Aim high but create contingency plans. Ambition is great and keeps you going towards the moonshot goals, but in startups a lot of the time things don’t turn out as planned. Having contingency plans allow you to not fail and be done, but turn failures into learnings that accelerate your growth.
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Glantz.
Andrew Glantz is the Founder and CEO of GiftAMeal, a mobile app that promotes restaurants while giving back to the community. Over 200 restaurants participate and over half a million meals have been provided to those in need through its program. In addition to GiftAMeal, Glantz serves on the Washington University in St. Louis Alumni Board of Governors and guest lectures at the university on the topics such as marketing, negotiations, and entrepreneurship. Prior to GiftAMeal, Glantz ran a non-profit storefront that promoted re-use and sustainability, and served as Vice President of a children’s charity that raised over 300,000 dollars during his four year tenure. Glantz graduated Magna Cum Laude from Washington University in St. Louis in 2017, where he received the Joseph W. Towle prize for top leadership potential and was voted Most Likely to be a Billionaire by his peers. Glantz was the youngest person named to the St. Louis Business Journal’s 30 Under 30 List.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
I grew up in Los Angeles in a family that emphasized two things: following your passions and giving back to the community. I am very fortunate to have incredibly supportive parents that encouraged me to take the harder path and believe in myself, rather than simply a path with a nice stable paycheck. From volunteering with my mom to help teach reading to underprivileged children to being a camp counselor at a non-profit camp for children in need, I became deeply involved and saw that not all children were as fortunate as I was.
You are currently leading a social impact organization. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
GiftAMeal is a mobile application that helps provide a meal to someone in need locally each time a user takes a photo of their order from a partner restaurant. Restaurants pay a monthly subscription to be on the app as a mix of marketing and giving back, and then we make donations to local food banks at the end of each month based on the number of photos users take. We now have over 200 partner restaurants and have provided over 500,000 meals to those in need. That’s like 10,000 school buses filled with children which is pretty amazing to think about.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
My whole life led up to GiftAMeal. In addition to my socially conscious upbringing, I have always had the ambition to do something great — only I didn’t quite know what that would be. Through various volunteering experiences, I realized that hunger was a major problem. 1 in 7 children across the United States faces food insecurity, meaning they don’t know where they will get their next meal. When a child faces food insecurity, they are more likely to repeat a grade in school, have social and developmental impairments, and overall have less access to opportunity. Solving hunger opens a gateway to opportunities for a better life.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
The ‘Aha Moment’ came when I was interning at a venture capital firm while I was still an undergraduate student at Washington University in St. Louis. I was on a lunch break with the other intern at a nearby restaurant, and we were talking about how people discover restaurants and how millennials make purchases based on values. After many iterations and conversations with mentors, GiftAMeal became a reality and I hired an app developer to get it started.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
Just do it. I didn’t know anything when I started, but you learn by doing. I’d recommend reaching out to your future customers to get their feedback on what you’re building and whether they would actually use it. Then iterate based off their insights, build a minimum viable product with just the core idea in as cheap a way as possible, and test it out. Then continually go through the cycle of learning, iterating, testing, learning, iterating, testing, etc.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Last year, I visited one of the local food pantries supported by GiftAMeal and spent the day there listening. People shared their stories with me and it was amazing to hear the wide mix of experiences. What stood out most to me was how giving the people were going to the food pantry, and how some would even volunteer at the food pantry as well since they wanted to help others too.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
A mistake I made when I was first starting was not telling anyone my idea. I even made my sister’s boyfriend sign a Non-Disclosure agreement! I was terrified someone would try to steal my idea. I quickly realized that I should be telling everybody about my idea to get their insights and help to bring my idea to reality. Most people are too busy working on their own thing to take your idea.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
There have been countless mentors and cheerleaders that have been so essential to helping me get GiftAMeal to where it is today. From introductions to cold reaching out and asking for help, I have met so many amazing people who have influenced our journey. And it isn’t just advice or connections for the business, a lot of it is making sure that I could be the best CEO I could be. Tomer Yogev is one mentor who helped me through many challenges with the business and with the decision to commit full-time to the business after I graduated college rather than getting a corporate job.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
When I visited a local food pantry, I heard the stories of people that GiftAMeal was helping every day. I spoke with the kindest woman, Bridgett. She has a 15 year old daughter and they faced food insecurity for 5–6 years. After she started coming to the pantry, she said her daughter’s grades have gone up. Now, Bridgett said she been able to get back on her feet and her daughter takes food around to the neighbors and they both volunteer at the pantry. At the end of our conversation, Bridgett told me, “We have a house and now we have food and we’re not going to stop just because we have. We’re going to give back. I am proud of where I’ve came from”.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Increase healthy food access in food deserts, enact policies that support equal opportunity, and ensure that children when leaving school have enough food for the weekend (not just a school lunch).
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1) Ask for help. I’ve been able to talk to some really amazing people just by asking for their advice — from food technology CEOs to non-profit executives.
2) Just do it. Sometimes in the early stages I would ponder for weeks on our next step, but just going for it and iterating is what generates progress.
3) Kindness pays off. Some of our earliest restaurant customers joined because they just thought I was a kind person and wanted to support me. People can spot if someone is genuine and want to work with them.
4) Aim high but create contingency plans. Ambition is great and keeps you going towards the moonshot goals, but in startups a lot of the time things don’t turn out as planned. Having contingency plans allow you to not fail and be done, but turn failures into learnings that accelerate your growth.
5) Bring good people onto your team. There is only so much one person can do. Bringing people onto our team to complement my skillset in tech and sales and marketing has been incredibly beneficial.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Because it is the right thing to do. GiftAMeal is a for-profit company and we strongly believe profits and purpose can be consistent goals. You can build an amazing for-profit company that also gives back and that give back can actually help create growth.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!