17-year old Danny Goldberg’s social venture is delivering groceries to Boomers in 12 cities, … [+]
Like most Americans, when the severity of the coronavirus became evident, 17-year old Danny Goldberg wanted to do “something” but he felt helpless. However, unlike most of us, he quickly acted upon his desire to help and set up a volunteer service in which Zoomers (members of Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2015) delivered groceries and other necessities to Boomers (members of the Baby Boom generation, born between 1944 and 1964), free of charge. Danny aptly named his group, Zoomers To Boomers (ZTB).
The process is simple: Boomers email their grocery lists to ZTB and pay for the groceries electronically. The Zoomers then pick the items up and deliver them to the Boomers’ residences, reducing the chance of an older person contracting the coronavirus.
Founded in Santa Barbara, California in mid-March, Danny’s Zoomers To Boomers organization has expanded to twelve cities, worldwide and is processing thousands of deliveries.
We Are Generation Z And We Are Here To Help
Impressed that a teenager could pull off such a successful social venture, in such a short period of time, I reached out to Danny to learn how he did it and what he plans to with his venture, once the virus is contained. (Note: Danny’s remarks have been lightly edited for brevity and readability.)
John Greathouse: Hey Danny, thanks for taking time out of managing your team and the food deliveries. I’m sure it’s been hectic, of late. I understand your father is an ER Physician. Did he play a role in the genesis of Zoomers To Boomers?
Danny Goldberg: My dad definitely played a role in the formation of Zoomers To Boomers. When all of my extracurriculars and eventually school got shut down, I was left at home doing my best to social distance to flatten the curve.
Almost every day, I saw my dad leave for work in the ER, and it inspired me to do more for my community. This led me to think about what I could do to help, and it was during this time that I realized that we had no systems in place to get the elderly food.
The elderly and immunocompromised should be sheltering in place, and if they can’t get food deliveries, they would eventually need to go to the store, which is too big of a risk. That is when the idea for Zoomers To Boomers was formed.
Greathouse: Good for you. So many people share your feeling of helplessness right now, but have failed to act upon it.
I understand the name Zoomers To Boomers was initially a placeholder. However, like so many off-the-cuff decisions at startups, it turned out to be a great name.
Goldberg: My initial goal was to quickly create a website, and then once made, post it to our neighborhood app called NextDoor, to get the word out. So, I needed a name quick, but didn’t want to use anything referencing COVID-19, pandemic, or anything like that, since I didn’t want to make the situation more depressing than it already was.
Everyone already knows the group called Boomers, and my generation, called Generation Z, are the Zoomers. So while I initially made the name somewhat as a joke, as soon as I posted it to NextDoor, in addition to the many comments I received about how needed my service was, I received as many from the boomer generation who loved the name. So, it stuck.
Greathouse: What was the timeline from when you had the initial idea to when you made your first delivery?
Goldberg: I made the website on March 18, and I started making deliveries the next day. Initially, my friends and I were making 10 – 12 deliveries a day which was manageable. One of our clients contacted the local newspaper, so after about one and half weeks of doing deliveries, we were on the front cover of the Santa Barbara News-Press with an article entitled, “Being The Solution.”
At that point, our service really took off, and became almost unmanageable, as we were getting about 100 requests a day, far more than I and the other volunteers could handle. At that point I started contacting local grocery stores and vendors, to see if we could develop relationships so that the Zoomers To Boomers volunteers could deliver more groceries, to more clients, while spending less time in the grocery stores.
We were successful with some local Santa Barbara vendors, who agreed to take orders from our clients, prepare the grocery order, and collect payment. This way, while we were working to increase our volunteer base, we could deliver more food to more people.
Greathouse: I understand you did the initial web dev work yourself – the site looks great. It’s amazing that, in a matter of days, a number of other cities signed up to emulate your initiative. Did you have contacts in these cities or did young people reach out to you on their own?
Goldberg: The initial website I made myself. Once we started growing and I realized I needed to have a dedicated team help me, I asked my good friends who had, from the start, spent a lot of time delivering groceries with me to help. Each one is super hard working and disciplined – Blake Lindblad, who I asked to be our VP of Technology, took over to manage our website and has helped develop it into what you see today.
