Evelyn Cepeda is a US Army Veteran and the organizer of the Agape Community Savings Group. Her mission is to do what she can to take care of her husband and her community. 

How do you use Braid?

I use Braid to help manage the Agape Community Savings Group. I created the Agape group to help friends and family members save money in a non-traditional way. It’s based on the premises of a sou-sou. 

If you don’t know what a sou-sou is, they’re popular in communities where traditional banks are limited, and it’s hard for the layperson to have a bank account. So they started a system where people save money as a community. Then one person takes a turn every month to receive the money pot to help them accomplish their goals.

Someone came up with the idea of doing non-traditional sou-sous during the pandemic because many people lost their jobs and lost money. These savings groups were meant to help. 

Unfortunately, some groups were impacted by scammers who claimed that they were organizing sou-sous but instead took the community’s money and ran.  

My friends and family came to me and said:

“Evelyn, you’re honest and not working right now. You could run a group like that from home. We trust you and know that you won’t steal.” 

So I sought out a system that would allow everyone in the sou-sou to see the money coming in, money going out, and see who’s getting the pot.

How many people are in your community savings group?

Right now, we have 76 participants. I want to keep it under 100 participants so that we have room to grow. But I don't want to go over 100 because that could create an IRS issue. I would rather keep it limited to what we have.

How does Braid help you manage a community savings group of that size?

The thing that I love about Braid is how it's structured. 

I get notifications whenever money gets transferred in and out and the pool breaks the contributions down by dates. 

I love that you can create pools for almost anything. Our group has pools to cater to different situations within our community. 

It's easy to manage members on an individual basis. This is useful because I can say that everyone can put money in but not everyone can take money out. Also, I can designate other admins and limit the utilization and access of the funds.  

In the group, our team of administrators is three other ladies and me. But only two of us can move funds.

Another beautiful thing is that all members of the Agape group can follow along with what we're doing on the administration side. 

Every week, we post a spreadsheet of the rotations to our Telegram chat group, where members can trace every transaction. Then our Braid Pool will say that Jane Smith was sent $20 for their participation for that specific week. 

They can see that we’re not sending money to just anybody because the names match with someone who participates in the group. 

It's beautiful that Braid is like a tracking system. Everything in Braid helps to promote trust and transparency.

Why did you name the group Agape?  

The meaning of Agape is God’s love for his people and your general love for people. That’s how all of the members of the Agape group are. We help each other. 

We are a team. Everyone takes a turn receiving the pot, but that person can not use it unless we all contribute. 

For a group of people to do that, the members need to have trust and love amongst the other members. 

How did you discover Braid?

When we started the Agape group, we used the Telegram app to communicate with folks and PayPal when they still had PayPal Pools.

When they got rid of PayPal Pools, I googled for apps that allow money pools, and out of the blue, I found Braid. 

I read about how Braid worked and presented it to the group. 

It took a while to get everyone on board, but now we have about 90% participation.

Since Braid wasn't well-known to our members, I had to sell them on the fact that Braid is a platform that exists and allows individuals to run money pools. 

Did you have any learning curves to get the app working to how you needed it? 

Yes, definitely. We had to learn which banks work to transfer funds with Braid and how long to expect the funds to be made available. 

With our process, we need to be able to transfer the funds immediately. Some of the banks didn’t allow that. It took 3-5 days. 

Since our participants all have bank accounts at different banks, we had to figure out what to expect for money transfer times if a member uses a certain bank. So now we know what to expect.

Also, we learned that if Braid states you have $10 on your account, you may not be able to use the funds until they become available. So in actuality, you may have a balance of $1. It would be ideal if Braid just showed the available balance of the pool. 

You mentioned using PayPal Pools before. How would you compare them to Braid Pools?

Braid outdoes PayPal Pools! I’m the wrong person to ask because I’m not a fan of PayPal. After all, PayPal is notorious for taking up to two weeks to make your funds available and they charge ridiculous fees. 

Do you have a favorite feature?

I absolutely love the Personal Money Pool feature! When it's my turn to receive the money pot, I keep the fund in my Personal Money Pool. It's nice that I don’t have to transfer them out of Braid. 

By leaving them in my Personal Money Pool, I don’t have to mess with household money while maintaining my budget for savings group contributions.

That’s what I tell everyone in our group. I advise them that as you’re getting funds, keep some of the money in your Personal Money Pool so that you don’t have to dig into your funds outside of Braid. I love that feature. 

The other great feature is the debit card. At first it was confusing to learn the difference between the digital debit card and physical card. But I learned that the difference is that the digital debit card is specific to a pool and the physical debit card can be paired to any of your pools. It's awesome. 

PayPal doesn’t have anything like that. Braid blows them way out of the water. 

Any final thoughts?

Braid is awesome. I want to thank Braid’s Customer Support because they’re always good at getting back to me. Every time a member of our group has a question, they’ve been wonderful at getting back to us. I truly want to say thank you to them for what they do.

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