Spud Flower, In a Nutshell
Spud Flower is the first service that can guarantee contributions made to a child go to a child. In doing so, we evolve the way families save for college by making it inviting and fun to ask for and receive financial gifts. With Spud Flower, parents setup a profile for each child and create campaigns to share with family and friends who can give a financial gift alongside a card or small toy. Spud Flower users will enjoy these features:
- financial gifts given to a child go to the child
- no-fee financial transactions
- fun, brainy toys for $5 - $25
- premium options to make their lives easier (sending cards, downloading address labels, pledging an interest rate against funds raised through Spud Flower, monthly progress reports, etc)
- campaigns easily shared across social networks
- badges awarded based on positive actions
- basic financial education & practical guides
- a predictive college cost calculator
Why Is This Necessary
College costs are skyrocketing. We already have a trillion dollars of student loan debt in the U.S. and this trend is getting worse. Current estimates have children born today paying nearly $250,000 for an undergraduate degree at a "best value" public institution! We need better solutions to send our kids to college and empower every family to realize their aspirations for a college education for their children.
We raised nearly $500 at each of a handful of middle-class birthday parties with less than 20 guests. The fundraising approach we used was radically more simple and less social than what we've designed for Spud Flower, so we expect similarly high levels of fundraising to continue or improve.
Our extensive research has shown that family and friends are willing to give a financial contribution that far exceeds what they would spend on a toy if they know that (1) it will go directly to the child; and (2) it will be used for the child's future education expenses. We've found a way to ensure both of these conditions and the best part is that we can offer this service for FREE to families across the income spectrum. This is important because "children in families with a college savings account are 4 times more likely to attend college and 7 times more likely if the account is in the child's name – regardless of the account balance!" (See this study for more details)
Our passion for creating positive social impact drives everything we do.
What We're Going to Do With $50,000
We've spent a year developing a solution to help families crowdsource college savings for their kids. We've used lean startup practices and outcome driven innovation methods to design a solution that works for the 99%. We have the design and requirements complete and we've received detailed proposals from 8 development firms to do the work. We are fully confident we can get a great site built within 4-6 months that will implement our most important features for $50,000. Here are more details on what we'll do with the money:
|$0 - $49,999||All pledges are returned|
|$50k - $100k||Website gets built with a variable amount of features|
|$100k - $150k||Backend interfaces with external service providers can be built (improves automation)|
|$150k - $250k||Various marketing and outreach strategies can be implemented|
|$250k - $500k||Increase inventory of gifts and hire critical operations staff|
|$500k+||Hire full-time employees to scale impact and accelerate growth|
How We Got Here
- assembled a world-class team
- learned from interviews and surveys of nearly a thousand families and stakeholders
- ran a handful of test campaigns
- iterated solutions based on feedback and user experiences
- organized, researched, and led a series of Saving for College Salon Conversations with several dozen families (the same as the $100 Add-on Perk)
- formed partnerships with key service providers and financial services firms
- built detailed requirements
- designed the interface
- submitted a RFP (Request For Proposal) to 8 agile development firms
- received proposals from all 8 firms
We did all of this to accomplish our vision of building a way to crowdsource economic mobility for our nation's youth.
Add-on Bonus Perks, Virtual Premium Services, & Badges
Add-on Bonus Perks
The 3 Perks labeled "Add-on Bonus Perk!" are stand-alone perks. You can only receive these perks by purchasing them separately, or adding the amount of the Add-on Bonus Perk to one of the non-Add-on Bonus Perks and leave a comment about which bonus perk(s) you want. More details on the bonus perks can be found below and in their respective attachments.
- $35 – Receive a piggy bank that looks like a pig or football with 4 separate compartments for saving, spending, investing, and donating. The pig is available in 6 colors, including piggy pink. Like a real football, the football piggy bank just comes in the pigskin color. Oink!
- $50 – Get a recording of the board book of your choice being read by Spud Flower's founder (the voice you hear in our videos). If you ask nicely, you can have 2 versions of the recording - the "standard" version and an artistic license / ad-lib version. Here is a sample from Goodnight Moon.
- $100 – Gain admission to a 2-hr salon-style discussion on saving for college – hosted by Spud Flower's founder along with either R. Paul Herman, CEO+Founder HIP Investor (Human Impact + Profit) or Tanya Steinhofer, a financial planner who specializes in women and families with young children. You can find the agenda and more details here. Salon discussions will be held virtually via WebEx (with video) and be limited to 12 participants in each salon. Once 60 people sign up for this perk, additional classes may be added, but at a substantially higher price.
Virtual Premium Services:
There are over two dozen premium services in demand by Spud Flower users. Some of these are physical services such as invitations and thank you cards. Others are virtual, like e-mail campaigns, individual and team challenges, pledging an interest rate, monthly progress reports, and more. These virtual premium services cost non-premium account holders $0.99 to $9.99 per use. Premium subscribers get access to all non-physical (anything that can be delivered electronically) premium services included with their annual membership.
You might be familiar with badges from apps like foursquare. They help make engaging with a community fun and rewarding. Spud Flower rewards users with badges for positive actions – from the Supporter, Founder, and Friend badges available through this campaign, to the dozens of badges available once we launch, such as the Team Gifter badge given to those who team up to provide a more substantial gift, or the Goal Champion badge earned by those who achieve their campaign goals.
