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Why I started this blog part 2: how can you buy stamps when you can’t afford envelopes?

I was getting asked a lot of the same questions from entrepreneurial 20-somethings considering their own startup. I figured there are many more out there also looking for resources and feedback and guidance from a peer who, just five years ago, was in their situation.

Once I committed to starting the blog, I looked around for what other resources were doing the same thing. I wanted to see what I liked from them, what I didn’t, topics that weren’t getting much attention that I could discuss, etc., etc.

The two things I found – and didn’t find – after 30 minutes of searching really shocked me.

First, I couldn’t find a single blog or resource that thoroughly covered the nonprofit startup experience from a Millennial perspective – someone who wrote weekly about her experience, a news site that created a section on the startup process, etc.

There is a TON of coverage about our generation wanting to be entrepreneurs and starting innovative organizations. But there was a stunning lack of conversation dedicated to the “how.”

I’m hoping I’m just bad at Google. If so, please call me out and link to what I missed.

Second, and maybe worse, most of the resources I did find about the startup process had many recommendations that I think are wrong. And they were generally one dimensional articles such as “10 things to do before starting a nonprofit.”

Some examples: apply for a bulk mailer account to get the nonprofit discount on postage, create a well-connected board of directors, and write a business plan.
At the beginning, none of these things are necessary. Why worry about stamps when you can’t even afford envelopes? And how are you going to create a well-connected board when your idea is brand new and you don’t know many well-connected people?

These lists don’t cover the process from a firsthand, emotional, personal, impassioned, and transparent perspective or discuss tactics. They feel more like a list from the IRS than an entrepreneur.

These ideas aren’t wrong in general, but they are wrong for a 22 year old looking to get his idea off the ground.

A lack of resources and a lot of misguided ones – two more reasons to start this blog.

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Why I started GenStartUp.org

I lead a nonprofit, ServeNext, that I started in 2007 as a senior in college. I’m getting asked more frequently for advice from Millennials who are considering the same or recently began.

In these conversations, many similar topics come up, there’s a ton we don’t get to, and I recently discovered a stunning lack of blogs discussing the nonprofit startup experience from a Millennial perspective.

I started this blog to be a resource and conversation for a generation that is innovative, idealistic, and hungry to invent and lead.

I’ve led an organization long enough to have informed ideas about the startup process but not long enough that I can’t relate to those earlier in the journey. And like any entrepreneur, I’ve been through a lot in building something new — ranging from national political victories to nearly folding when funding dried up.

I’m excited to share my thoughts about the experience — lessons learned, mistakes, what’s worked, fundraising, strategy, ideas, opinions, and occasional rants. If you think any of my ideas suck, let me know. I’m not going to hesitate to write my opinions — you shouldn’t either.

Thanks for reading and thanks for your leadership,

Zach Maurin (zmaurin3 [at] gmail.com and @zmaurin)

PS — Two shout-outs. First to Seth Godin for encouraging people to blog — to publicly put your ideas out there. He’s a must-read for any aspiring entrepreneur. My organization would be better if I found his writing sooner.

And second, to everyone who helped me with my startup — who took a risk on some kids with a big idea when they were already too busy. This blog is, in part, about paying it forward — to help others invent important things as many have helped (and continue to help) me.

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