Baylor Grad Zach Morrow Turns Pocket Change Into Real Impact

by Baylor Line Foundation | March 15, 2019

Zach Morrow (BBA ’18) would tell you himself life hasn’t followed his original plan. Baylor wasn’t the original plan for college. Flourish, the round-up donation app he co-founded, wasn’t the original plan for his career. But with both Baylor and Flourish, Zach has found a place where he can grow and give back.

Growing up, the Morrow house had been a mixture of Longhorns and Bears. In fact, those were the only two schools to which Zach applied. Baylor had been the back up, with the goal to attend UT’s McCombs School of Business. But as the time came to officially make a choice of where he would attend in the fall of 2014, he kept coming back to Baylor. “I prayed about it and felt like God wanted me to give Baylor a chance over UT.” After his decision was made, there was no looking back.

Upon arriving in Waco that fall, Zach immediately jumped into Baylor, serving in student government, becoming a Young Life leader, and serving on the Hankamer Student Organization, among other things. As a finance and entrepreneurship double major, he also had the opportunity to create two companies during college. The first was a company that sold in-home hydroponics systems called Lift Up Hydroponics. The second was called Bar Hop, an app that would allow you to open and close a bar tab from your phone. Both quickly failed, but offered important lessons that helped lead him to Flourish. “I learned more from my failures than my successes, and I think that’s true in life, . . . whether it’s personal failures and personal difficulties [or] to fail in two businesses.” Zach also realized he had to be passionate about his work. He realized “when things get hard, and if you don’t really care about what your business does, serves, operates in, you’re just going to peace out and go find something easier to do.” At the time, he didn’t realize just how important those lessons would be when it came time to graduate from Baylor and decide what the next chapter of life would be.

Zach would tell you junior year was rough. “There’s, like, a laundry list of things that got removed from my life and cleared my plate, which was a really hard time of spiritual refinement and almost chastising.” That spring, however, he had the opportunity to attend the American Enterprise Institute’s Values of Capitalism conference, where the weekend was spent discussing how capitalism can be used to lift people out of poverty. Zach and Niall, a student from the University of Pennsylvania, as a part of the conference, had to present a business idea. The two decided they wanted to take the round-up business model of companies like Acorn, the investment and saving app, and use that to fund micro-finance loans for people in developing countries, the foundation for what is now Flourish. After the weekend ended, Zach and Niall stayed in touch, still toying with their business idea for the next six months. While that was still on his mind, Zach spend the summer of 2017 at Concho Resources in Midland as a capital market and strategy intern. At the end of the summer, they extended an offer of employment, which he accepted.

Going into senior year, Niall and Zach were still turning their idea over in their head. “I’d already signed with Concho. [Flourish was] still just a fun idea that I’m toying around with.” The problem at this point was that Niall and Zach were two business majors trying to build a tech platform. Neither of them had the skills to actually build an app. That’s when Niall introduced Zach to Braden Fineberg, a systems engineering major at the University of Pennsylvania. Braden brought a major reality check to the team, helping them realize that their initial plan of providing microfinance loans through a round up app was unrealistic, since the Security Exchange Commission would have to regulate the company to protect the people investing in the loans. Plus, they realized the transaction costs of delivering the loans and then collecting the repayments would be astronomical. They needed to pivot.

At the beginning of 2018, the team decided the best way forward was to use the round-up business model to raise money for nonprofits that were already doing microfinancing. That quickly expanded to working with all types of nonprofits. All the nonprofits they talked to realized how beneficial this type of giving would be to their organization because it would allow them to have recurring donors who are young and would give in perpetuity, instead of relying solely on large one-time gifts. “A theme I noticed was they weren’t engaging millennials, because they were asking for these big checks. Well, you and I can’t write big checks.” This idea kept seeing success throughout the spring of 2018. But graduation was approaching, and Zach was coming to a fork in the road.

“I started reaching out to people to get their advice, ‘Hey, you’ve known me for a while. This is my opportunity here in oil and gas, [and then] this is what I’m passionate about, what should I do?’” In one meeting Zach was encouraged to pray expectantly for five things, and, if God answered those prayers, then he could move forward in confidence with Flourish. If they weren’t answered, he could stick with the job in Midland. The five prayer requests were for God to provide a word he could lean on, for someone to randomly send him a Bible verse, for God to allow him to meet Christian young professionals in Waco, for someone to speak prophetically into his decision process, and for God to provide some capital for Flourish. Within the week, every prayer had been answered. “I’m not charismatic in nature, . . . but God truly did show up, and it wasn’t my doing at all.”

From that point on Zach hasn’t looked back. Braden and Zach began working with Robert Knorr, who had decided to invest in Flourish, which allowed the company to launch. Today, the company has pivoted to do more fundraising, as well as recruiting nonprofits to partner with. Currently, app-users can choose from dozens of nonprofits to donate their spare change to, including nonprofit titans such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Wounded Warrior Project. In the next two to three years, they would like to see 100,000 donors using Flourish, which would ultimately generate approximately $30 million a year in giving to nonprofits. Currently Flourish exists as a round-up donation app, but Zach sees it becoming much more in the long term by helping nonprofits predict how much money they will receive from giving. “[Our] behavior is consistent, but our donating is not . . . How can we provide nonprofits with the insights to say that in the next month, in the next quarter, you’re going to have X amount flowing through, so they can confidently spend today and not have to worry about what the next quarter looks like?” His belief is that round-up giving brings predictability to donating that doesn’t exist with the current model of giving and is a niche Flourish can move into.

Whatever the future of Flourish holds, Zach knows that ultimately his goal is to “create kingdom wealth for kingdom impact.” He knows that his skill for business isn’t just to make a name for himself, though it took some hard lessons to get to that point. “Late fall of my junior year, 2016, God cleared my plate of all that stuff so that he could lay Flourish on my heart at [that] conference, and then watch that seed be planted and grow into a fully-blown business today.”

You can download the Flourish app here.

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