Roozt is a socially conscious online marketplace for cause related lifestyle brands that lives by the motto, “Bringing Sexy Back to Giving Back.” Since its launch in March of this year, the company has been content to sit in the background itself, instead focusing on telling the story of its brand partners, each of which directs a portion of their sales to a worthy cause. That’s changing today with the announcement of the Roozt “One Member. One Meal.” initiative.
The Los Angeles-based startup has partnered with Feeding America, the leading hunger-relief charity in the US, to accomplish its goal of feeding 1 million Americans in the next 12 months. The initiative differs from other one for one programs in that there is no purchase necessary to unlock the benefit. Consumers simply sign up for the members-only marketplace and a meal is immediately donated on their behalf.
“We’ve integrated this cause into our corporate DNA,” Roozt founder and CEO Brent Freeman tells me. “It aligns perfectly with what we stand for, and is such a great opportunity to a leverage the growth of our community to effect real social good.”
Initially, Freeman was hesitant to have the Roozt brand and story outshine that of its partner brands. In the months since launch, he has come to realize that he’s doing his brands and members a disservice by not building a richer and more meaningful direct relationship with consumers. With this in mind, Roozt has transitioned to become a (free-to-join) members-only shopping experience and is proudly telling its own social good story.
Freeman, who came to social entrepreneurship following his own priority-changing personal and business journey, is extremely committed to the integrity and authenticity of Roozt. He boldly turned down $1 million of misaligned investment early on and is similarly now refusing to tie the company’s philanthropic initiative to financial transactions. Feeling that this would undermine the mission and message, he instead decided to align it with his community growth goals.
Roozt was created to democratize ecommerce and provide exposure for socially conscious brands while empowering everyday consumers to give back. The platform offers brands a technology toolset to create and manage online storefronts, manage promotions, and track key business analytics. At the same time, the site delivers a large, engaged audience of socially conscious shoppers looking for for ways to vote with their dollars. The company is fond of saying, “Every purchase has a story.”
According to Feeding America, more than 17 million children are among the 50 million Americans affected by food-insecurity each year. Freeman and his team at Roozt chose hunger in America as their cause through first-hand experience with the problem.
For the last several years, the founder has been involved in teaching social entrepreneurship to low-income high school students (ok, so he’s also a saint). Recently, he found himself discussing with other faculty the environmental obstacles impeding the success of their students. The revelation was that students were regularly coming to class hungry and the effects on their ability to participate and function were painfully apparent.
Freeman recently discovered a personal connection to Feeding America as well, one which he wasn’t aware of previously. His late grandmother, who lived her last years on a severely restricted income, was a recipient of daily food deliveries through the program. The multiple instances of serendipitous personal connection to the organization were the kind of signs that Freeman looks for when charting the course of his business.
Roozt and Freeman are about to take another step into the spotlight by appearing on this morning’s edition of NBC’s “Today Show.” The company and three of its brands will appearing alongside Kathie Lee and Hoda in a feature about one for one philanthropic initiatives such as those popularized by Tom’s Shoes and eyeglass company Warby Parker. [Update: Here's the video of Roozt's segment.]
The five minutes of national TV exposure will introduce Roozt to as many as 20 million worldwide viewers and could realistically lead to hundreds of thousands of new users for both the company and its individual brand partners. The founder and his team have been shoring up their backend servers for weeks to handle the expected strain. Given this expected burst and Freeman’s tenacity about creating maximum social good, Feeding America should be taking similar precautions to its donation processing infrastructure.