It’s rare for a new entrepreneurial venture to start giving back to its users, especially early in its development. The investment costs associated with designing, programming, and testing the likes of a smartphone app often leave businesses in the red for years, focussed entirely on building a sustainable user base and then pulling up the ladder behind them.
Moreover, when one thinks of the Silicon Valley ‘Mecca’ of technology start-ups, images of educated white men in sweaters spring to mind, people prepared to take any step necessary for their project to become the next big thing.
However, an unintended consequence is that the growth of the industry in California spreads access to new people and places across the United States because tech is universal. One start-up that marries the ideas of rewarding its community and diversity of leadership is StoreCash, and its founder, DaricusReleford.
Indeed, the story of StoreCash began in Silicon Valley, but its inception came from a source much closer to its creator’s home. Daricus Releford, a black man, earned clout in the West Coast tech space due to his entrepreneurial success, landing a job at a tech giant shortly before founding StoreCash. A call from his unbanked nephew, Wil, asking for financial help for a laptop sparked a potential symbiosis in Releford’s mind: what if, by creating a solution to help out his family member, he could help out the wider black community too?
According to Releford, StoreCash provides up to 15% cash back at consumers’ favorite stores because that’s what his community needs. The obstacle of Wil being both under the age of 18 and without a bank account was one Releford could overcome while simultaneously providing a service to pump money into the underbanked population, of which African-Americans make up the highest proportion.
In Releford’s own words: “StoreCash allows unbanked and underbanked people access to a banking platform that has no fees, that they trust and that provides them ways to save money to build a positive financial future.” FootLocker, Sephora, and Five Guys are among the outlets from which StoreCash users can earn cashback. It’s a venture that aims to target Millennials and Gen Z-ers as the next generation of fiscally responsible adults.
The discussion comes to an intended side product of StoreCash. When Daricus Releford refers to the unbanked and underbanked, he is referring to the ethnic community from which he emanates, but also to the obvious, those precluded from the use of traditional banks as a result of their age.
Therefore, the app is specifically marketed towards teens and young adults, at least those over the age of 13, to open an account with StoreCash, receive a card in the mail, and begin to learn the lessons of financial literacy at an early age. Daricus believes this will allow communities such as his own to receive a fresh gust of wind towards social mobility for the earners of the future.
While the platform is only currently open to some 50,000 individuals on its waitlist, Releford, and co-founders Phani and Sheetal are aware of the amount of Americans now living paycheck to paycheck and wish to help alleviate that pressure on both a short and a long term basis.
The story of StoreCash began in Silicon Valley, sure, but for Daricus Releford to acquire the inspiration necessary for his transformative venture, he had to live the aforementioned struggle, too. His entrepreneurial journey began at age 12 out of necessity.
With a father addicted to drugs and his mother serving in the military, Releford and his brother woke up one day to find their home empty of possessions, likely sold to fund his father’s problem. The Releford brothers earned $3800 from their first business that summer, followed by $5200 the next – enough to purchase a hot dog cart and eventually a concession stand.
One business led to another until Releford had built a multimillion-dollar company selling chocolate-covered strawberries, with just $25,000 of initial capital. Tberries’ journey is somewhat of a microcosm of that of StoreCash, the latter raising as little as a third of what Releford believes to be typical for start-up banks.
He considers this StoreCash’sbiggest challenge to date and the most significant point of interest in its captivating story. A team of just four built the platform, which they consider industry-leading in its user-friendliness, from February to September 2021.
Daricus Releford aims to be a leader in the neo-banking industry and a role model in his community. Conscious of the problematic relationship of the African-American population with traditional banks, his ultimate desire is to give underrepresented people a platform on which they can start to build wealth – he knows they are more than capable of doing the rest.