If you’ve been following my journey over the past few months, you know that my dream of launching a nonprofit was put on hold after a ton of setbacks. However, I am excited to share that the nonprofit I started, The World is Your Oyster, got picked up by a school! After speaking with countless different schools and principals, getting close enough to see the vision being made real – this fall, a year after its original launch date, TWIYO will begin its after school programs for urban youth.
I’ve learned—and continue to learn—so many lessons about starting and building a nonprofit. Here are a few I think helped me stay on track and launch my organization.
#1: Network and never stop sharing the good, bad, and ugly
I attribute TWIYO’s forthcoming launch to the fact that no matter what I was going through, I never stopped speaking to people in my network. For example, I was able to launch the website thanks to conversations I had with the brother of a friend, whom I met through another friend, whom I met through my mentor. The person that was key to helping me create an important part of the organization was maybe four degrees removed from my immediate circle when I first met him! However, because I kept sharing the premise of TWIYO and my vision, he was pulled into my network through our mutual contacts and our shared vision of what TWIYO could be.
Even when things looked bad, sharing my journey helped. When I wanted to quit, I shared that sentiment with a few people who supported me from the beginning. It wasn’t the greatest thing to talk about, but you have to share and communicate with your network to get support, tough love, encouragement, and ideas to move forward.
#2: Remain flexible and open to the possibilities
I originally thought that TWIYO would launch at the high school where a friend’s brother worked. While that is still a possibility for the future, TWIYO is launching at a middle school. Although this isn’t the original audience, I realized that there is always a way to get to your goal, even if it is not the EXACT way you had planned.
Part of being a leader is being able to reassess and restrategize at the ready – moving with the mission as your map. I thought about how the program would have to change and how to ensure that working with middle school students would allow us to meet our mission of creating leaders of tomorrow, today. While being flexible is important I always have the bigger picture in mind and that was what allowed to me to come up with a solution that ultimately expands TWIYO’s reach. I’m making a few adjustments but the core of our mission remains the same and TWIYO can still reach older youth, just not through the original process or speed.
#3: Keep the faith and keep it moving
I once heard that if you never want to quit chasing your dreams, they might not be big enough. In other words, work that moves you, work that you feel you are called to do WILL be challenging. And for this reason, it’s important to have faith; to keep the vision, future, and impact of your work in mind.
Faith is the belief in the unseen and the hope that what you believe will come into fruition even though at times it may feel like you’re constantly being thrown off your path. For me, I stuck with this because I saw it as an extension of who I am and saw the need for my work, even though there were many obstacles. I also am someone who likes challenges and that’s what being an entrepreneur is.
Failure is not so much a deterrent as it is a way to weed out the dreamers from the doers. It takes a lot of humility to face things that are in your way but the best things are often formed under pressure.
How about you? Share your own entrepreneurial journey with us in the comments below.