How failing helped create a product that people actually use!
Somehow the timing and environment in my life just happened to be the perfect storm that led me to quit my job and start BonfireFunds.Com. I would like to think it was similar to something really important like how life on earth was started or Richard Branson’s vision to develop space travel or even the creation of the iPhone. But sadly it wasn’t.
I simply had a need to raise money and didn’t feel comfortable asking people to just give it to me. The other hard part was that I needed to raise around $3 million dollars.
My cause? Saving my alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University, from losing its “rock star” men’s basketball coach, Shaka Smart, to a larger, more heavily funded university. In March of 2011 our school was catapulted into the national spotlight, becoming a “Cinderella” story by reaching the men’s Final Four tournament. So how do you raise $3 million dollars for a school that historically wasn’t willing to pay their young, talented coaches?
There are probably more than 3 million ways but I didn’t have a ton of time so I put my simple, extremely naïve idea to work. Sell 200,000 shirts to VCU’s alumni, students, their friends and family and all those bandwagon fans that were following our story. $15 from every shirt purchased would go to the VCU Ram Athletic Fund. Boom $3 million dollars. Just like that.
I won’t bore you with the details of how we launched www.SaveShakaSmart.Com the Friday before the Final Four and how VCU was able to re-sign Coach Smart three days later. It still pains me to admit that www.SaveShakaSmart.Com had absolutely no effect on VCU’s decision to open up their coffers and save Coach Smart, but it had a tremendous effect on how we launched www.BonfireFunds.Com less than 8 months later on January 4th 2012.
In fact it was the failures of that exciting campaign that led us to develop our platform that now has outfitted thousands of people with comfortable shirts, and simultaneously raised thousands of dollars for many wonderful causes. Buying a large quantity of "Save Shaka" shirts that never sold, not being able to accept money from people that "pledged" to buy shirts, and the time I lost second guessing my idea were just a few failures that we later turned into lessons. And now, as we approach the 1-year anniversary of me quitting my job to launch www.BonfireFunds.Com, I can safely say that I never expected www.SaveShakaSmart.Com to lead me on such a fulfilling journey, and bring so many cool people and causes along for the ride! Join us and see how great it feels to BE GOOD.