Impact-driven orgs find mobile-app success with Philly startup MilkCrate
Getting your own app is within reach for social-impact organizations, thanks to Philly start-up MilkCrate.
Back in 2014, tech whiz Morgan Berman was competing in a "Shark Tank-esque" competition at the Forbes "30 Under 30" summit in Philly to get more funding for MilkCrate, the app she created that connected users to sustainable businesses.
Four years later, things have changed a bit: Berman, the 33-year-old founder and CEO of Milkcrate, LLC, said her start-up has "evolved" to a new, broader focus. Now she's using her app's platform as a customizable blank canvas for organizations looking to reach their audience through their very own smartphone app.
"It's been an evolution over time from when I first started the company five years ago," Berman told Metro. "We realized there's all these different organizations and companies out there that need an app to do all kinds of things, to reach all kinds of audiences. ... As long as an organization has a stated mission to make the world a better place in some tangible way, then we've been happy to work with them."
Berman compared her company to Wix, the customizable site builder that helps small companies and people create their own professional websites – but for mobile phone apps. The MilkCrate platform has customizable features based on what past clients have needed most to help build an audience, communicate with them and keep them engaged, such as event calendars, maps, push notifications, polls and games.
"We help you make a native app with your brand. You get to make it look and feel like your own, you control, manage and monitor it," Berman said. "Organizations are looking for ways to have engaging mobile activity and until now its always been cost-prohibitive, way too expensive, and took way too much time. What we've done is kind of up-ended that – it's affordable and accessible and effective."
Over the past few years, MilkCrate has been establishing a reputation as it develops custom apps for companies and organizations that might not have been able to have them before.
On Sept. 19, Concilio, a Latino advocacy community organization, launched their brand-new mobile app for iOS and Android, built by MilkCrate, which provides a "centralized hub of resources for anyone involved or looking to get involved with Concilio."
From providing information about community events, to obtaining feedback on specific services and tracking the community's needs, it's a big step into the smartphone-driven present for the organization, founded in 1962.
“We are in the digital age. We carry these phones with us everywhere we go,” Concilio specialist Melanie Nieves said in an announcement of the new app. “Concilio has created their first ever app with the help of our friends at MilkCrate. They have helped us create a personal relationship with our community.”
MilkCrate has even more projects designing custom apps for well-known Philly institutions in the works that aren't ready to go public, but their past work already includes some heavyweights: for UPenn's The Wharton School, they built a Green Tracker app to measure the student body's sustainability efforts.
“They actively engaged with helping us raise awareness of the app launch on campus as well as in tailoring the app to meet our needs," said David Mazzocco, Associate Director of Sustainability and Projects at The Wharton School. "We can tell they truly believe in their social mission and are receptive to our feedback in efforts to constantly improve their product.”
MilkCrate also helped create an app for the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, as well as the STAMP by MilkCrate app for the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, an app that lets local teens visit 21 cultural institutions for free. Some apps are "game-ified," encouraging user engagement through games and competitions for points. Some of MilkCrate's clients have been outside the Philly region, like Bodhi Surf + Yoga, an eco-tourism organization based in Costa Rica.
“The Bodhi Surf + Yoga app by MilkCrate empowers our guests to continue their journey towards being better stewards of Mother Ocean," Travis Bays, owner of Bodhi. "We wanted to develop a loyalty program that wasn't traditional, and this tool allows us to create a mission-focused loyalty program that encourages people to be part of the solution.”
As Berman put it, "Each one of our clients has been a whole story unto itself. They're all newsworthy – they're all doing something different with tech."
With major apps to debut in the near future, MilkCrate's reputation will be sure to keep growing. Not bad for a start-up with just 10 employees working out of an office in the Hawthorne neighborhood of South Philadelphia.
"It's the power of technology," Berman said. "You can get a lot done with a few mighty people."
To learn more, visit MilkCrate.tech.