18 Aug 2020

Firm set up to help small businesses hands over to American investor

4:09 pm on 18 August 2020

Not-for-profit voucher website SOS Business has teamed up with an American investor to inject $5 million into New Zealand small businesses.

Closeup shot of caucasian cashier hands. Seller using touch pad for accepting client customer payment. Small business of coffee shop cafeteria.

File photo. Photo: 123RF

SOS was set up when the country went into the first lockdown to help keep small firms afloat by allowing customers to purchase vouchers which they could cash-in later.

So far, the website has registered 2500 businesses as members and voucher sales have been more than $2m.

SOS chief executive David Downs said it was handing over the reins of the website to Texas-based investor inKind, for free.

Downs and his two partners, Joyce Quah and Naadei Atafu, ran the site as volunteers through the last lockdown.

As restrictions eased, the three returned to their day jobs but the website still received a lot of interest and required their involvement.

Downs said teaming up with inKind has taken the pressure off the founders who had to run the platform in their free time.

"We did a deal and we said we won't take any money because we don't think we need to make any money out of this deal but we would like you invest into New Zealand businesses."

inKind has agreed to commit $5m over the next year investment. It would preserve the SOS business brand and keep Downs on in an advisory role.

Downs said inKind was a good fit to take over the website because of its financing model.

"They came up with a way that allows restaurants and cafes to access capital but at no cost. So they basically buy credit from the cafe and they sell it on behalf of them as vouchers."

The vouchers can be purchased through an app which acts as a loyalty platform to encourage long-term engagement with customers.

Downs said the model has received strong backing from firms using it.

inKind chief executive Johann Moonesinghe said SOS had been a massive help for restaurants, cafes, and other businesses.

"Our plan is to expand the SOS offering, and help support New Zealanders as they work through another lockdown, and come out the other side.

"The SOS platform has grown exponentially over the past few months, and I hope that with the help of inKind, we will be able to reach new heights."

inKind's similar platform in Australia, Save Hospitality, has sold over $30m worth of gift vouchers and helped more than 500 businesses across the US and Australia.

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