The other week I met Andre Powers, Bed-Stuy resident and founder of Stuypend, an app-based payment system designed to help small independent merchants save money. Andre has a background in the tech industry, and noticed that a lot of small businesses around Brooklyn only accepted cash or had set credit card minimums. The reasoning, he found, was that high fees charged by credit cards made it harder for a small company to do business in New York. And so he sought to design an app to offer customers an alternative way to pay without cash, avoiding those fees altogether.
So how exactly does it work? Stuypend gives the small business a tablet in which they can ring up customers. The customer must also download the app from the Stuypend website. After a sale, the business puts the price into the tablet, and a code is generated. The customer scans the code to receive the bill on their own cell phone, where they can add a tip and pay. It’s a basic ACH bank transfer, from the customer’s bank account straight to the business. I saw it in action at Bar LunÀtico and it was pretty cool, not to mention straightforward and easy. “It’s not all that different than Vemno,” Andre said, of the popular money-exchange service that’s utilized between friends. It’s free to use for the customer, and the business pays a low, flat monthly fee of $50, much cheaper than those issued by credit cards.
Andre hopes that Stuypend will bring “more people in” to local small businesses, without the worry of meeting a credit card minimum or going out and getting cash. With the existing community engagement in the neighborhood, “Bed-Stuy was the perfect place to try something like this,” he said.
You can now use Stuypend at Bar LunÀtico, Juice Brooklyn, Jordan Heads Brooklyn and Fuel Juice Bar. It’s also coming soon to a number of Bed-Stuy businesses that include Kafe L’Ouverture, Saraghina Bakery, Tumbleweed General Store and Gallery, Who’s Your Doggy? and Zabka Cafe. See the full list of participating merchants here. The app also includes a map so you’ll know which businesses accept it.
For now, Andre is the company’s only full-time employee and has so far gotten by on fundraising and small business loans. He’s chasing a round of funding from the local organization Dream Big Brownsville. Ultimately, his goal is to set up the app for small businesses in and outside of New York. But the company name, of course, is a nod to the neighborhood. “It was designed here in Bed-Stuy for the people and businesses of Bed-Stuy,” Andre said.