Toronto, April 14, 2020 – This week, a group of Canadians launched Distantly.ca, an online donation platform that allows community members to make direct donations to small businesses, helping cover overhead costs during the Covid-19 crisis. The aim is to lessen the impact of non-essential closures on neighbourhood businesses like local coffee shops, restaurants, hair and nail salons etc., by enabling their customers to continue supporting those businesses until they are able to re-open.
Distantly.ca is a benevolent initiative powered by Buildable, a Toronto-based technology firm, and is the brainchild of Susan McArthur, former partner at a venture capital fund, Daniel Spataro, CEO & Co-Founder of Buildable Technologies, and Moe Katib, CTO & Co-Founder of Buildable Technologies
The platform provides a simple, web- and mobile-based application that is both easy to use and secure. Businesses can sign up through the secure portal. Community members can then geo-locate the businesses they wish to support and enter an amount via their credit card. That donation is then delivered directly to the business. All transactions are processed through Stripe. Simply put, through the application, customers locate the businesses they wish to support and then Distantly.ca securely processes a direct payment from them to the business(es) of choice.
“Local businesses are important to the fabric and well-being of every community,” said Susan McArthur. “I wanted to find a scalable solution so other Canadians could easily help their local businesses by providing some needed cash flow. I knew Canadians would not want their local merchants, boarded up as a result of Covid-19. Donations made through Distantly.ca will help to cover everything from payroll to rent and hopefully ensure that our vital local businesses survive and continue to serve our communities for years to come.”
“As entrepreneurs, both Moe and I know first-hand how grueling it is to own a business. A lot of sacrificed personal time with family and friends goes into it,” said Daniel Spataro, who, together with his Buildable Co-Founder, Moe Katib, and their team of product managers, engineers, and designers, developed the Distantly platform. “We’d imagine almost every business owner can say they’ve shared the same level of sacrifice. When non-essential businesses were closed, we felt compelled to use the resources, technology and team at our disposal at Buildable to help fellow business owners. You can’t serve food or give someone a haircut over Zoom, unfortunately, and yet, without these types of businesses, our city, and our country, wouldn’t look and feel the same. In our opinion, it’s critical that mainstreet gets through this pandemic along with the rest of us”
The team behind Distantly.ca recently completed beta-testing of the platform, working with a few small businesses in Toronto, including Totum Life Science.
“It’s been exciting to see this platform come together,” said Stacy Irvine, co-founder of Totum Life Science. “It’s been an incredibly challenging time for our business, and for many of our friends and neighbours who also operate small businesses in our community. We want to retain and sustain our staff. We need to continue to pay rent and keep our businesses alive. But it’s daunting when we can’t generate any income. Our clients have told us they want to help, and we are so grateful for this new platform they can use to support us.”
Thanks to the generous support of the benefactors involved in the Distantly project, Distantly does not charge businesses any platform fees. The only fees included are third-party transaction fees charged by the payment network, Stripe, to securely distribute the capital to the business’ bank account. Stripe, a third-party payment network, charges 3.0-4.0%, depending on the credit card used for the donation.
Distantly.ca is a proud initiative of Susan McArthur, Daniel Spataro and Moe Katib. They brought together a working group of a number of others who wanted to support the initiative, including Susan’s brother David McArthur, strategic communications firm Enterprise, business association group TABIA, small business digital experts Digital Main Street (a program owned by TABIA), Totum Life Science owners Stacy and Tim Irvine, Osler, Hoskin & HarcourtLLP, Migeotte and Migeotte for translation services and others.