If you were to ask me what I wanted to do when I graduated college I would’ve told you: make as much money as possible, travel the world and retire at forty. After all, isn’t that the American Dream?
Fast-forward five years and I would have never believed that I would help jumpstart a socially good non-profit. I imagined I would work in a 9-5 setting, attend too many happy hours, make a lot of money and forget about work until the next morning. Quite the opposite happened.
As a part-time entrepreneur, I spend my day splitting time between a small consulting company that I joined as employee number two and running logistics and marketing of a 501c(3) which isn’t paying for a new house anytime soon.
The 12-plus hour days, working from the seat of an airplane and the small startup paycheck is all worth it to me because I actually feel like I’m making a difference in the world.
I’m giving people hope and the tools to help them live their American Dream. I won’t lie either, the small paycheck, rarely having money in the business account, and working a lot for a little is challenging sometimes. It really puts a strain on the working relationship you have with your co-founder and finding balance is difficult.
Yet, if someone asks me why I continue to invest time and energy into a non-profit startup with minimal monetary return I tell them the following:
Leveling the playing field for entrepreneurs is worth every penny, literally.
ProtoHack, a 501c(3), is basically a code-free hackathon that shows non-coders they can create something amazing from nothing. We empower and enable the non-technical community with tools, knowledge and connections that will help bring their idea to life and visually communicate it through prototyping.
I haven’t found anything to-date, like this, that is completely code-free. Our event puts everyone on a level playing field and the excitement I get to share is worth every penny (literally, pennies). I get emails after each event from attendees sharing their excitement and hope for the future. As a result of our efforts they understand more about coding and believe in themselves. That’s worth it to me.
Spending countless hours marketing an event is all about passion.
Running events is not for the faint of heart, especially when you’re a bootstrapped startup that doesn’t have extra cash laying around to run ads or pay for email blasts. When every waking moment is spent working on selling out an event for little or no money there has to be another factor driving me.
Socially good entrepreneurship is all about passion. You can’t be in it solely for the money or you’ll burn out. Sometimes it takes a year or two, or even five, to fully grasp how to make money as an event driven non-profit organization. Passion is the biggest driving factor when you decide to start a company like this.
Helping entrepreneurs live out their dream is priceless.
At the end of each of our events there’s a pitch-style competition and three winners essentially get a working MVP of their idea developed for free with our international partners. Seeing the excitement on their face and following their journey post-event is worth it to me.
I helped facilitate several people’s dream of running their own business. I don’t think I’ll ever get rich, monetarily, from this, but seeing these businesses blossom, turn into betas and launch at big conferences is worth every penny I have and the countless hours I’ve spent. Achieving social good is extremely worth it to me.
When you’re looking to launch a startup centered on social good find out what you’re passionate for it and run with it. Whether you make millions or barely break even, I’ve discovered that creating a socially good company will bring you more joy than a paycheck ever could.
The emails and phone calls I receive sharing the news of new companies that are launched as a result of ProtoHack events makes it all worthwhile. Sure. It would be easy to close the doors, spend my nights binge watching Netflix (which I do anyway), or go out with friends all of the time instead. But I want to do something that will change the lives of people around me.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Blake McCammon is the co-founder and CMO of ProtoHack, a code-free hackathon events series. ProtoHack is a 501c(3) and its mission is to enable non-technical entrepreneurs and give them the tools and resources to create something amazing from nothing. Connect with @protohack and @rblake on Twitter.
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