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Lessons From A Philanthropic Startup

I spend a bunch of time blogging about entrepreneurs in technology startups but I thought that it would be interesting to highlight some different types of entrepreneurial activities.  In this case a 
social-based technology solution to feed needy children.  My good friend, Eirik Olsen, is extremely philanthropic – he founded a Washington State-based charity called Feed Washington. In addition to being a lawyer, owner of a ReMax real estate office, and a father to 3 wonderful children, and married to a fantastic wife, he spends a good part of his time helping others. 


Eirik created Feed Washington with the goal of  feeding every kid in Washington state and someday the United States.  The idea is that individuals or corporate donors donate a small amount of money that is automatically withdrawn from their credit cards each month.  The average donation is typically $10 per month. Eirik then leverages the monthly income to help Washington based charities around the state.  100% of the money goes to charity (except for credit card processing costs). Most of the operations he deals with are able to generate more than three meals for $1.  Incredibly, Eirik’s organization is feeding around 1,000 kids per month.  When looking at his social-based enterprise through a technical startup lens, it provides some key lessons to all of us entrepreneurs, including:

  • Bootstrapping – Eirik felt that there were already a lot of organizations running shelters, food operations, etc.  He focused on leveraging the existing infrastructure by building a charity that provides lead generation for his cause.  In addition, Eirik’s startup costs were small and he focused on building a simple system to handle regular monthly credit card processing.
  •  Identifying  a target market – There are a lot of problems to solve in the world but Eirik is extremely passionate about kids.  Instead of tackling too large of a problem like nationwide hunger, Eirik decided to target his market for his charity to children in Washington State.  Eirik works full-time and the donations needed to be in the Seattle area since building the relationships in the local area was more feasible as part-time effort versus tackling a national problem. 
  • Focusing on your passion – When you are excited about something you will figure out ways to make it work, make it grow, and to become successful.  It’s amazing that a part-time effort is making such a positive impact on this state.  Feed Washington is kind of like the investment concept of “drip” investing (DRP) – little bits of money that smooth out your investing.  By applying a monthly approach to his charity, Eirik can smooth out donations over the year especially when there is a greater need.

It goes to show that entrepreneurship has many different angles, sizes, and shapes.  If you are interested in helping out with the Feed Washington cause, please visit the Web site here.  Better yet, why not make a corporate matching program for your company with Feed Washington? 


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