The Harvey B. Gantt Center has received one of its larges gifts yet from an African American-owned business – a $100,000 pledge from Day Runner Inc., a Charlotte-based startup.
Gantt Center President and CEO David Taylor said he could not recall a larger gift from a black-owned business. The money, he said, would be used to expand the center’s programming during the next fiscal year, which begins in July.
“Words cannot express how important that is, not just to the Gantt Center as an organization but to the folks that it will serve,” he said. “…One of the most important things for us is to be able to fund school children coming to the center.”
Marvin Walker, Day Runner’s founder and CEO, has described his delivery company as a cross between Uber and Federal Express – customers who need items picked up and/or delivered can use an internet app to locate the closest Day Runner driver.
Walker, who drove as a courier for 10 years before starting the company, launched Day Runner in August 2017. The company now has more than 4,000 independent drivers in several U.S. markets, including Raleigh; Atlanta; Dallas, Texas; Knoxville, Tennessee; Detroit, Michigan and Indianapolis, Indiana.
“I knew all the pain points that came with being a driver, and I understood what the customer’s needs were,” Walker told Qcitymetro. “So what I did was build a business model that supported the drivers and helped them stay in business.”
Day Runner does not transport people.
Its main focus is on business-to-business deliveries. However, the company recently expanded into the consumer market — picking up furniture, groceries, dry cleaning, etc. — “anything you need picked up and shipped to you,” Walker said.
“We’re in an age where people want everything right now, so we have to adjust with the time,” he said. “The courier industry was antiquated, and I just addressed all those pain points and made it possible.”
Walker described himself as a “self-made entrepreneur from humble beginnings.”
He got his first taste of running a business in the 1970s while growing up Guyana, where his grandmother would cut plantains into chips and fry them. Walker and his father would then salt, bag and sell the chips throughout the countryside.
In an era before self-sealing storage bags, he said, that meant folding the bags in half and sealing them with candle wax.
“We did pretty well,” he said of the business.
Walker later moved to New York City’s Bronx borough.
He said he decided to make a gift to the Gantt Center after attending last year’s Jazzy Holiday Gala, where he saw no corporate sponsors who were black. He said he hoped his gift would spark others to make donations to support the Gantt Center and other institutions that serve the black community.
Walker said his company’s pledge included not only his own money but also money paid by his “master contractors” – independent business owners who drive for the company and pay a $12,500 fee for professional support and services.
Given where he started, Walker said, “It’s a personal dream come true to be able to give back like this.”
Gantt nears its endowment goal
Last fall, the Gantt Center launched a $10 million endowment campaign to address the center’s sustainability and programming. Taylor, the Gantt Center CEO, said he believes the center will reach that goal in a matter of months.
He said Walker’s donation would not be a part of that campaign.
“I’m excited about the Gantt,” he said. “I can only believe that our star is brighter than ever. We’ve been able to do some amazing things with very limited funding.”