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Carol Rossborough and Ailis Mone are Co-Founders of ESTHER, the pocket-to-pocket giving app. ESTHER allows you to send charitable donations directly to people living in poverty in your own community.

What does ESTHER do?

ESTHER is the pocket to pocket giving app.

Pocket-to-pocket giving is just like it sounds— giving money directly to someone who needs it.

It connects donors with some of the poorest people in their communities, enabling them to give directly, while protecting everyone’s privacy. The recipient receives the donation on an ESTHER card, which is widely accepted but is cashless, and can only be spent on things that are helpful to the recipient. 

ESTHER works with local charities to find the people who need it most, and how our donors can help, through pocket-to-pocket giving. They on board and validate the recipients, and collect updates on how they are going. 

Then we wrap it all up in an app, so that you’re always three taps away from directly helping the poorest people in your city.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to set up ESTHER?

Carol Rossborough, my very talented Co-Founder was the visionary behind Esther. Given her insatiable appetite for learning, she began to re-imagine the world through the lens of technologies like blockchain and AI. She wanted to help people in her own community in a direct way rather than through a charity, and blockchain made sense as a natural solution to Peer-2-Peer financial support that could be direct but trusted. 

She was introduced to me early in the validation process, given my background in emerging technology. We realised that we could establish trust between donors and recipients in a much simpler way. We started out with a manual MVP and, although at first it was the potential of the product and technology that had interested me, when I saw the impact it was making on the people we were helping I just knew this was something we had a responsibility to throw our whole selves into. 

What/who influences/motivates you?

Having a positive impact on people is what truly motivates me, which is why ESTHER is such an important part of my life. Freedom to be creative and make the choices I believe are in the best interest of those around me is also very important to me. 

In terms of who influences me, I have a few mentors in my life, who have strongly shaped my career. They pushed me to challenge, to take risks and become comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

What has been your biggest hurdle and your proudest moment or accomplishment with your business so far?

My biggest hurdle was working full time in another company while we got ESTHER up and running. That went on for a year and a half and as we started to build traction it was a challenge. 

Biggest accomplishment with our business has been the impact that it has made on the recipients. One lady for instance had previously turned down the counselling offered by the charity we were working with, as she just couldn’t face it, given that she was just about keeping her head above water financially. When we raised her income, she felt like she had the head space to take up the counselling and that really reminded me why we do what we do. 

Could you give some advice for any young, emerging entrepreneurs?

Think of ways to validate your product with as little effort and money as possible. At ESTHER we started off with no marketing budget or technology, while both working full time. We ran an MVP that was rough around the edges, but taught us a lot about how we should go about building the product and gained us a lot of credibility. If we ran straight into building the product we would have made a lot of mistakes. So learn cheap and fail fast, or you’ll just end up building the wrong thing in the right way.