Per Diems Against Poverty: From Idea to Inception

To think that it all started with two cousins from rural Oklahoma, Jennifer Barker and Brittany Hodak, who used to create their own perfumes, listen to the Beach Boys, and plan on owning their own bakery.  (By the way, neither of us claims to be a pro in the kitchen!)  We vowed to someday work together on something meaningful and exciting, and although we discussed many business ideas over the years, nothing felt right until late 2014.

While Brittany was filming an episode of the hit TV show Shark Tank for her entertainment startup, ZinePak, the idea for Per Diems Against Poverty was sparked.  She received a phone call from a producer telling her they forgot to give her her per diems for the past few days. She had not expected the per diem, and although happy to receive the almost $200 in cash, she was struck by a few thoughts. First, $65 per day was generous for one person’s meals. Second, most people who are fortunate enough to receive per diems (including professional actors, athletes, and business executives) do not count on the non-taxable per diems to afford their meals; they will buy lunch and dinner with or without the mandated payments. Third, $65 per day could do a lot of good for the almost 20% of Americans suffering from food insecurity.  

With these thoughts still fresh on Brittany’s mind a few weeks later, she shared her idea with Jennifer over Thanksgiving dinner (ironic, we know).  Jennifer shared Brittany’s passion for finding a way to easily and effectively redistribute these funds to individuals struggling with hunger.  After researching domestic nonprofits who currently provide food to Americans suffering in poverty, we found that per diem donations were a previously untapped resource that could potentially help provide millions of meals to families in need!  We agreed this was the battle we had been preparing to fight together: working toward an America where no person goes hungry.

In the spring of 2015, the wheels were set in motion.  We began learning the ins and outs of the nonprofit world, from how to successfully start one to managing the paperwork and day-to-day business operations.  We’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say it’s an exhaustive process that involves a lot of IRS paperwork.  While Brittany had already founded and currently runs a successful for-profit company, and Jennifer has worked in business administration, neither had ever started a nonprofit corporation.  We didn’t let that stand in our way!  We immediately got to work making our dream a reality!  

Our vision is an America where no person goes hungry. In order to expedite this goal and ensure that 100% of all per diems are distributed as efficiently as possible, we've partnered with Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization. They share, not only our organization’s vision, but our core values of Frugality, Commitment, and Transparency.  They supported our mission and vision instantly and were excited at the prospect of partnering with us as well!  The following day on May 15, 2015, we incorporated.  But, that was just the beginning...