When Matt Strauss was a West Virginia University student, his experience as a soccer coach for kids from a poor community and a drive through Chicago’s South Side on his way home for a visit convinced the Wilmette native he wanted to help kids from the city’s impoverished neighborhoods.
He quickly realized that to help South Side nonprofits, or to create his own youth-oriented organization, he needed money. Well, what better way to build towards his own charitable goals, he decided, than to create a business that makes money for other deserving charities?
So Strauss, now 23 and armed with a degree in finance, joined forces with sister Steph Strauss, 32, to create WeeVu, a smartphone app that the two believe could, in Steph’s words, “change the way we give back, forever … we are here to make Chicago a better, more philanthropic place.”
It’s a lofty goal for a simple technological tool, but the brother-sister team, now based in Chicago and Wilmette, is confident that WeeVu can prove that combining social responsibility with shopping habits will be good for every person, business and organization involved.
The official launch for WeeVu – the app and the company helmed by the Strausses – takes place 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Thursday Aug. 21 at Kohl Children’s Museum in Glenview. The public is invited to the formal dress event, for a suggested donation of $10.
“What’s exciting for us is that we call the North Shore our home base,” Steph Strauss said Aug. 14. Both Strauss, who is vice president and marketing director for the fledgling enterprise, and her brother, who helms the new business as its president, acknowledged the mix of exhilaration and disbelief they feel as the startup becomes reality after more than a year of hard work.
That included Matt Strauss’s months of research both before and after he convinced his sister to join him in April of last year, fundraising among friends and family that allowed them to hire a app-development team, and their own work on the app to make it as intuitive and user friendly as possible.
“This is the first time for both of us when it comes to starting a business, and we had no background in smartphone apps, so we used our resources wisely,” Matt Strauss said.
Once they were happy with the app, which happened around April of 2014, the duo’s priorities switched to convincing North Shore area businesses to come on board and searching out nonprofits willing to take part.
Matt Strauss, who calls his sister “the most positive person I know; I couldn’t imagine working with anyone else,” ceded the latter job to her, while he took on the job of reaching out to businesses, which he joked was the harder task. He showed businesses how agreeing to pay a small, negotiated fee to WeeVu-targeted nonprofits would be good for their reputation and their bottom line.
WeeVu now has close to two-dozen businesses in Wilmette, Winnetka, Evanston, Glenview, and Northbrook in the program. They include longstanding area concerns like Duxler Complete Auto Care, Dave’s Italian Kitchen, Morning Glory Flower Shop and more. Roughly the same number are in talks to join.
Steph put her skills in fashion marketing and management from the Illinois Institute of Art Chicago to good use as well, reaching out to nonprofits. The list of participating organizations is growing as quickly as the business side. The team vets each organization, and the current list of nonprofits is close to three-dozen, with another 50 in the process of signing up.
So how does WeeVu work? As its name suggests, its goal is to interweave charities and socially responsible or charitably oriented businesses. The app user acts as the interface.
People download WeeVu from Google Play and the Mac App store for free. That lets them find businesses participating in the program. Then, if they buy something from a participating business, they can take a picture of their receipt with their phone; a small percentage of that amount will go to the nonprofit the buyer targets.
WeeVu invoices each business monthly, and sends the money to the suggested causes, based on a pre-negotiated percentage agreement with each business. Users, who the Strausses refer to as WeeVrs, can also suggest new businesses and nonprofits.
“Our thinking is that we all have to shop every day,” Steph Strauss said. “We all have to get coffee somewhere, we go to lunch, we pick up our dry-cleaning, and we can use WeeVu at any of those places. So why wouldn’t we go somewhere where we know we can make a difference?”
“We are very lucky here on the North Shore, and this is our chance to show that we are willing to share our good fortune with others,” Matt Strauss said.
This week’s launch night includes an auction, raffle and the chance for North Shore and Chicago area businesses and nonprofits to network with each other. RSVPs, including the number of guests, should go to email@example.com.
To learn more about WeeVu, visit www.weevu.com.
PHONING GOOD IN
COST: Free to phone users
TO: Donate to nonprofits
APP Launch: Thursday, Aug. 21INFO: www.weevu.com