When the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for many people to get meals and groceries, a lot of people pitched in to help where they could. Raymond Qin, a 20-year-old metro Atlanta native and C5 Georgia alumnus, saw a way to use social media to benefit his community.
The son of first-generation Chinese American immigrants, Qin is a sophomore at Harvard University – and he’s also an entrepreneur. His startup – Toppings – is designed to promote local businesses while giving people in the community easier access to food.
“Toppings is a social delivery app that encourages and rewards users for bringing food back for their friends when they are out grabbing a bite themselves,” Qin explained. “This is done through a social network where users can add friends and join different delivery groups.”
With integrated payment processing, splitting the bill is easy and secure. And, Qin added, there are “notifications so you never miss an opportunity for free delivery, and location tracking to make it easy to identify where your order is and where you can order from.”
The great thing is that there are benefits for everyone involved. Orderers get free delivery; deliverers earn free food, in-app rewards, and store credit – and participating restaurants and stores enjoy profit guarantee and a low delivery commission of 6-12%.
The need for feed
Qin said that his idea for Toppings started at the beginning of the pandemic when schools began shutting campuses, and he was sent home.
“At the time, some people in the neighborhood around me began getting COVID and other families, especially those with elderly immune-compromised members, began taking precautions and limiting going out,” he said. He saw that there was a serious issue with people being able to get the groceries and food they needed.
“We actually decided to start a WeChat messaging group for several families in the neighborhood so that when someone went out, others could ask them to bring something back for them,” Qin continued. “We quickly found this to be a much better alternative to delivery platforms and began working on a more robust product.”
The Toppings concept has gone through OneSixOne’s incubator program, Harvard’s Builder’s Incubation Program, Harvard i-labs Venture Program and is currently being beta tested on Harvard University’s campus, with plans to expand to multiple campuses in the summer and fall of 2021.
Qin credits C5 Georgia with giving him the tools to become a leader and innovator. The nonprofit helps students achieve goals that include: graduate from high school and pursue college or meaningful employment, acquire leadership skills, make positive contributions to the community, develop and maintain positive relationships and respect human diversity.
“C5 Georgia was one of the most transformative experiences from my youth and continues to inspire me every day,” he said. “Through C5, I was able to experience and live through lessons of leadership and impact, and I think that’s the biggest difference between C5 Georgia and other youth programs. It doesn’t just preach lessons and empty statements.”
The program was begun by John Alm, former President and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises. The program’s concept grew from a four-week summer camp to a five-year, year-round leadership development and college readiness program.
Qin added that C5 taught him empathy by putting people from diverse backgrounds together to share stories and experiences. “It inspired impact by having students lead service projects and it built leaders by planting people in challenging situations,” he said. “I can confidently say that C5 is what made me believe that I can lead, impact and inspire change – all of which drives me towards entrepreneurship and impact-focused work.”
Today, C5 Georgia is a member of a nationwide network of youth foundations operating in Los Angeles, New England and Texas with corporate partners/sponsors that include Coca-Cola, Chick-fil-A, Fulton County, Inspire Brands, Kimberly Clark, Microsoft, UPS and West Rock. Learn more at c5georgia.org.
Now Qin is offering an opportunity to other students. He said that Toppings is currently looking for summer interns with experience in React Native frontend development. Interested applicants should send their resumes to email@example.com.
If you’re interested in participating in Toppings, visit toppingsapp.com and sign up for the waitlist to bring free food and free delivery to your area.