Each Zoomers To Boomers site has its own story – Denver and Miami were started by friends who I met through the European Maccabi Games, an athletic competition for Jewish athletes, which was held last summer in Budapest, Hungary. Dahlia Rappaport, in Denver, is a tennis player. Kyle Pearson, in Miami, competed in water polo with me.
Malibu was started because I was contacted directly by the mayor of Malibu, Karen Farrer. I received an email from her at about 10 PM one night early on, that she was concerned about her elderly citizens, as there was no system in place for them to get groceries, and asked for my help. Other sites started as people started reading about our program. Upworthy, a popular site on Facebook, shared one of the early stories about us, and we were contacted from people as far away as Australia and England.
Greathouse: Wow, that’s incredible. How can additional young people start their own local chapter?
Goldberg: We would love to help set up more sites – anyone interested can contact us at ZtoBSantaBarbara(at)gmail and we will help them get started!
Greathouse: I’ve always felt that team sports are a great proving ground for future entrepreneurs. As a student athlete (varsity water polo), to what extent do you feel a similar sense of camaraderie operating ZTB that you feel in the pool, with your teammates?
Goldberg: There’s definitely a huge team aspect in Zoomers To Boomers that is the same as what happens in team sports. My executive board is currently all athletes who participate in team sports, and two of them play water polo with me.
Blake Lindblad, our VP of Technology and Nat Sweeney, our VP of Safety have played water polo with me in both high school and club teams for years. Taylor Wilson, our VP of Finance, is a top-tier volleyball player, who hopes to play Division 1 beach volleyball at Stanford University. Alex Wilson is our VP of Operations and plays both soccer and tennis. Lily Bienstock, our VP of Volunteer Services, is a high-level high school and club soccer player, and plans to continue playing soccer in college. Having a background in team sports has definitely helped us build a strong bond among the Executive Board, and really helped us build a strong family with our entire team.
Greathouse: There are obvious safety issues associated with picking up and delivering groceries to folks with preexisting risk factors. What steps do you take to minimize these risks?
Goldberg: Yea, there is definitely a risk that our volunteers take with their own health. There is also a risk that we could potentially bring the disease to those we deliver. But when I first came up with this idea, I talked with my Dad who felt that if we had safety measures in place and educated our volunteers, they could potentially save lives.
We know that young people are much less affected by COVID-19, so every time we shop for someone elderly or immunocompromised, we have the opportunity to protect them. We have put safety measures in place to minimize the risk to our volunteers as much as possible. We have all drivers wear a mask and gloves and try to minimize contact as much as possible. We also advise those we deliver to, to wash their groceries as soon as they get them to ensure their safety. We have information on our website for our volunteers and our clients on how to stay safe and decrease the risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Greathouse: The team has grown quickly and organically. What tools, methodologies are you using to manage the team and ensure that the orders are filled timely and accurately?
Goldberg: From the start, my team and I have been utilizing google forms and google spreadsheets to keep track of all deliveries. I have all branches use a google form to accept orders, and this form feeds directly into a google spreadsheet, where we are able to assign deliveries. We use this same idea for all volunteer forms.
My VP of Technology, Blake Lindblad, has been incredible at managing the technical side of our operation. Currently, he is utilizing programs to limit our google form acceptances, and keep our operation running smoothly, and also testing various software to see how to continue to streamline our process.
Greathouse: You clearly are driven. Before you launched ZTB, did you self-identify as an entrepreneur? Is this a path you think you might take, once you are finished with school?
Goldberg: Prior to ZTB, I honestly hadn’t given the idea much thought. Most of my time was spent playing water polo or in school, so I never had the opportunity to really test the waters and see what I was capable of in regards to entrepreneurship. I always thought I wanted to pursue a career in the medical field, and follow in the footsteps of my parents, but after this experience, I may try to find a way to merge my skills in entrepreneurship with my dream of being part of the medical field and helping others.
Greathouse: Have you given thought to ZTB’s fate, once we beat the virus with an effective vaccine?
Goldberg: I have discussed this with my Board and also with our pro-bono lawyer, Josh Rabinowitz and our Advisor, Rob Skinner, of the Towbes Foundation. While we are focused on helping in the pandemic, we are also starting to envision Zoomers To Boomers as a non-profit supporting the elderly and immunocompromised in the future, to address not only their immediate physical well-being with groceries and other necessities, but their emotional well-being as well.