Homes on food and coat drives, and team members volunteer their time throughout the year at the program’s community events. Lower works with several other philanthropic organizations like Casey Cares, Junior Achievers, and the New Albany Foundation. Additionally, they are a presenting partner for the Crew’s Mini-Pitch Project, a field development initiative that aims to provide local youth in underserved communities with the opportunity to get outside and play soccer in safe and fun environments.
“Healthy Homes has been close to our hearts for many years. Our mission and their mission closely align to unlock homeownership for more people, so it’s a perfect match,” said co-founder and CEO Dan Snyder. “Their work to provide affordable homes and opportunities for residents in the South Side and Linden made them the clear choice for our first recipient of the funds. We look forward to seeing how they can continue their impact in those areas.”
Cincinnati’s 212 Environmental is on a mission to solve environmental challenges, and they’re also prioritizing their local community. Inspired by City Gospel Mission in Cincinnati, 212 decided to make a big impact this Thanksgiving, donating 212 pounds of turkey to help those in their community celebrate the holiday. The startup worked with their local Kroger On the Rhine in Cincinnati to help acquire the turkeys, and are making community-building and philanthropy a major part of their work.
“We encourage our friends, partners and colleagues in our community, and those in our industry nationwide, to partner with a great local organization to help meet your neighbors’ needs,” the company shared on LinkedIn.
Third Sun Solar
Athens startup Third Sun Solar is working to improve the efficiency of residential buildings, commercial buildings and everything in between, a commendable pursuit on its own. But the company is also bringing their technology to places that may not be able to afford it. This year, they agreed to partner with the Village of Chauncey and the Baileys Trail System to provide clean energy at the Chauncey-Dover Community Park trailhead. Third Sun will install a solar system on the rooftop of the restroom facility in January, which will reduce the Village’s utility costs for the next two decades or more.
“We are incredibly grateful for the donation of the solar array by Third Sun Solar to the Chauncey-Dover Community Park that was once the site of the Chauncey mines,” said Mayor Amy Renner. “It’s important to us while repurposing the land for recreational use that it be done in a sustainable and responsible manner including adopting a zero-waste event policy, so the implementation of solar energy is a great addition to our vision.”
“As a company committed to the flourishing of our community, we are proud to support this groundbreaking trail project,” said CEO and co-founder, Geoff Greenfield. “We believe that partnering with the Baileys Trail System in this way will not just reduce the overhead costs for the Village of Chauncey but will help the Baileys Trail System advance their mission of bringing sustainable economic development to the Southeast Ohio Region.”