How It All Began

By Christopher Haylett

The Story Begins

Hi! I’m Christopher Haylett, the guy who founded Sixpence. The story behind how Sixpence first came about is rooted in my personal story of fundraising and trying to do good in the world. I experienced a problem and eventually decided to do what I could to fix it. Here's how this whole concept first began.

In 2014, I was fundraising toward a target of $5,000 for a volunteer trip to a slum in Nairobi, Kenya. There, I would spend a summer providing consulting services for nonprofits’ microfinance and child sponsorship programs, help coach a young men’s semi-pro soccer team, and work with schools, churches, and youth in the slum of Kibera. I was extremely excited, as this would be the first chance for me to truly apply my education in Global Development in a professional capacity.

story Myself with students and my friend Nico, from the organization Spur Afrika, in the Kibera slum.

However, the fundraising part of my work, that which would actually enable the good work I hoped to do, proved to be extremely difficult and frustrating for me.

The Seed is Planted

If you’ve ever raised a similar amount for volunteer work, you surely know that fundraising can be the most difficult and frustrating task when it comes to trying to do good work. While I was fundraising, I spoke at locations, applied for grants, and raised money from my community through GoFundMe. But even with these varied means, it was still an extremely difficult endeavor.

As my fundraising deadline approached, I thought, “There has to be an easier way. I have over 1,000 Facebook friends. If I could even just get $1 or $2 from each of them, I’d hit my remaining target easily. Especially if I could get them to commit to giving monthly. Certainly nearly everyone could afford a single dollar.” It was this thought that would later inspire the idea of Sixpence.

The Concept Develops

One year later, I was attempting to attend a summer academy program called Praxis. I didn’t have the money to cover tuition, so I again turned to crowdfunding, this time for my own education. Fundraising for a personal reason, while socially acceptable, doesn’t provide as much appeal as a volunteer campaign and is a much more difficult thing to do, even if the goals of that reason are noble. I wanted to go to this academy to further my entrepreneurship education, with the goal of one day creating a social impact business that created some sort of change in a sustainable way. I ended up with a donation from a professor, my grandma, and a college friend.

As I raised funds, again, I thought of how easy it would be to cover my expenses if I could just get a buck here and there from people that I know, especially if they could donate that once a month. But getting people to feel like they’d be making a difference by giving “only” a dollar is another story. (Check out our blog on Futility Thinking for more on that.) It just so happened that while I was thinking about this frustration, I was checking my Acorns account. Acorns is an app that uses roundups on your daily purchases to help you save money and invest it, without really feeling any cost in your pocketbook.

The Lightbulb Moment

Immediately, it dawned on me. “There’s got to be a platform like GoFundMe that would allow me to fundraise with roundups from my friends and family! That would be an easy commitment, would add up over time, and would help me to easily hit my target after a few months.” So, I looked up this theoretical platform to use it for myself. After searching a variety of versions of “roundup crowdfunding platform” and scrolling through page after page of Google results, I soon realized that such a thing did not, in fact, exist. I briefly thought, “Well someone should build that. Would be awesome.” I eventually, briefly, tried putting a team together from my school. But it just didn’t work out. Everyone graduated and went on to their own things. Sixpence was not yet to be.

Finally, Sixpence Begins

Over a year later, I talked to a friend about this concept that I just hadn’t been able to get off the ground. We were in the same business school — he had a background in Computer Science, but we were both studying for Masters in International Business. A couple weeks later, we connected again and he told me he’d like to be in on the idea. Another one of our classmates jumped on as well, and several months later we had a dedicated team working on making Sixpence a reality.

We worked out the model, the technicalities, and the features beyond roundups. I once pitched the concept to a venture capital guy in the early stages of the idea and he responded, “That sounds like a feature, not a business. It won’t work.” Three years later, that single feature still didn’t exist on an open crowdfunding platform, so the Sixpence team has made sure to bundle some other features into the app to make a complete and unique crowdfunding platform.

Going Into the Future

And now here we are, launching a revolutionary new crowdfunding platform that’s different than anything that’s been released before. We’re building a community engagement platform. A way for people to see the need around them and contribute in even the smallest amounts of spare change. We’re working to make a better world.

Our mission statement summarizes our goals best: “Enhance generosity. Build commonality. Ease good work. All to spur society towards a together future.”

I hope that you’ll join us on this journey of change. No pun intended.

Tags: Entrepreneurship, innovation, Faith & Fundraising, sixpence, story, fundraising, new ideas, startups, The Sixpence Story, the startup journey

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