The Step Everyone Forgets When They Start a Business
When we start a new business or pursuit, it’s so easy to get caught up in the CYA stuff- the LLC, the registrations, the domain names, the business cards… the list goes on and on.
But there’s another step that’s vital to a successful business that I’ve done a horrible job at pointing out so far, and I plan on remedying that in any future materials... giving back to a community or charitable organization.
If you’re anything like me, you see those ads on TV with the Santa man asking you to sponsor a child in need. For just 7 cents a day Betsy could have new shoes or whatever. And you just kind of feel bad and try to move on quickly or change the channel. (Hey, I never said I was a saint.)
But a couple of years ago, something changed.
I was in a busy metropolis exploring and I kept bumping into these ANNOYING as heck college kids who were asking me if I had a moment (“uh, NO”).
Finally, and I’ll never forget her, Maggie stopped me and for whatever reason was a lot more approachable than the other ones. Tired and feeling like a jerkface, I stopped and we chatted. I told her I was really in the poorhouse, having quit a legal job to teach private yoga, and I hadn’t figured out this whole business thing yet.
She said she understood and gave me some information about the charity she was advocating for. I told her I needed to go home and check things out, because I heard most charities just dump a bunch of money on administrative garbage and the benefactors get nothing.
She said she understood, told me a bunch of stories about the ministry work she’d done with the charity, and I ended up signing up to sponsor a kid right then and there. (I did go back to check it out online and it was legit.)
I want to introduce you to the Gabriel, the little boy who I've been sponsoring since 2014ish.
Gabriel is an 11 year old boy who lives with his mother in Ecuador. Children’s International purposely keeps details basic and a little ambiguous, I’m assuming to keep weirdos from doing their weirdo things, but I do know that Gabriel’s mother is a housekeeper and his father was killed at work when Gabriel was about 5 or 6.
I don’t know if there are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ kids to sponsor. but I think I got a pretty good one. I was randomly matched with Gabriel (I asked for the least likely child to be sponsored) but you can go on the website and choose which child you’d like to sponsor. That’s kind of cool, but it also kind of reminds me of picking out puppies, and I’m not sure how I feel about treating children like puppies. Maybe that’s a good thing?
Anyway, Gabriel and I write each other letters twice a year and it’s been fun to practice my Spanish, even if I don’t really care what his favorite color is and he talks about recess in every single letter.
He seems to really love his mom though, and that’s much more fun to hear about than recess for the 50th time. I love hearing about how his interests are changing as he gets older (this is two going on three years of knowing him now). It’s fun to see his pictures, as Children’s International has been working in his community since he was three and they have pictures of him from way back then.
I honestly don’t know about any of the tax breaks I could or will be getting for donating to charity because I don’t really care. I’m not sure my $32 a month is going to even make a big difference on my tax bill.
However, sponsoring Gabriel, and soon another little boy have really invigorated my business (nothing against girls, but they tend to get gobbled up much faster than boys! I like to go for the overlooked little ‘uns).
It might seem a little weird, why would spending money I don’t have to invigorate my business? Well, for a few reasons:
1. It gives my work a greater sense of purpose.
Each month, I know that a portion of the money I’ve worked hard to earn can go a lot further in my sponsored childrens’ home countries. I’m not just working for myself, I’m working for them, too.
2. It drives me to hit my revenue goals.
It’s seriously so heartbreaking to see all the children in need in this world. Unlike us, they were born in situations where the opportunities we take for granted (college, the internet, fresh food) will never be norm for them. I want to sponsor every kid, but realistically, that can’t happen, so at least knowing that if I make X amount, I can sponsor one more kid, I can push myself harder to make that much more money.
3. It makes me feel like the work I do matters even more.
Let’s face it, the world isn’t going to end if your trademark is filed this month or next. But, the world will end for one child if he doesn’t have enough food or his clothes aren’t warm enough for winter.
Whatever the charity is you choose to support, it will make the success of your business that much more important. If you can’t keep your lights on, you can’t send money to others in need, and that’s going to have a much more serious consequence than your failure to send that email, or book that one client or register your trademark this week instead of last week.
4. It can create a sense of community with my clients/customers.
Or at least I’m hoping for it to. I haven’t been very vocal about the fact that I do this, but I’d like my clients and customers to know that this isn’t just a job, this isn’t just a company… they’re not just buying a service. They’re buying a whole experience and part of that experience includes giving back to others.
5. It’s what I can do.
Jenna Kutcher makes time to travel to help in person. That’s amazing. But for me, right now, that’s not something I’m able to do (but soon!!). However, my two businesses are making money, and I can portion off a certain amount of money they make to these two little boys. Like anything else in business, you don’t have to do the BEST JOB EVER on everything. You just have to do what you can do.
When I started the first edition of The Contract Shop two years ago, I decided to sponsor another child and was paired with Jaime. No one had picked him up after being on a waiting list for nearly 6 months How cute is he?! He lives with his mother, father and sister in Guatemala.
One day, I hope to be able to travel to South America and see these two little guys in person and give them a big hug. Until then, a very small portion of the revenue my companies make each month goes to both Gabriel and Jaime.
Thank you all for giving me enough work that can in turn support these two little boys.
Tell me what you think—will you consider giving back in your business? Do you do so already?