HungerPerks: When Students with Strong Entrepreneurial Spirit Collaborate to Make Something Great


Brooklyn Dennison

The creators of HungerPerks: (From left) Sam Borick, Kyle Flynn, and Julia Mallinak in the EXL Center.

By Brooklyn Dennison, Editor-in-Chief

The creators of HungerPerks, which consist of two students from The University of Akron and one recent alumni, talked about their entrepreneurial journey and vision for the app.

HungerPerks is a platform that allows users to take surveys in return for free food, Sam Borick, the CTO of HungerPerks, said. Students can express their opinions in the surveys to earn free food, which in turn drives traffic to the restaurants and businesses that leverage those restaurants that give the surveys, he said.

The app currently has eight partners on Main Street, in Akron, Julia Mallinak, the COO and CFO of HungerPerks, said. Some of their biggest partners include Subway and Diamond Deli, she said. HungerPerks is connected with the Downtown Akron Partnership, which partners HungerPerks with places on Downtown Main Street, Mallinak said.  

The idea for HungerPerks started in 2014 by Kyle Flynn, who is currently the CEO of HungerPerks. Flynn was initially a part of a startup called Asker during his freshman year, he said, but he was fired from Asker because he had the idea for HungerPerks and it conflicted with the ideas of his teammates.

Before he met Mallinak and Borick, Flynn spent over two years doing research for HungerPerks, he said. He used databases at the University to gain an understanding of the market and had already done a lot of the market testing, he said.

Flynn met Mallinak and Borick in January 2017. Previously, Mallinak was working on a project called Pathfinder with Borick. Mallinak met Borick when he was working on a pitch for Pathfinder for a FUEL software startup competition, Borick said. Borick said that Pathfinder was a tool that would have helped students find classes. Mallinak joined the Pathfinder team to run marketing and sales, Mallinak said.

In 2017, Julia met Flynn through an entrepreneurship class and asked Flynn to join Pathfinder, Mallinak said. Flynn accepted to join the team, but eventually proposed the idea for HungerPerks, she said.

The team decided to adopt HungerPerks. “As a startup, Pathfinder was not looking stellar because there were a lot of problems that were very complex that presented a lot more work for less money. HungerPerks presented less work for more money,” Borick said.  

Flynn said that one of the things he learned from HungerPerks was that what they were doing was not overwhelmingly difficult. “The challenges are not the day-to-day tasks, but it’s overcoming the anxiety of those tasks,” he said.

In terms of entrepreneurship, the HungerPerks team had similar things in common. “If I were to list things that we all have in common, it would be independence, freedom, and the drive of success,” Mallinak said. To Mallinak, entrepreneurship is independence, determination and grit, and most importantly, the fact that everything she does has value, she said. To Borick, entrepreneurship in term of starting a business is not the company itself, but a mindset, he said. It’s the notion of being able to do things, he said.

Flynn said as an app, HungerPerks is something that shouldn’t be but really is; people think it’s fake or a scam, but it’s not. As a business, he said it’s freedom from the corporate environment.

For the future of HungerPerks, the team has different images of success. Flynn said success for him is a national HungerPerks campaign that touches restaurants nationwide with thousands of users. Success for Mallinak is when HungerPerks gains more regional or national traction, she said. For Borick, however, success is the day that he meets someone and they tell him about HungerPerks and this person found out about the app from someone that wasn’t him, he said.

It can be said that HungerPerks’ current success is because of teamwork. Mallinak said the team leverages each other’s strengths and covers for each other’s weaknesses. Mallinak is the communications person for the team, she said. She said she is essentially the marketing, sales, and PR.

Flynn said he works as the graphic and web designer, the concept artist and illustrator, and the strategist. “I make sure everything is heading in the right direction and that obstacles are able to be overcome,” he said.

Borick, according to Flynn, is the person that builds the thing that does the thing. Borick does the coding for the app. His skills aren’t just on the technical side, he said, he is also able to do project management. He said he translates conceptual ideas that Mallinak and Flynn have into something that can be coded into the app. Borick also brings humor to the table by telling jokes such as, “a computer is just a rock that we tricked into thinking by putting lighting in it.”

Mallinak is a recent graduate. She graduated last spring in marketing management, sales management, integrated marketing communications and a minor in entrepreneurship. Flynn is a current senior. His majors are marketing management and sales management. He is also working on a minor in entrepreneurship. Borick is also a current senior. He is a computer science major.

The HungerPerks team is planning a HungerPerks bash on Oct. 12. The bash is called Chill @ Blu, and is a co-branding effort between HungerPerks, Blu Jazz and Chill Ice Cream, Mallinak said. The event will take place at Blu Jazz, located on 47 E. Market St. in Akron from 6-8 p.m. Chill Ice Cream will be giving away free ice cream to any students that attends the event with the HungerPerks app downloaded on their phone, Mallinak said.