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Plate Expectations

By Alison Henry | Photography by Alison Henry

Posted: Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013

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Everyone should have a Katie Levans in their pocket. Soon, we just may. This powerhouse nutritionist, blogger, marketing professional, (reality TV star), and yoga instructor has recently added “entrepreneur” to her list of accomplishments with PlateShare—a smartphone app that lets diners round their restaurant bill up to the nearest dollar and donate the change to feed the hungry. We caught up with Levans at one of her favorite local restaurants, The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar, to get the status on her latest endeavor.

SO WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO LAUNCH PLATESHARE?

While I was completing my Masters in Nutrition at Winthrop University, one of my graduate seminars involved working at a nutrition-related nonprofit. I started to realize that our hunger relief system is broken. It’s terribly inefficient for consumers to purchase food at retail markups and bring it to a food bank where resources have to be diverted to sort it. Much of this food is unhealthy, opened, expired, and ultimately thrown away. Food banks can be more effective if we simply provide them money so they can purchase food in bulk at wholesale rates and feed more people. PlateShare is designed to provide funds to hunger relief efforts already in operation, so they can do even more good than they do now.

WHICH CHARITIES WILL BENEFIT?

I am considering two national charities as beneficiaries: Feeding America (formerly Second Harvest) and Share Our Strength. Locally, I am in discussions with Second Harvest Metrolina.

THIS IS REALLY AMBITIOUS! DO YOU HAVE ANY BUSINESS EXPERIENCE?

I have no business background at all, but I like to think startup business isn’t all about book smarts. It requires unstoppable drive and a good bit of scrappy street smarts, so I feel like I’m not quite so far behind in that arena. [However,] following PlateShare’s success at Startup Weekend CLT, I was lucky to be invited to participate in the 2013 class at RevTech Labs, a startup hub in uptown that provides office space, mentoring and resources for three months leading up to a final pitch day to potential investors. Having access to RevTech and its network of entrepreneurs feels kind of like the speed dating equivalent of getting an MBA. It’s like rapid-fire business school lite.

WHAT CAN WE LOOK FORWARD TO IN THE COMING MONTHS?

I am hoping to launch PlateShare here in Charlotte in July. I want people to see how small change makes a big difference in just one city and use that success as leverage for a full-scale national launch soon thereafter. To keep up with the latest in our development, people can follow us on Twitter (@plateshare), Facebook (facebook.com/plateshare), and at our website.

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