Other Ways You Can Help
Not everyone can contribute money. We get that. If you'd like to support us without pledging to the campaign, here are some things we'd greatly appreciate:
- Use the sharing tools just below the video on this page to share this campaign across your social networks
- Write an op-ed in your local newspaper.
- Send emails to your friends and family with the link to this campaign.
- Talk with your children's schools about sharing information about Spud Flower in their regular newsletter (download a sample article here or request the Spud Flower team write one for you).
- Talk with your neighbors and colleagues about Spud Flower and how it could help your kids save for college.
- Share the link to this campaign with members of your parents group.
- Have your kids talk with their friends at school and extracurricular events like sports, band, choir, art, etc.
Who We Are
- Steven Tiell – The tall redhead you see and hear in the video above has been building technology systems, managing engineering research & development teams and leading high-tech projects that make our world a better place for governments and large corporations for over 15 years. He has an BS in Computer Science Engineering and an MBA in Sustainable Management and helped teach the Capital Markets course at Presidio Graduate School after graduation. He's Spud Flower's passionate leader who brought the team together and is committed to leveraging technology to make our world a better place.
- Rebekah Helzel – is formerly a financial services professional and Chartered Financial Analyst who first met Steven as a student in the Capital Markets course and later co-taught the course with him. She previously founded and ran the award-winning nonprofit, ARCH, to address the dire community need for affordable workforce housing in Sun Valley, Idaho. She is also an active judge and mentor for the California CleanTech Open and is committed to creating positive social change. Rebekah leads financial innovation and regulatory compliance for Spud Flower.
- Jill Hundley-Keefer – is a former journalist and foreign correspondent who was drawn to a career that allowed her to give a voice to those who felt powerless. Leaving the risks of war-zone journalism behind to start a family, Jill used her unique talents to create over a dozen award-winning online communities in the past 8 years. She and Steven met working on the Smart+Connected Communities Institute together and have remained close friends and colleagues through Spud Flower where Jill is responsible for community building and outreach.
- Fiona Smillie – is a graphic and motion designer with over a decade of experience designing for Global 2000 corporations, small businesses, and start-ups. Her talents are sought after worldwide and the animated Spud Flower video above is all thanks to her genius. Fiona and Steven have been friends since grade school and enjoy collaborating on Spud Flower.
- Stephani Slater – is a multi-talented technology and architecture professional with 20+ years of experience in design, high-end graphics and animation for startups and high technology clients. Stephani's unique combination of technical, media, and management prowess has made her a sought-after team member of numerous Silicon Valley start-ups. Stephani holds a BArch in Architecture, MFA in Computer Art, and MBA in Sustainable Management. Stephani and Fiona ensure Spud Flower's vision for social impact is experienced as part of its design.
- Buddika Gajapala – was born and raised on the beautiful island of Sri Lanka. "Gaj" moved to the U.S. to pursue his interests in software development and banking architectures. He presently lives in Chicago with his wife (they were high school sweethearts) and two wonderful children. Prior to working on Spud Flower, Gaj served as global technical architect for Bank of America's credit trading services. Gaj is also an aspiring roboticist with his latest snow shoveling robot on loan to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.
- Anabel Granados – was born in Las Vegas to a large extended Mexican family of mostly monolingual Spanish-speakers, Ms. Granados often acted as an interpreter growing up and she continues to rely upon her native bi-lingual skills today by performing bilingual criminal justice work for national and sub-national government agencies. Anabel is an advocate for breaking down barriers to communication. For Spud Flower, she has been instrumental in gaining research insights from Spanish speaking communities and is responsible for all Spanish language content.
- R. Paul Herman – is the CEO+Founder of HIP Investor (Human Impact + Profit) – a registered investment advisor in California, Washington, and Illinois – who has created the HIP 100, a re-weighting of the S&P 100 according to metrics of health, wealth, earth, equality and trust as well as management practices that can drive profit and shareholder value. He also wrote a best selling book by the same name describing the HIP methodogy. Prior to starting HIP Investor, Paul started a child-focused debit card service to improve transparency of finances within families. Before his entrepreneurial endeavors, he worked at McKinsey & Co., designed the investment strategy for Pierre Omidyar's Network, and was Chief Development Officer at Ashoka. Mr. Herman met Steven as a guest lecturer at Presidio Graduate School, where Steven was helping to teach the Capital Markets course.
- John Katovich – founded Katovich Law Group in 2002, a law firm committed to responsible business and community development. More recently, he co-founded Cutting Edge Capital, a consulting firm that works to build mission-driven organizations and pragmatic approaches to financial system regulations. Previously, John served as EVP and Chief Legal Officer at Boston Stock Exchange/NASDAQ, General Counsel for the Pacific Stock Exchange, and General Counsel for two global trading and exchange software ventures. Mr. Katovich also taught Capital Markets where Steven served as his Graduate Teaching Assistant for 3 years. In addition to this course at Presidio Graduate School, Mr. Katovich has been an Adjunct Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and Instructor at INSEAD - Fontainebleau, France. He is a member of both the California and Illinois bar.
- Tanya Steinhofer – is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) with more than a decade of diverse investment industry experience. She is the founder and principal of Redwood Grove Wealth Management, offering financial planning for women and families with young children. In addition to her professional experience, she is an avid non-profit volunteer, with an emphasis on financial literacy. Ms. Steinhofer currently volunteers as a bi-lingual Business Connector for Women's Initiative for Self-Employment (WISE) and with Junior Achievement.