Passion for kids, local causes leads Charlotte company founders to the right charity

Grandma was right, Christian Ofori-Boateng says: “Charity begins at the home.”

With software developer Steven Amani, Ofori-Boateng, a business analyst, founded ChristianSteven software, which provides companies with a business reporting program that packages data and delivers it in the way they want it.

Since ChristianSteven started in the United Kingdom in 2002, the company’s clients have included a utility company that uses the software to produce PDFs that automatically show customers their bills when they log in, and a health care company that sends automated alerts to nurses when their patients are due for medication.

“If there’s information that needs to come out, either in the form of a text, email ... fax, file, whatever it is, we collate it, pull it together and deliver it to where it’s supposed to go, when it’s supposed to go,” said Ofori-Boateng, 46.

ChristianSteven, which moved its headquarters to Charlotte in 2008, is on track to generate $3.2 million in revenue this year, $4.7 million next year and $10 million by 2018, its founders say.

This year, they began sponsoring the Simmons YMCA on Democracy Drive in east Charlotte, where about 60 percent of children participating in sports programs are on some form of financial assistance, said Leigh Shipman, financial development director with the YMCA of Greater Charlotte. Sponsorships, she said, help the YMCA continue offering sports programming.

“Steven and I have always believed in (giving) back into the community when we can. We could, so we did,” Ofori-Boateng said. “We’re into children’s charities or charities that involve children because they are children. It doesn’t actually matter if they were born rich or poor ... they have to be nurtured and brought up the same.”

ShopTalk asked ChristianSteven how they found the right charity for them, and what tips they could offer other business owners looking to sponsor a charitable organization:

Look locally: Ofori-Boateng and Amani, 37, narrowed their search to Charlotte as they looked for a charity to support. Ofori-Boateng advises business owners pay homage to an old adage.

“That old saying grandmother probably told them, ‘charity begins at home,’ ” is spot-on, he said. “Look close to you; the city you’re in ... the county you’re in; down the road from where you are.”

Find your passion: Amani and Ofori-Boateng, both fathers, knew they wanted to help a charity that helps children. A friend of Amani’s who sits on the Simmons YMCA board of directors suggested they sponsor the branch’s basketball and soccer teams.

They pledge $2,000 each year to equipping children at the YMCA with uniforms and balls for basketball and soccer. Supporting children, they say, is a long-term investment.

“Go for something you’re passionate about; that you personally feel you want to make an impact in,” Ofori-Boateng said.

“I just think it’s helpful to get kids outside,” Amani said. “There’s so much they can do inside nowadays – video games, social media. Getting them involved in sports and teamwork is really important.”

Focus: Once business owners have identified their passion, Ofori-Boateng and Amani suggest they budget carefully and not overextend themselves by supporting many different charities.

“Each charity is asking for a few hundred bucks. If you (give to) 50 charities, you’re spending more than you can afford,” he said. “We’re not Microsoft so we’re not going to be able to fix the problem, but we can be one of the many people that help.”

Ofori-Boateng advises business owners //to// look at their budgets and plan how much they’re able to give.

“Like anything in life, focus is important,” Amani said. “If you’re going to sponsor a charity, my advice is to pick one and get focused.”