Peanut Butter CEO, David Aronson, sat down with Ari Bendersky of Crain’s Chicago Business. Read the original version of the article here.
A startup for you debt-burdened millennials
There was a time when job seekers weighed benefits like medical coverage, retirement accounts and in-office kegerators before accepting an offer. Today, with tens of millions of Americans weighed down by student loan debt, applicants also are judging would-be employers by whether they’ll chip in on those college bill payments. Chicago’s Peanut Butter is there to help companies offer that perk.
In 2014, while working as senior director of business development at Sears Holdings, David Aronson, 36, read something that startled him: Most people in their 20s and 30s weren’t making maximum contributions to their 401(k) accounts because their student loan payments (a 2015 college graduate left school owing $34,000 on average) sucked away too much of their disposable income.
The next year, Aronson, who has also worked in human resources outsourcing, quit his job to launch Peanut Butter, which he jokingly named for the sandwiches he subsisted on while earning his MBA at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in 2008. Today, he’s not only CEO of the 10-employee startup, he’s also a customer since he’s still paying off loans of $33,394.59. (Peanut Butter is providing $100 a month.)
Peanut Butter works with companies to determine how to define and structure a repayment plan, runs the enrollment process for employees and facilitates the relationship between each company and loan servicers. Businesses pay Peanut Butter a one-time $10-per-employee enrollment fee and then $5 each month per participant. The company can determine how much it wants to contribute to a repayment plan, similar to a 401(k) match.
“When loan repayment is offered, people are 85 percent more likely to accept a job,” Aronson says, citing FC Consulting’s Millennial Preferences Benefits Study. “Also, when it’s included in a package, 36 percent will stay in a job longer. It cuts down on employee turnover.”
Peanut Butter has raised $1.6 million from investors including Howard Tullman’s G2T3V fund, Breakout Capital and AOL founder Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund. (Tullman also is CEO of tech incubator 1871, where Peanut Butter is based.) The company works with businesses across a broad set of industries like advertising, financial services, health care and manufacturing, including Rise Interactive, Medix and ProService Hawaii. Aronson declines to disclose revenue, though he says the company’s client base quintupled last year.
“If you’re looking to differentiate your company, a key driver these days for employment, beyond good snacks and bringing your dog to work, is ‘How are you helping me address my financial concerns not related to retirement?’ ” Tullman says. “This influences people for where they go to work. Peanut Butter is one of those businesses that addresses a central need for a company looking to attract the new digital workforce.”
Aronson acknowledges he has competition but says the biggest one is the status quo. He predicts Peanut Butter will prevail as employers realize their conventional benefits package is no longer effective in attracting and retaining talent.