If you’ve ever fronted money for an event or been stuck with the group bill then you know how much it can hurt to pony up the extra cash for your friends or co-workers. And it’s not just your wallet that suffers; after all, no one wants to be taken advantage of or feel like they’ve been duped. It’s an issue that Mia Velasquez, Co-founder and CEO of Commit, is all too familiar with -- and one that she’s dedicated to solving.
“I’ll pay you later.”
It’s the world’s oldest -- and likely the most unintentional -- scam. If you hear those four words then odds are, you’ve just parted with some of your hard-earned money. That was certainly the case for Mia Velasquez.
“I had an experience where I had to collect and pay down over $30,000 cost for an entire group. A lot of people said they were in and would pay me later, so I was just hoping that everyone who was supposed to contribute and pitch in would keep their word. I had a ton of anxiety from this and ended up wasting a lot of time chasing people down. Even after that, I ended up covering for a few people and paying more than my share.”
Velasquez, a former Deloitte consultant who holds an MBA from Northwestern’s prestigious Kellogg School of Management, took her frustration and turned it into fuel for her next venture -- building her own business.
“I never had a focus on being an entrepreneur, but I’ve always enjoyed being a social organizer and planner. I wanted to solve this problem where people in groups weren’t contributing equal payments. I shared my idea with my classmates at Kellogg and they began sharing their business advice with me and that’s really where my company started.”
Her company, Commit, is a B2C platform for organizing social and community events with a focus on group payments. The platform takes the financial risk out of social event planning so that organizers, and attendees can easily coordinate and pay to gauge interest. Commit’s users can enter details, costs, and a timeline for payments for their events and gatherings, which helps both organizers and attendees track who’s paid and who hasn’t. And though it’s a helpful tool for group payment, Velasquez says that Commit also helps gauge group interest as well.
“We have a unique crowdfunding feature that allows users to gauge if they have enough interest to move forward with an event. Say you need at least 20 people to cover the cost of an event or a get-together. With Commit, you can set a goal and a deadline and no one is charged anything until that goal is met.”
So far, Commit has been a hit with event organizers. Its simple format strips out the social tension and friction in group transactions -- particularly when it comes to big gatherings or events that cost thousands of dollars to organize and execute. And with Commit off to a good start, Velasquez says she’s excited for what’s around the next corner.
“It’s a thrilling time because I’ve graduated and I don’t have the safety net of school anymore, but in many ways, I’m in a new community where things are growing very quickly. At the moment, I look forward to taking advantage of the new challenges that come my way.”
To get a head start on those opportunities, Velasquez attended and graduated from the LatinX Incubator, 1871 and the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s joint 12-week incubator program for LatinX entrepreneurs. Currently, Velasquez is participating in the Pritzker Group Venture Fellows program and she says that both experiences have served as a source of inspiration.
“As an entrepreneur, you have to convince yourself that the journey is worth it. You’ll have the highest highs and the lowest lows and they can both take place within 24 hours. You have to have conviction, but I’ve also found that having someone to inspire you helps as well. For me, being in a room with mentors, other Hispanic entrepreneurs, or other Pritzker Group fellows has been very powerful. It makes me remember that I’m not alone in this and that I have a community behind me. As a young, Hispanic, female… that community is everything.”
And while inspiration and conviction have helped Velasquez conquer her toughest challenges, she says the most rewarding aspect of her chosen profession isn’t about building businesses -- it’s about building bonds.
“It may sound funny, but I truly believe that we’re helping people forge stronger bonds by removing the transactional aspect from their relationships - and that’s what I’m truly passionate about.”
Velasquez believes that if you have the passion, conviction, and inspiration to build your own business, then there’s only one thing left to do.
“Get started. Commit.”