UNC Alumna Helps Generate Profits For A Purpose With Startup Eats2Seats

UNC alumna Mary Laci Motley (in white, at left) founded Eats2Seats, a staffing business that provides fundraising opportunities for local nonprofits on college game days by restructuring the traditional concession stand staffing process.

In her beginning years at UNC, civic-minded Mary Laci Motley thought running a business was a nefarious idea. But then, after taking a class in the UNC business school about generating profits for purpose, she realized businesses can be drivers of social good. Now that’s more like it, she thought.

For the class, Motley’s professor gave her a $50 bill and told her to return his investment by creating some kind of business, the revenue of which would all be given back to the local nonprofit that he partnered her with.  

What began as Motley struggling to fundraise in sports concession stands for a Chapel Hill nonprofit called PeeWee Homes in the fall of 2018 became Eats2Seats, a startup that’s participating in the summer cohort of the Launch Chapel Hill accelerator. Founded by Motley in the spring of 2019, Eats2Seats provides staffing and logistical support to local nonprofits that raise money at sporting events.

“It was really difficult for me to find enough people to come out and volunteer for organizations and fundraise through concessions,” Motley said. “It’s a very difficult process, especially for smaller local organizations who don’t have a ton of staff. Eats2Seats really plays a middleman role by handling the burdensome task of staffing for stadiums, while focusing on and prioritizing the nonprofit experience.”

Eats2Seats provides fundraising opportunities for local nonprofits and student organizations by partnering with stadium concessions to meet their staffing needs during sports and entertainment events by providing student volunteers. The way stadium concessions are currently structured—in which concession stands are booked for an entire season—caters to large organizations who have the capacity to consistently provide staff at every game. 

That’s why Eats2Seats’ mission is to open the doors for any local organization, no matter how small, to fundraise at stadium events—whether it’s one game or 10 games—who might not have had the staff bandwidth to do so under the traditional concession model. 

In talking with local nonprofits, Motley realized how difficult fundraising actually is for them. Organizations can pay up to $5,000 to organize a fundraising event just to barely cover their costs because of bad weather and low turnout, for example.

“We wanted to address that by saying hey, no matter the scenario, or whatever the case, as long as we know how many people you’re bringing and when you’re bringing them, you’re going to get payment the next day—and on top of that, take home all of the tips,” Motley said. 

Eats2Seats is a subcontractor of Aramark, which is the main food service provider for many Division 1 colleges, including UNC and NC State. Motley said because Eats2Seats is Aramark’s primary alcohol provider, the nonprofits that Eats2Seats fundraises for often take home huge tip amounts from alcohol service alone.

Eats2Seats team consists of Motley, COO Maxwell Hurst (who also graduated from UNC in 2021) and a group of UNC student interns.

For UNC’s 2019 fall football season, Eats2Seats raised $19,000 total for local nonprofits like PeeWee Homes, Carolina Pediatric Attention Love and Support, Make-A-Wish of Eastern N.C., and the UNC Army ROTC Cadet Fund. 

Eats2Seats also delivers food straight to fans’ seats—hence the startup’s name—through orders made on the FanFood app.

Eats2Seats will be at UNC and NC State games this coming fall—after taking a mandatory pause along with stadium events during the pandemic—as the main alcohol provider of both universities. Motley anticipates providing an average of about 160 volunteers per football game for each school. She encourages any local nonprofits or student organizations who are interested in fundraising through Eats2Seats to contact her at lacimot@gmail.com.

Although they have worked at other sports’ games like lacrosse, soccer, baseball and basketball, Motley said they’re primarily focusing their operations at football games.

“If you’re at a UNC or NC State game,” Motley said, “make sure to come support whoever’s serving you that year because oftentimes they’re raising raising money for really important needs right in our backyard.”