Living and Giving

Sometimes You Have to Start and Stop to Succeed

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Sometimes You Have to Jump Twice

It started when I was twelve. We were on a family vacation in Mexico, near a traditional marketplace.  My father and I wandered off, just a few paces away, confronted with a cult-de-sac of unwashed, handicapped, begging children.  Having my eyes widened with disbelief and overwhelming sadness, I simply remember the word UNACCEPTABLE flashing across my mind. I still feel it and see that word all the time. It’s simply “not ok” that millions are starving. From my experience in Mexico, I started volunteering at the age of twelve.  I knew I wanted my life to be about changing this situation.

Even still, I couldn\’t make the transition to the nonprofit realm. It seemed that there were too many inefficiencies, and I didn\’t find it inspiring. So I began building my experience in the for-profit sector, proving myself in sales, PR and marketing. 

However, there came a point (and quickly) that I felt less inspired by the products I was representing in business. They weren\’t bad. They just didn\’t go to the core of why I felt I was here, and what I was supposed to contribute.  With that, I kept thinking about how I could contribute in a successful and meaningful way. 

So I started a Gift Package business that would give a portion of sales back to the community. This was in the early 90s, so fairly innovative. But at the end of the day, without a partner, I decided it was too much. After much preparation, due diligence, business planning, I shut it down before it started. But the lessons were invaluable.

Sometimes you have to Start and Stop to Succeed. 

I learned business planning, sales, marketing, all in action.  And when the idea and time came for VolunteerMatch, I was ready.  I was ready to take all my business skills and entrepreneurial energy to create something good for our communities. 

Even further, one sometimes has to make the jump from \”Great to Great.\”  I left VolunteerMatch to start UniversalGiving.  By that time my early experiences in Mexico and local volunteering had translated to the international level. I had volunteered in microfinance in India, working with paraplegics in Cambodia, with farmers in Guatemala and with earthquake survivors in El Salvador .

I now wanted to leverage using my business, nonprofit, international and web skills to create UniversalGiving, which connects people to the top giving and volunteering opportunities all over the world.  We vet all our partner NGOs through our rigorous Quality Model to ensure the most trusted and effective philanthropy possible.  100% of donations go directly to the cause—UniversalGiving never takes a share.

Sometimes, you have to jump twice. It\’s not as if a career transition only happens once. You have to respond to the new experiences you have built, allowing your experience to manifest itself.  Be open — be prepared — and build your experiences towards that career jump.

Finally, here are some other tips to help:

1- Bootstrapping

Don\’t ever stop bootstrapping. Keep your expenses down.  Care about your costs.  Don\’t rest on your laurels… That doesn\’t mean you can\’t think big. Garner more resources. Attain significant investments from major investors.  But always care. Don\’t lose your \”bootstrap caring.\”

2- Keep Family and Friends Close

Keep those close supporters for family and friends — close.   It\’s not just financial support.  It\’s \’history\’ support, emotional support, trackrecord support, \’wisdom\’ support of someone having seen you build something from scratch — and maintain it.

3- Share, Incubate

Incubation is an option. Shared office space to cut costs and increase camaraderie with another entrepreneur.  Or you can even ask a larger company if they have extra room. The point is, get into an environment that will help you, and your team, succeed more rapidly.

At the end of the day, making any change requires knowing your values, having the right motives, knowing your skillsets, maximizing your lessons learned from experience; being able to attract and build a stellar team, and then… trusting and moving forward, step by step.  You have to keep boldly stepping into that new world that you envision…