Office of Alumni Relations

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Empower group
Rob Brandenberg (left), D.J. Haley and Jeremy Senseng created Empower Card to make charitable giving easy.

By Anthony Langley

In June 2015, Rob Brandenberg (B.I.S.’13/H&S) was visiting his friend and former Virginia Commonwealth University basketball teammate Darrell “D.J.” Haley (B.I.S.’13/H&S). The pair started discussing ways to give back to the Richmond, Virginia, community that had supported them so much during their time in college.

A short time later, Haley came up with the concept of Empowerment Through Action, an initiative that would allow people to change the world via charity. He knew Brandenberg would be the perfect partner to help him bring the idea to life. As student-athletes, Haley and Brandenberg spent time working with children in the communities surrounding VCU, reading to them and taking them shopping for Christmas presents, so creating a product with a charitable inclination was second nature for the duo.

While discussing ETA on Twitter, Haley was contacted by VCU alumnus Jeremy Senseng (B.S.’11/H&S), who was looking for a way to merge his skills in marketing with his degree in psychology, and the three decided to meet for dinner.

“We went out for kebabs, and Empower Card was born from that dinner conversation,” says Haley, the company’s founder and CEO.

Empower Card aims to make giving to local nonprofits easy, effective and transparent. Users link Empower Card to their debit or credit card and every time they shop, 5 percent of the total purchase goes to a cause of their choice. The trio believes that by making nonprofits more visible to the public, real change can occur.

“The entire project is rooted in giving back and making a positive change,” says Brandenberg, who serves as director of client relations.

While the company is in the early stages of development, four Richmond-area nonprofits are already registered to receive funds through the program: VCU Alumni, the Autism Society Central Virginia, Beds for Kids Inc. and Friends Association for Children. And Senseng, Empower Card’s director of marketing, has several verbal commitments from other companies wanting to use the platform.

Local consumers are excited about the launch, too, with more than 200 people requesting to be notified when Empower Card goes live. The team members are nothing but optimistic about the platform’s future.

“Us all being Rams, we have a great opportunity to change the world,” Haley says. “We want to leave a lasting legacy, knowing that we helped people.”

Anthony Langley is a VCU senior majoring in mass communications.

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