From a first glance, Gregory Hoffman CM ’15 looks like every other college sophomore with a laptop under his arm, a cell phone attached to his ear and a lack of sleep slightly showing under his eyes. Yet unlike other college sophomores, his fatigue stems from the fact that he is just about ready to launch a new start-up company.
Claremont McKenna College students are known to be innovative, especially when it comes to the business and finance sector, and Hoffman is surpassing that expectation. While interning last semester for Congress in Washington D.C. he started to develop an idea for a new start-up business.
According to Hoffman, his company, Raffle For Good, is an “online fundraising platform for organizations to raise money through an interactive, skill-based raffle system.” The company is unique because it allows for-profit companies, non-profits and consumers to interact.
Each non-profit that registers with Raffle For Good is allocated a subdomain on the website where they can host their own raffles. The companies have the autonomy to decide their own items and establish their own prices for tickets. This raffle is distinctive because contestants choose their own raffle number and whoever selects the lowest number triumphs; the catch is that it has to be the lowest unique number.
For example, if three consumers choose the number one and one consumer chooses the number three, the one who chose the unique number—in this case, number three—would win.
“I had been enamored with the idea of starting a business and making money since I was a junior in high school,” Hoffman said, “but a friend of mine kept reminding me that she wanted me to do something socially good. She was determined that I would not be just another corporate businessman.”
Hoffman envisioned his site when he realized there are hardly any interactive ways for people to engage with non-profits on the Internet.
“All I could find were sites with cute pictures of pandas and a Donate Now button next to them,” Hoffman explained. “I wanted to design something that gave consumers a fun way to give money.”
Since last January, he has been slaving away on his “baby,” as he refers to it.
“I have placed all my eggs in one basket,” Hoffman said. “I have invested all my equity, time, resources, but it has been a learning process, that is for sure, and I am certain that I really have stumbled on to something here.”
Hoffman researched other attempts entrepreneurs had made to break into this market, and noted reasons they had failed. He concluded that entrepreneurship is “more about talent than the idea.”
Ilan Bielas CM ’13, a founding member of the Raffle For Good team, wholeheartedly concurs.
“We have an innovative business plan, and it really is going to revolutionize how non-profits are able to connect with consumers,” Bielas said.
The duo works well, “because Hoffman is the visionary and I am the one who brings him back down to earth. He has some crazy ideas, and then I look at it from a financial and structural perspective,” Bielas said.
“I know this is my first venture, which makes it as equally electrifying as it does terrifying, but long-term I want to completely revolutionize how the non-profit community is able to connect with web users,” Hoffman said. “I have big plans, but for right now I am content with how the website is looking and the progress we have made in the past year.”
The website will be available in Beta in mid-October and the company expects the full edition to be live early November.
Raffle For Good will work with the newly formed Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at CMC.
Hoffman and Bielas are on the lookout for more students to expand the team. Positions that are available include a Marketing/Public Relations intern and a Web Developer. Any interested students should contact Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.