Food Service & Agriculture, Nonprofits, and Technology

FoodCircles orders plan for growth

May 2, 2013
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FoodCircles app gets state backing
Jonathan Kumar, founder of Grand Rapids-based FoodCircles, has developed a web and mobile app that allows users to feed the hungry when they buy food. Photo via fb.com

The state is getting behind Grand Rapids-based FoodCircles — and the startup's app for the web and mobile devices.  

The Michigan Microloan Fund Program made loans of more than $397,000 last month, spread across nine Michigan companies, to help companies commercialize their core products. The state program has now given $3.6 million in loans given away.

One of the companies is FoodCircles.

The startup's free web and mobile app allow users to “buy one, feed one” whenever they dine at a restaurant registered with the app, funding meals with local nonprofit Kids’ Food Basket and international nonprofit World Vision.

FoodCircles, which celebrates its one-year anniversary this month, received $50,000 from the state program, said Jonathan Kumar, creator of FoodCircles. 

FoodCircles will use the funding to hit two major growth milestones for the company.

“The first milestone is to demonstrate a lot of excitement in the Grand Rapids market — that there are a lot of people using it, there are a lot of kids being fed and there are a lot of restaurants benefitting from the ‘buy one, feed one,’ movement,” he said.

“The second milestone is demonstrating that we can scale this to a second market effectively,” he said.

Kumar said the money will go towards developing FoodCircles' technology, enabling bleeding edge web technology and mobile technology to expand his app into tools that could be used efficiently and simplistically on a national level.

FoodCircles has 25 registered restaurants in Grand Rapids and is looking to bring in another 10 in the Grand Haven area, Kumar said, adding that FoodCircles is also expanding into Rockford and Belmont.

By next year, Kumar would like to see FoodCircles exist in 10 different cities, which he thinks could be done without having to hire a sales force in each city, by partnering with local nonprofits, which would ultimately be receiving more awareness and funding, he said.

To make these new changes, Kumar said he would like to hire about five long-term contractors, including an Apple iOS specialist, an Google Android specialist, two designers and a Rails programming specialist.

He also plans to allow any nonprofit fundraise through FoodCircles, he said, which would attract more users and ultimately more restaurants.

“Restaurants are hit up constantly, like eight times a week, by a school or a nonprofit looking for a gift card or handouts,” he said. “They hate saying no, but they hate saying yes. We want to be a clearing house for restaurants. They can go through FoodCircles.”

Michigan Microloan Fund Program loan recipients, April 2013

  • FoodCircles, Grand Rapids: an app for web and mobile to that drives business to restaurants, while fundraising for nonprofits.
  • ACIAS (Qlovi), Ann Arbor: a suite of literacy instruction and publishing platforms for the k-16 and digital publishing markets.
  • AdAdapted, Ann Arbor: an ad network for mobile gaming and applications.
  • AppKey, Ann Arbor: a permission-based marketing approach to monetize mobile apps and content.
  • Berylline, Rochester Hills: a specialized, three-wheeled hybrid scooter.
  • Dangos, Ann Arbor: a suite of mobile applications for visitors of North America's largest travel destinations.
  • EcoFuel Technologies, Troy: waste plastics to fuel conversion equipment for the alternative fuel and recycling industries.
  • ENT Biotech Solutions, Grosse Pointe Farms: AdenoEF, a hand held device used to simultaneously clean cut, cauterize and remove larger adenoid tissue portions.
  • Ornicept, Ann Arbor: technologies for digitally managing data on natural resources including field tools and online big data analytics.

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