Lessons Learned in San Francisco

In November 2014, I traveled to San Francisco and spent 5 days (Thursday–Monday) skating the streets to introduce FoodCircles to different startups, engineers, and connectors. I received some of the best technical, managerial, and fundraising advice of my life and wrote the following as a response to the question, “So, how did it go?”

Guidepost to Reading — There are two general ways of reading this post:

The “Lessons” Route: skim down the post, looking for the bold or yellow-highlighted sections. When you find something you like, feel free to read the context.

The “Narrative” Route: read the full perspective of an entrepreneur—and many times wantrapreneur—trying to find his way through the city and his first startup.

Late Wednesday Night

The journey started on a late, rainy night finding my way into the hills of Chinatown to get to my Couchsurfing host’s apartment. I once slipped on my longboard and watched it almost get crunched by traffic. Thinking back, losing my board would have greatly limited my trip and experience. But thankfully, that didn’t happen. I got to Ken’s place and he was already asleep, leaving a note for me on the table. I hit the strange bed in the strange city in the heart of Chinatown and tried to get ready for the day that was to come.

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Grand Rapids Brewing Co., Welcome Aboard.

Grand Rapids Brewing Co. on FoodCircles

Grand Rapids Brewing Co. is now a “Buy One, Feed One” establishment.

“..One of the friendliest staffs you’ll meet,”

..in one of the coolest spaces downtown, on the cornerstone of the city of Grand Rapids. The gang at 1 Ionia originally collaborated before your parents were born with six other breweries to form the Grand Rapids Brewing Company in 1892. It was oddly similar to hobbits, men, elves and dwarves coming together in Lord of the Rings. With GRBC’s decision to become a “Buy One, Feed One” establishment, the results are just as spectacular.

GRBC now enables anyone, any day to put dinner on the table for a child in need just by coming in to the brewery. You can try an order of Street Tacos for just $1 or more (order = 3 tacos), and 100% of your purchase goes to providing square meals. We’re stoked to let you know about GRBC’s decision to enable us to give today. Click below to buy a 30-day voucher for just $1, or hit up GRBC on the app. There are just 5 left this week.


Buy Dish at GRBC


To practice what we preach, in perhaps the strangest Happy Hour invite ever, we asked a few friends to try GRBC last week and confirmed that the chorizo inside the Street Tacos is the bomb. My bud Stephen also had high praise for the Fried PB&J (that strawberry jam….) and Katie was all about their Scotch Egg (that sausage….). That’s not even to mention the brews, which local snob Stan Samuels gives two thumbs up. In all these experimentations, they were able to provide dinner to 3 children here, via Kids Food Basket.



Sometimes we get bored on Fridays..


Coming Soon

Many restaurants are “going #BOFO” this fall. Can’t wait to show you who.




– Jon and the FoodCircles team


(c) Abigail Kumar 2013

We can feed 5,000. We need your help.

A measuring stick for you and me….
The moment you decide to grab food tonight, or perhaps this weekend, you have a chance to truly show love to a child in need. This child is probably someone you’ve never met, and maybe will never meet, but you have the power to right at least one wrong in their life. You’ve given 215 dinners to local children in need plus 168 DAYS of food to malnourished children in Niger, West Africa in just 60 days.

Gotta share our goal of 5000 because we believe in A) having a concrete, ambitious mark to work towards {do ya have one?}, B) you keeping us accountable, and C) because we know “what’s measured, improves“. It just takes you to continue to love those in need and feed 2-4 children per month.



We’ve also updated our Local and West Africa giving profiles.



To reach 5000, we need to introduce bold, new ways of eating well and changing lives:

—new “au courant” restaurants
—get tighter service at restaurants and sharpened donation followup
—send $1 dishes to friends, nominate new causes, even reserve that dish you really want

Sparrow’s Coffee and ROWSTER have also chipped in. Get 10% off or $1 off your coffee just by showing you’ve made a purchase on your app timeline or by downloading the app at the register. Thank you Lori and Stephen.


Life of a Sack Supper at Kids Food Basket


Some people ask us about the food we donate to Kids Food Basket. The YouTube video is an awesome story about what happens what happens after you use FoodCircles to eat and select Kids Food Basket at your preferred charity.

Here’s the core problem: Over 33,000+ kids live in poverty in Kent County, and many are not able to play when they want to, or study when they want to because of an empty stomach.

