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Homegrown data company earning global recognition

Cathy Dobson A local company in the high-tech sector of information gathering for food banks has cracked the “Best for the World” list.
President Emily Branton of Link2Feed stands in the office at 1315 Michigan Ave. with market strategist Kristine Lalonde (at back) and software developers Swar Shah and Madhuri Shah. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

A local company in the high-tech sector of information gathering for food banks has cracked the “Best for the World” list.

Link2Feed is a four-year-old enterprise that’s developed software to electronically track who uses food banks and why.

That kind of information is critical in helping develop programs that food bank clients really need and in attracting financial backing.

This month, the certifying body for social enterprise companies, known as B Lab, announced that Link2Feed was one of 182 companies worldwide that it considers “Best for Customers.”

Considering that B Lab represents 2,263 companies in 29 countries, that’s pretty impressive, says Link2Feed president Emily Branton.

“A big goal for us was to be on that list,” she said.  “I was absolutely floored when we received the email to say we made it.

“It’s a very big honour. It’s tough to score as high as we did.”

All B Lab members undergo a rigorous assessment that measures the impact a company has on its customers and whether its products promote public benefit, especially for underserviced populations. Link2Feed’s score was double the median.

The company is filling a very specific niche since it was founded by Sarnian Rob Dawson, who is still its CEO.

It has a clientele of 3,100 food banks across North America, including the Inn of the Good Shepherd in Sarnia.

Every food bank in Ontario and Nova Scotia uses the Link2Feed system, said Branton. “We’re already at two in Michigan and will be with all Michigan food banks very soon.”

Before Link2Feed developed the software food banks weren’t doing a good job of tracking statistics or knowing why people needed emergency assistance, she said.

“You need data to advocate for people who need services and programs. Statistics tend to be what governments, funders, media and the public-at-large look for.

“They want to know their money is going to really help people and they want to know these programs are helping people’s lives.”

Link2Feed also helps collect anecdotal information. For instance, a food bank in Portland, Oregon recently hired the Sarnia-based company to ask its clients about their experience with cash advance loans.

“We asked if payday lending has impacted them,” Branton explained.  The month-long survey produced 25 people who said they had used cash advance loans. Their stories are the basis of a submission to the State legislature, which is considering limits on such loans.

“Link2Feed found the people and got their stories,” said Branton.  “Hunger and poverty are often hidden in developed countries.

“We want to have the data that will give us a better understanding of it.”

Link2Feed has offices in Sarnia and Detroit and employs 10 people. The company has plans to expand into the European market.

Got an interesting business story?  Contact Cathy Dobson at [email protected] or call 226-932-0985.