The impact of the business Holly Baker and Leslie Fischer are building really hit home a few weeks ago. While at her daughter’s elementary school, Holly was approached by the school’s secretary who showed her a story that was written by a third grader. Holly and her daughter had never met the girl who wrote the story (nor did she know the parents), so she was surprised to see that it was all about TAGG, the company that Holly and Leslie started in 2012.
They’ve worked hard since then but it’s pretty safe to say that they wouldn’t be where they are today if it weren’t for Oprah and a newborn baby.
While Leslie was on maternity leave, she caught Oprah’s final episode. It was all about doing something meaningful and making the most of your life. Leslie had a great job but she wasn’t passionate about it and she knew her friend and former colleague, Holly, was in a similar position.
That was when Leslie called Holly up and said, “I know I want to start a business, I think you should be my partner because we work really well together but have different skill sets.”
Holly was all for it.
They joke about the fact that their start was the opposite of what usually happens. “Usually you have an idea, and then you go find your team. With us it was, we know we want to start something, but what?”
Lucky for them, they didn’t have to wait long to find a problem they could solve that they were passionate about.
Shortly after that initial call, they both had people coming to their door trying to sell things to raise money. Holly saw the problems with that process and had her aha moment. She called Leslie up and said, “I got it, let’s figure out a better way to fundraise.”
About that time, Groupon had really hit the market. Holly and Leslie wanted to combine the voucher concept used by Groupon with fundraising, and the first version of TAGG was born.
For 14 months, people could go to the TAGG website, purchase a voucher, and choose the nonprofit they wanted a certain percentage to go to.
Towards the end of that 14 months, things were getting rough for Leslie and Holly.
Leslie recalled that experience:
“The facts are the facts no matter how much you want to sugarcoat them. So for us, Holly had to go get a job for a short period of time and there were a lot of sacrifices we made. Then it was like, okay if we’re going to do this, we have to completely start over. I have no regrets but it was very stressful and hard. She was working somewhere else and I was like ‘do I go work?’ but if I’m working and she’s working, then it’s done. It was a really hard time for both of us but it also had to get us to that point to make us pivot and to make us really see what we were made of.”
While Holly was working at her second job, all she wanted to do was do work for TAGG. So, they took that hardship and the feedback they were receiving and reinvented the business.
Rather than making their users think ahead and go buy a voucher, they decided to create a mobile app that allowed people to “TAGG” their purchases as they made them or up to seven days later.
Here’s how it works now:
When you go to a participating business, you make a purchase just like you would any other time. After you complete the transaction with cash, credit card, or any other payment method, you use the app to “TAGG” your purchase.
To do that, you simply enter the amount of the transaction. Then you scan the QR code that’s at the register or take a photo of your receipt. Once that’s done, you choose which nonprofit you want to support. Finally, you can choose to share that “TAGG” on social media, which gets the business and the nonprofit some exposure.
With this new model, TAGG has seen much more success. Soon after pivoting, they secured funding from Prairie Ventures in Omaha and developed their app with Agilx out of Lincoln. They then took the new platform to Omaha-area businesses and nonprofits and have seen success in that market.
With the new app, it seems that they’ve started a movement within their core customer base. People like Katy Spratte who handles community relations for TAGG, have become serial TAGGers. She and others have started making their purchase decisions based on which businesses participate in the platform.
Now, TAGG is ready to bring their movement to Lincoln to expand their reach and learn the process for introducing TAGG to new cities. They’ve recently brought on Khristine Gilroy-Johnson to head up business development in Lincoln and would love any referrals or connections in the Lincoln market.
Leslie and Holly hope to develop TAGG into a national platform that allows you to support any nonprofit from anywhere in the country. For example, grandparents living in Phoenix could TAGG a purchase from their local coffee shop to support their granddaughter’s school in Omaha.
For now, they’re focused on growing their customer base, building a company culture around transparency and passion, and being strong role models for other women. From what I saw when I interviewed the TAGG team, they’re killing it.
To connect with Holly and Leslie and to learn more about the app, check out their website at www.TogetherAGreaterGood.com. You can also reach them via email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.