A Newcastle University graduate has won an award for his social enterprise project helping connect foodbanks with the communities they support.
Masitano Sichone received the Duke of York Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Spareable– an app that lets community foodbanks send out notifications when essential items are low in numbers, helping them optimise their stock.
The platform allows foodbanks to notify people who install the app which essentials are low. Donors, supporters and volunteers can then make a donation by purchasing items, which are delivered directly from the retailer to the foodbank. Through the app, people can also find volunteering roles with a foodbank.
Masitano, from Zambia, who graduated from Newcastle University Business School with a Master’s Degree in Electronic Business, said: “I am really excited to get this honour but even more ecstatic that our work, its potential and impact has been recognised. Together we can end hunger for good.”
Masitano came up with the idea before his graduation in 2017 and pitched it at a bootcamp event, run by START UP, Newcastle University’s support for students and recent graduates looking to become self-employed and start new businesses. His idea won the competition and the budding entrepreneur was given backing to develop Spareable.
Following endorsement from the START UP Team, Masitano successfully secured his Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa which gave him two years to establish and scale his business in the UK. Masitano was awarded a Foundership, a Newcastle University programme that offers recent graduates support and funding to help them commercialise their innovations. The Foundership has helped him to push through proof of concept to launch within six months.
Masitano has recruited two Newcastle University student interns to work with him on the marketing strategy and software development.
He said: “It’s almost surreal where Spareable has got to. From an idea coined at a bootcamp hosted by START UP, to invaluable guidance from the University’s START UP Team and some remarkable mentors, research into the ways technology can combat food poverty with one of the biggest foodbanks in the North East, to this honour and recognition from HRH The Duke of York.”
Two years after pitching his idea, Masitano launched Spareable after months of volunteering and working with Newcastle West End Foodbank to build and test the app.
John McCorry, Chief Executive, Newcastle West End Foodbank, said: “We recognised at an early stage there was significant potential in Masitano’s concept for Foodbanks to use the Spareable App to source much needed food-donations. Foodbanks are reliant on the general public donating food items in a traditional manner either directly to our Food Distribution centres or via local shopping stores, their churches or places of work.
“The Spareable App is a welcome and easy to use addition to the way people can make a donation and help support their local Foodbank. The Spareable App is easy to use, helps people identify what stocks are needed most and sees their purchase delivered directly to the Foodbank ready for distributed. Reducing hunger in todays’ society is the central aim of our Foodbank and the Spareable App, Masitano has created, is an innovative tool to help us tackle food-poverty and enable hungry people to better access sustainable food supplies.”
The social entrepreneur was supported by a team of START UP advisers and mentors, who are delighted with his success. Jackie Wade, START UP Business Adviser said: “Masitano is an exceptional, inspirational man, who I have been privileged to work with as business adviser. He is passionate about his cause, solving global issues around food poverty. He has used his technical expertise to create an innovative app which has the potential to transform the foodbank landscape and make it easier to donate food, time and money to our local communities.
“Masitano has all the ingredients to truly make his business a success and furthermore to create real change and impact. I am excited to watch his next steps and see his business take shape.”
Spareable is available to download at https://mailchi.mp/d80925579d84/spareable-sign-up