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After nearly two years of development and planning, a Santa Clarita Valley father-son team and a partner are officially launching PayForward, a social financial platform.

Steve Marks, a serial entrepreneur and chief executive officer of PayForward; his son and President of PayForward, Armando Rand; and Chief Operating Officer, Ronnie Silos have been developing PayFoward for nearly two years.

Santa-Clarita-Valley-Businessmen-Launch-PayForward-620x330“(Ronnie), Armando and I sat down to talk about what this new company might do and we came up with three problems that we thought needed solving,” Marks said. “No. 1, the average family in the United States lives paycheck-to-paycheck and doesn’t have enough discretionary income.

“No. 2, the merchants in response to that condition were competing harder for that static, if not diminishing, purchasing power of the middle class so they were spending more and more money in advertising and promotion dollars. The third problem was that our schools, community projects and nonprofits were underfunded.”

Marks began his journey in the business world after graduating from UCLA with an engineering degree. He then entered graduate school to earn his Master’s Degree in business.

My family needed the money and my dad had a heart attack so we started a company in a garage,” Marks said.

When Marks was just 28 years old, his company had 475 employees and was an internationally distributed brand of music amplifiers in the rock-n-roll industry, he said.

“The people I grew up with in the music business were The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead. These were my friends, these were the people I hung out with,” Marks said, with a laugh. “But as that industry turned more and more towards drugs, I turned away from it.”

Marks went on to start another company, ACT Litigation Services, after selling the first.

While building the company, Marks got married — but he didn’t just have a wife, he now had a 3-year-old son, too, named Armando Rand.

“I’ve been Armando’s step-dad since then, only we don’t have any steps in our family,” Marks said. “He’s been my son since he was three. Armando’s biological dad is also a vital member of the family and one of my dearest friends.”

When Marks sold ACT Litigation Services in 2011, Rand, who had degrees in journalism and communications, was a significant stockholder and major contributor to ACT’s success, suggested starting a new company, Marks said.

“We started talking with Ronnie Silos, who is the third partner in PayForward,” Marks said.

Marks, Rand and Silos moved into a little office on Constellation Drive where they talked for hours every day for four months to develop the concept of PayForward. They began developing the software in April 2013, which went live online last week.

“I will take a little bit of the blame for putting this crazy animal together in the sense that it was a notion and an idea that we collectively had,” Rand said. “We were working to create a platform, to create an idea that could bring together, just generically speaking a consumer and merchants, and if you could do that in a way that’s convenient and capable, there might be a better way to influence the world.”

PayForward, which is backed by Visa, creates a win-win-win situation for the consumer, merchant and community, Marks said.

One of the nonprofit organizations that benefits from PayForward is the Domestic Violence Center of Santa Clarita Valley.

“It’s a way for nonprofits to get hooked into the community to get money back (from purchases),” saidLinda Davies, executive director of the Domestic Violence Center of the Santa Clarita Valley. “And it’s also a way for businesses to be a social platform and give to the community — and they can also promote their business.”

When the consumer uses the card when purchasing products from PayForward merchants, the consumer can get anywhere from 5 percent to 15 percent of their money back to use on themselves or their community.

“We want to give our consumers the ability to fund whatever they think is of interest — whether it’s themselves first or their church, teams, schools and give a better, trackable mechanism back to the merchant,” Rand said. “The fact that we can see our community in a better light, we can see our schools have the signage that they need, that our kids can go to science camp and enjoy that experience, that for the teams that we are able to fund are given the capability of having proper jerseys and equipment.

“That’s incredibly meaningful as you grow older and go through life. It really does fall back onto what the kids are doing and what they can have because they are our future and that is a really meaningful piece. When we built this company it was all about how we could deliver back to the communities.”

For more information about PayForward and how to sign up, [click here].

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SCV NONPROFIT LINKS

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Tuesday, Jun 18, 2024
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