If you’ve ever wanted to volunteer for a non-profit organization, you know it can be challenging to find the right person to reach out to. And if you’ve ever planned a not-for-profit event, you know that finding partners and volunteers to help you make your vision a reality can be hard too. That is the challenge that the Epcoh team hopes to solve by connecting non-profits with industry and individuals looking to give back to their community. The hope is the platform will encourage more volunteerism in the region and around the world.
The platform works by utilizing not-for-profit profiles that list volunteer opportunities for businesses in the region and matching that with profiles from corporations and individuals based on their interests, what they’re passionate about, their availability and what type of work they’d like to. Epoch then curates opportunities that match individuals, and offers a bi-weekly or monthly schedule of available volunteers, fostering more long-term volunteerism relationships.
A tight-knit team
Jade Choy began her journey in 2017 when she graduated from University of Waterloo and was introduced to an opportunity to compete for the $1,000,000 Hult prize. Jade and her team went through the program not really expecting to get into the second round let alone the finals. They ended up being in the semi-final in the UK, which then landed them in a one-year program in Boston where they were able to build out their platform. This past September, the team pitched in New York City for the finals among six other companies. Although the team did not take the grand prize home, they learned a great deal and were able to take those learnings to grow the company into what it is today.
The team consists of Jade and 6 other individuals including her brother, a recent UW design graduate, and five other UW students who are working on the platform part-time. All of the team is like-minded, highly-skilled and very excited about the work they’re doing. When we asked Jade how it is working with her brother, she laughed and said,
“ It’s really great and funnily enough I think we were conditioned to do this. Growing up we were always close, both in age being 13 months apart, and due to our interests and passions. As kids, we always had tennis lessons, swimming, hangouts, excetera together, probably because it was convenient for our parents to put us in the same activities — but being together so often like that made us very close, making it easy to communicate. It was as if we were in training. So yeah, it’s really good we communicate well and I have a lot of fun working together.”
Jade and the founding team, including her brother decided ultimately to come back to Kitchener Waterloo to grow their company.
“Looking at the tech ecosystem here, the openness to innovation, the interest in giving back, the number of not-for-profits also open to innovation, and the need to connect more businesses with them in the region made our decision to come here a no-brainer!”
In October of 2017, Epoch received $30,000 in seed funding from the Accelerator Centre’s AC JumpStart program to help them continue to build and grow the platform. Currently, Epoch works with several not-for-profits in the region, including the Downtown Kitchener Library and the YMCA bringing those organization together with the community to foster a collaborative community culture. “I wanted to make sure that our platform wasn’t a standalone form but rather that it integrated into systems that employees are and not-for-profits are reusing in their day-today lives, making it easy to volunteer and find information about how to volunteer,” Jade says. “Epoch is meant to facilitate meaningful partnerships and we are proud of the work that’s already being done in the beta program.“
Currently, the not-for-profits Epoch is partnered up with, are those who are looking for volunteers that are skill-based and that would need minimal additional training. The platform is not yet working with organizations that serve vulnerable groups, due to the additional procedures, background checks and training that volunteers will need to work with them. However, those groups are on their roadmap to start beta testing the platform soon. The team will launch the pilot project with two to three not-for-profits right here in Waterloo region.
“The whole purpose of our company is to make giving back time-energy-skills on a volunteer basis easy. We want to facilitate more meaningful connections, because if someone has some extra energy after their work day and they want to volunteer their time, what we’ve seen is that a lot of those individuals will go to not-for-profit website message forms to look for opportunities and it’s actually very difficult to find the information and by the time that they are aligned and ready to do the volunteering, their availability has changed.
We need to change the system so that it empowers more people to do what they want to do when they have the availability and we are determined to make this a tool that can empower social impact in our community, work and beyond.”
To learn more about Epoch, please visit: https://www.epochapp.com/aboutus/
AC JumpStart is made possible by and investment from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario(FedDev Ontario) and is delivered in partnership with Conestoga College, Laurier, and the University of Waterloo.