Donald Hawkins started his business with a simple idea: help small businesses communicate affordably and effectively with their customer base.

However, translating the concept into reality required some high-tech development. Hawkins started by creating a system for customers to push notifications and messages about their businesses. But in the very early stages of development, one of the largest credit card companies approached him about this hyperlocal solution.

“The thought had never occurred to us that our solution fit pain points for companies that large,” Hawkins said.

It didn’t take long for Hawkins to form Griffin, a tech company that creates a software development kid to help small-to-medium enterprises unlock their customer location insights. Using location-based analytics, Griffin helps businesses analyze their customers online and on-location visits, frequency, transactions and other metrics for more effective marketing and ROI.

The Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC) helped Hawkins take his business concept to the next level through its ELEVATIONLAB Tech Venture class in 2018. He also credits his ongoing business coaching from Jill Meyer, senior technology development consultant, and Sally Williams, technology development and commercialization consultant, for his success.

“SBTDC was pivotal in the development of my startup. While going through the Tech Venture class, I recognized that I had not been thorough enough in understanding my customer along with additional customer segments,” Hawkins said. “The insight I learned from digging deeper led to my first ‘very necessary’ pivot and eventually aided me in developing a thorough enough business model to get accepted into an accelerator and raise my first $400,000 in venture capital.”

Hawkins graduated from Quake Capital, an Austin-based seed and early venture capital fund and accelerator program, and transitioned to his new enterprise SaaS platform. Griffin now helps businesses create on-demand geofences around their locations and their competitors’ locations. This helps brands utilize digital and mobile analytics to learn more about user interests and buying patterns by using consumer location data.

“Jill & Sally have been a key piece in the success we’ve had and will continue to have,” he said. “I feel it’s a unique advantage to have access to advisors with feedback and insight from so many different types of business models and industries. Data points that I would likely have never thought of are discovered frequently whenever I meet with Jill and Sally.”


Donald Hawkins, CEO/Owner

1828 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO