This is a guest post authored by Deneke O’Reilly, the founder of PoolSpark.
Why is one of the world’s most popular and oldest ways to save money so unknown in America? It’s a question I ask myself often.
Hello, I’m Deneke, the founder of PoolSpark, a digital community where friends, families and colleagues can improve their lives through the sharing of resources. We’re not talking about just any resource, we’re talking about what some would say is the ultimate resource: MONEY.
But, before I get ahead of myself, I’d like to take it back. Back hundreds of years ago, long before financial institutions were in place. The definitive starting point is unclear, but research indicates it could be as early as the 13th century. That may have been when Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (ROSCA) were born. While ROSCA might be the official acronym, I prefer to call it the “World’s Oldest Savings Mechanism,” and it’s the underlying principle behind PoolSpark.
No matter the name or language, the concept is generally the same. A ROSCA is when a group of people pool (contribute) a fixed amount of funds on an agreed upon schedule—i.e. monthly—and each person gets a payout until everyone has had their turn. For example, a person can quickly get access to $1,000 if 10 people agree to pool $100 monthly. If they do this for 10 months, it’s $1,000 they each get per round until everyone has gotten what they’ve put in. There’s no interest, no gains, no profit and it isn’t an investment vehicle. It’s simply a way for family or friends to hold each other accountable to save more, together.
Here’s how PoolSpark has taken this ancient concept and adapted it for the 21st century through automation:
While this concept might be new to most native-born Americans, it’s not new to millions of immigrants and people around the developing world. Studies have shown that this type of informal saving among people represents upwards of 50% in some countries. However, depending on where you’re from, it has different names. “Partnerhand” in the West Indies, “susu” in East Africa, “tandas” in Latin America, “kameti” in the Middle East, “hui” in China and the list goes on and on. What’s important is that it’s been a way for financially underserved communities to help each other achieve more for a long time, and I’m hopeful it can do good for the more than half of the U.S. population that is struggling financially. More specifically, I’d like PoolSpark to be a low cost option for the underbanked population that has limited means for accessing funds. With money pooling you can forget those astronomical interest fees that you see from alternative financial services where APRs can end up costing hard-working people 300-400%!
Some join money pools, or savings clubs, to cover an unexpected expense, save for a down payment or just to get a wonderful surprise when you realize it’s your turn for a payout. Then there are those who join just to be a part of the community. It’s almost like that sports pool at your job, but there’s no gamble because you get what you put into it.
For PoolSpark, it’s personal. My family has been pooling money in this manner, in partnas, as it’s called, for more than 40 years, dating back to when all 13 of my aunts and uncles were in the hilly Jamaican countryside. I discovered that my wife’s family—from the other side of the world—saved in this way as well, only under a different name. Since then I’ve been on a journey to increase financial flexibility for underserved communities with money pools, just like it did for my family and just like it does for many millions. I want our members to have secure and easy-to-use services that they can trust.
To bring PoolSpark to life, I needed a true payment processing partner that did a lot more than help automate and process payments. With Dwolla, I got just that and more. Navigating the regulatory and security requirements with payments for any budding fintech startup is hard enough. Finding a provider that I could partner with that understood ACH transfers, really well, and offered functionality that was crucial to my business model was tough. What made the choice clear for me was that Dwolla’s white-label solution not only provided a turnkey set of features—ACH, facilitator fee feature and instant bank verification—but they also provided several payment flow options. As you can imagine, choosing the correct flow of funds that allowed PoolSpark to stay compliant was extremely important. Most of all, what mattered most was their rapid response times for support related questions. From the first sales call to right now via Slack, we’ve had the support every bootstrapping startup needs to effectively grow their business.
I’m happy to say that PoolSpark is open for pooling! It’s time to supercharge your savings, boost your buying power or just save more, together. Whether you’re pooling for that vacation you’ve always wanted or you’re in need of funds to cover a medical expense, you can (1) create a pool with whomever you wish, (2) contribute the amount you all agree to weekly or monthly, and (3) collect your payout! Learn more at PoolSpark.com and happy pooling!