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Give Forward: Why Fear Is Not an Option

“We were about six months into launching GiveForward.com, the company was gaining momentum and we were having trouble covering the rent that month,” said Desiree Wrigley, Founder of...


“We were about six months into launching GiveForward.com, the company was gaining momentum and we were having trouble covering the rent that month,” said Desiree Wrigley, Founder of GiveForward.com, an online fundraising site to help families fund medical crisis’s.

Despite personal financial challenges Wrigley decided to move forward. Shortly after, two sisters utilized Desiree’s website to raise $30,000 in funding via the Give Forward online platform. “That was the first month that we were able to pay for rent,” said Wrigley.

Fast forward to 2011 and after a few years of hard work, GiveForward.com has helped thousands of people raise millions of dollars for loved ones during times of need.

One of the toughest challenges that most entrepreneurs face while developing a startup is the discipline, persistence and dedication to overcome challenges. Learn how Desiree got started, what it took to triumph over setbacks and her number one tip for new entrepreneurs.

Company: GiveForward

Founder, Age: Desiree Vargas Wrigley, 29

Location: Chicago, IL

Industry: Other

Startup Year: 2008

Startup Costs: $50,000 (Estimated)

How I Got Started:

GiveForward pages empower friends and family to send love and financial support to patients as they navigate a medical crisis. Users can create a page to spread hope and contribute to a loved one’s out-of-pocket medical expenses.

My interest in strategic philanthropy and social ventures came from my work at the entrepreneurship programs with the Kauffman Foundation. But it was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in 2005 that inspired my vision for GiveForward.

While talking with colleagues, I was struck by the fact that there wasn’t an easy way for small-scale donors to contribute directly to families rebuilding. In fact there were no online tools to raise money without being a registered 501(c)3 organization.

Two years later, in the Fall of 2007, I developed the initial concept for GiveForward.com as a fundraising platform for anyone wanting to raise money.

But my big break came when I was introduced to my co-founder, Ethan Austin, who was looking to start a fundraising site for marathon runners. After some fine-tuning, GiveForward.com was launched in August of 2008.

Now, after a few years of hard work, and many leaps of faith, we have helped thousands of people raise millions of dollars for loved ones during times of need.

Best Success Story:

Our first big success story was important to us for so many reasons. We were about six months into launching GiveForward.com, the company was gaining momentum and we were having trouble covering the rent that month.

We ended up having two sisters come onto the site and start a fundraiser. One sister was donating her kidney to the other and they were fundraising to cover the cost of the transplant surgery. They ended up having a really successful fundraiser and raised over $30,000 in one month. The sisters were beyond excited and were able to get the transplant done and today both are happy and healthy.

It was the first time that we had really seen a good example of the fact that there was a need for GiveForward.com. It was so rewarding to know that this idea we had taken a gamble on was paying off and actually helping people. Plus that was the first month that we were able to pay for rent.

Biggest Startup Challenge:

Probably the biggest challenge I faced was also a great lesson. When we first launched, working non-stop and not knowing whether there would be a return got overwhelming at times.

I was working a full day at GiveForward.com and then would head out to another job where I put in around 40 hours a week to make ends meet. Ethan did the same and neither of us brought home a paycheck from GiveForward. There came a point where we weren’t getting a return on GiveForward yet, which we knew was normal, but we began to wonder if there would ever be a return.

We realized then that it was important to measure success in other ways. We began counting “thank you” emails from our users instead. That gave us the boost we needed to get through the rough patch and come out the other side. We tell other entrepreneurs to do the same, find another way to measure success because if you only look at money you’ll get burnt out.

#1 Tip for New Entrepreneurs:

Don’t be scared of what you don’t know. Be excited about finding the answers. Don’t shy away from an idea because you don’t think you’re an expert in every aspect of the project. Instead, be open to learning.

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