Brothers Neal and Keith Belovay came to Waterloo Region from Vancouver because their travel-tech business, PicThrive, was growing and they needed the support of a strong start up community.
"We've received phenomenal support from Waterloo Region," says Neal, "We were part of Communitech's program for scale-up companies, and it helped us grow and overcome some big challenges." But when COVID-19 hit and the tourism industry spiralled, Neal says they pivoted from a travel-tech business, and created the Thanks Collective as a way of supporting the local community.
"Initially we were looking at creating a platform that would support tourism workers," Neal explains. "But we soon began to realize there were front line workers in this region going above and beyond to make ours days better. So we ended up creating a platform combining gratitude and a monetary thank-you that is given to that person who is making an impact on your life." They called their initiative the Thanks Collective - a way to show appreciation to people who are helping to make our days better during these difficult times.
"We've learned through this pandemic that we need these Community Heroes - whether it's the former bar tender who is now delivering food to the trunk of your car, or the people working at the coffee shop who are putting themselves at a greater risk to help get some caffeine into you," says Neal. "These people have had their world change as well, and we've learned through this pandemic that we need them. There are lots of stories, and lots of people looking for ways to say thanks."
Through the Thanks Collective, individuals can pass on gratitude and send a monetary thank-you to people who are going above and beyond, keeping the community safe and creating memorable experiences. Notes of gratitude and donations are completed on-line, along with basic information about the recipient to help Thanks Collective team members locate the appropriate individual. If you don't know the person's name, the Thanks Collective can still help. "For example, we had someone who wanted to thank an employee working at a Sobey's at register 10 at 11 am on a Tuesday," Neal explains. "We were able to contact the store manager and identify who the person was so we could give them their code to redeem their thanks gift." In the rare case the team is unable to track down an intended recipient, the funds received are donated to charity (Thanks Collective supports the Canadian Hospitality Worker Relief Fund and the Communitech COVID-19 Response Fund).
Neal says Thanks Collective is run by PicThrive employees who are volunteering their time to the project. "My team (at PicThrive) was working nicely, and then everything stopped (after COVID)," says Neal. "Our employees still wanted to find a way to give back to the community, so what we're doing in the meantime is working on the Thanks Collective and giving people a way to help." Along with providing people with a way to give back, Neal says the Thanks Collective is also a way to spread happiness at a time it's really needed.
"What we've learned is that gratitude is such an important part of happiness, and taking that moment to say thank-you to someone who has gone above and beyond for you leads to happiness," he says. "A key goal with this project is to help spread that happiness within the community by taking time to express gratitude."