Here’s the solution we came up with:  Use joinfoodcircles.org or the Android / iPhone app to get dinner plans. You can buy a local restaurant dish for just $1 or more, and 100% of your purchase will be used to provide these meals.  Every $1 you spend provides one mind-sustaining dinner for a child to take home after school:

  • a sandwich
  • a fruit
  • a serving of vegetables
  • a snack like granola
  • a dessert like a cookie
  • & a drink


We even challenged you to test the food the kids will receive. Check the reviews on it here, here, and HERE.

You might find that when you ask someone, “Do you feel you’re doing enough for others in life?” the answer is often, “No”.  Our app lets you integrate everyday behavior into behavior that makes a difference.

Super-Powered Peanut Butter: Plumpy’Nut!


(Anderson Cooper / 60 Minutes also produced a clip, but with some graphic footage of children. To view, click here.)

Some folks ask us about the food we donate globally. Above is a short doc on the food provided when you use FoodCircles to eat and select World Vision at your preferred charity.  World Vision works with us to provide a life-saving substance called Plumpy’Nut to kids in Niger, Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, among others. But what’s Plumpy’Nut? Continue reading

2014 Internships Released

Find the public versions on Craigslist, our job board of choice for many reasons.


Digital Storytellerhttp://grandrapids.craigslist.org/mar/4253495194.html

Local Storytellerhttp://grandrapids.craigslist.org/mar/4253486881.html

National Storytellerhttp://grandrapids.craigslist.org/npo/4253478574.html

Print Design Internshiphttp://grandrapids.craigslist.org/med/4253474076.html

Web Development Internship (Rails) — http://grandrapids.craigslist.org/sof/4253461771.html

Web Design Internship (HTML/CSS/JS/Rails) — http://grandrapids.craigslist.org/web/4253466123.html


Learn more about our organization and mission here: http://blog.foodcircles.net/about/

Your Passion is Evident

© Mike Wells


We wanted to feed 15 − you fed 40.
All without spending $1 more than you already planned to.

In tests leading up to the launch of http://joinfoodcircles.org, we expected about 20% of you to pay more than the $1 for a “Buy One, Feed One” dish. Time and time again last week, you’ve proved the number to be 100%. We together have more than conquered last week’s meal goal. Your passion is visible. We’re still in awe of the “extra mile” many of you have walked to help children.

“The food was good but the experience was delicious.”
“Our manager actually joined us and talked to us about it for 7 minutes.”

This part of the review from from our friend Joe, who broke bread at Pietro’s last week. From him and his girlfriend, came one and two dinners for two hungry children, raising the dining experience from good to grand. As we head into the next few weeks towards Thanksgiving, remember that a sense of gratefulness can be best experienced when you give.

Post-Tiramisu :p

Post-Tiramisu :p


All Sold Out venues have one maybe two “Buy One, Feed One” specials this week.



Figure out food– use our trusty map to see #bofo restaurants that fit into your work/home routines, or try our new apps free on Android, iOS, and joinfoodcircles.org

Grabbed Coffee w/ 5 Users and These Are The Lessons Learned

at San Chez Bistro

What are your dine out “habits”? (when, where do you go, how do you decide, etc.)  What’s your attitude toward new restaurants and toward getting deals? Where do you find ’em?

How does giving back fit into your life?  Would you say you give back enough?

We wanted to reveal a couple recommendations a “User Researcher” from UofM named Mo Kerwin gave to us.  She hung out with 5 individuals who’d used our old app and captured their thoughts, feelings, and emotions around FoodCircles, dining out, and helping others.

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The Mysterious Disappearance of DoGood

Jason Bornhorst – Founder of DoGood (currently http://filamentlabs.co).

Jason Bornhorst – Founder of DoGood (currently http://filamentlabs.co).

The concept is simple; everyone gets a daily act of kindness, they try to do it, then they get to share their experience with others.  The DoGood app (for iPhone and later Android) was launched the summer of ’09 by Jason Bornhorst and a cohort of University of Michigan engineers (Go Blue!).  Within eight months, over half-a-million new good deeds had impacted our world.

Another company, Tonic Inc., lined up to buy DoGood.  They were quoted with intentions of “making it a massive worldwide movement.”  It sounds like a great idea and a simple app.  So where is it?  How come when we google “dogood app” or search on the App Store, we’re not able to download it?

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