Stephanie Cox Builds the Amazon of Humanitarian Aid
From Colorado kitchen table to global aid supply distribution platform, The Level Market is on a mission
Stephanie Cox moved to Colorado to attend graduate school in 2004 after a near-death experience as a freelance journalist in Thailand during the tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people.
For the next decade, she worked in international humanitarian aid and heard the same complaint continuously – how difficult it was to source supplies.
“It hit me throughout my career, we always needed products to help people,” Cox says. “It was always difficult to find, to source; there was no clear pricing.”
Cox sat at her Colorado kitchen table and drew up a plan for The Level Market, a B2B e-commerce platform that quickly connects nonprofits with humanitarian aid suppliers.
“We’re on a mission to make it as easy to buy aid supplies as it is to buy books on Amazon,” says Cox, 47. She learned the basics of building a website, started unearthing suppliers and leveraging her 17-years’ worth of contacts in aid, then bootstrapped her business with a couple hundred thousand dollars raised from friends and family.
She launched her prototype in June 2016, working with shipping and logistics partners and allowing “suppliers to market their items and attract buyers.” The Level Market takes a percentage of every transaction.
In her first year of business, Cox received orders from 38 countries without any marketing, raised funds from Colorado angel investors, built an $8 million pipeline of interest through market testing, launched a podcast and received an international Tech4Good award.
Cox considers herself a fundraising expert thanks to her work in nonprofits and says she’s “used to running organizations on a shoestring budget.”
So far, in 2018, The Level Market has expanded its functionality and began allowing people to buy products on behalf of international organizations.
“It's a strategic value-add to the marketplace. We're launching this service, called Level Giving, end of April,” Cox says. “We took a page from the highly successful crowd funding movement and tailored it for nonprofit supply needs. Donors buy physical goods that a nonprofit has determined it needs and donors can track the purchase until it is used by the nonprofit."