Dec 21, 2016 - 3:00pm

How Bank of America Helps This Startup Expand Access to School Supplies

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For as far back as he can remember, Ido Leffler has always exuded an entrepreneurial spirit.

“My parents would tell you that I was born with three business ideas in mind,” Leffler, a serial entrepreneur and investor, told Free Enterprise.

It seems his parents were right. Over the past decade, Leffler has started several successful social impact businesses, including Yoobi, a unique school supplies venture he co-founded to equip disadvantaged students with the supplies they need to succeed. The company — a breakout success launched out of El Segundo, Calif. in 2014 — is based on a bright yet simple idea: to provide “colorful, vibrant supplies for school, the home, or the office that give back.”

To give back, Yoobi donates one school supply to a U.S. classroom in need in for every Yoobi school supply purchased. To date, together with the Kids in Need Foundation, the startup has helped more than two million kids through its “one for you, one for me” model.

“For me, starting businesses that do good is my personal idea of freedom,” Leffler said. “In each of my endeavors, my goal is to do well by doing good. This is exemplified by the amazing people I work with, the companies themselves, and our partners.”

One of the key business partners he credits with supporting Yoobi from day one is Bank of America. In fact, the company championed his cause even before Yoobi officially launched.

“Back in 2013, I connected with a friend of mine there to discuss my idea for Yoobi and the kind of support I was looking for,” he said. “I was blown away by their willingness to not only work with us, but to truly be a partner for our company.”

That friend is Jeff Klinger, a Bank of America Merrill Lynch private wealth advisor. He and Leffler’s children attended school together. 

“It’s been a lot of fun to be able to have a relationship with someone that you can also provide an opportunity to help foster growth for,” Klinger said in a Bank of America announcement highlighting the partnership.

The inspiration for Yoobi, which Leffler heads up as CEO, was born in part out of his lifelong compassion for teachers. In addition to assisting students in need, he wanted to ease the burden for teachers who, school year after school year, quietly make financial sacrifices to ensure their students have adequate school supplies.

“My mother was a teacher, so I saw firsthand the struggles educators go through to equip their students to succeed,” said Leffler, the co-author of Get Big Fast and Do More Good. “Even today, teachers spend an average of almost $500 per year out of pocket on school supplies. Put those two realizations together and you have Yoobi.”

Yoobi donations arrive in large classroom packs lined with hundreds of supplies. Among the goodies inside the brightly decorated boxes are crayons, colored pencils, erasers, folders, glue sticks, and markers.

What’s more, they’re filled with hope for a better future, for every student in every classroom they’re shipped to.

Bank of America has played a large role in every step along the way for Leffler and Yoobi. “From opening our first brick and mortar store in Los Angeles, to our new office space, they have been there to keep the trains running on time and make the financing process a smooth one,” Leffler said. “They have also provided strategic guidance on tough decisions whenever we needed it — something not every bank is adept at.”

Related: Learn more about how America's financial system fosters economic growth

He also noted that Bank of America enables Yoobi to seamlessly transact internationally, a milestone he said is of “paramount importance” to him as someone born in Israel and raised in Australia.

“Most importantly, though, Bank of America believed in what we were trying to do, [which is] to make a real and measurable impact on students who need it most.”

As for Bank of America, the legacy banking leader routinely partners with smaller businesses as part of its core value to enhance the financial lives of the people behind American businesses — entrepreneur-owned upstarts such as Leffler’s most definitely included.

“At Bank of America, we really believe that success needs to be shared, that we succeed when our clients succeed,” said Garrett Gin, Bank of America senior vice president of Enterprise Business and Community Engagement. “But also, companies like Yoobi succeed when the communities in which they serve succeed as well.”

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