You can check out my latest project and register your interest here – MarkitUp.org.
In 2008 I returned from traveling around the world for eight months, visiting twenty-five amazing cities.
What made this trip particularly remarkable was that I came back with more money in my bank account than I left with, despite living in nice hotels and renting apartments during my travels.
I wasn’t backpacking or “roughing it”, this was a comfortable trip not hindered by budget, and I still came back wealthier than before my departure.
This year, 2009, I bought my second property, a fantastic apartment with an amazing view, huge deck, located in possibly the exact location on this planet I most want to live in.
Upon reflection after all of this, I realized that I’m pretty darn lucky. Lucky that I was born at a time when I could capitalize on the Internet and have this amazing medium to communicate with people, and make a living doing so.
Then I noticed something wasn’t right.
I stared at my bank balance and took stock of my material success. I had basically met all the goals I had as a twenty-something year old, in terms of monetary success, but there was a glaring issue that bothered me.
I like to give back and have supported charities that strike a cord with me. I noticed however that with my increase in income, how much I was giving back of my own money hadn’t increased proportionally.
Right then I committed to giving back more and earmarked some money that I would use to support causes during the next 12 months.
Then I had another idea regarding something different to do with my “charity money”.
I didn’t want to just give the money to support causes, which is good of course, but what I want to do is use the money to create a new business.
I’m an entrepreneur, so why not make giving back something greater by creating a new enterprise, which could potentially return much more to charity and be a heck of a lot of fun to build too.
I decided to start a charity that taps into the leverage points I have as a blogger and Internet marketer. However, I didn’t want to do it alone, I needed help.
Enter Chris Dowsett
I immediately thought of a friend, Chris Dowsett, who used to live in Brisbane. I met Chris through friends at university during my early twenties.
He had since moved to the UK and more recently was positioned in Singapore.
I thought of Chris because he has always been a giver, volunteering, working for charities, setting up websites to support causes and even going to Africa to establish a school.
I couldn’t think of a better person to partner with to start a new charity. In fact, I wanted Chris to be the head-honcho, the manager of the new project, while I provided the initial cash flow, the connections and help with ideas.
While I want to start a new charity, I still want to do what I do with my writing and training programs, so I don’t want to commit to leading a new project on my own, when my energy is elsewhere.
I knew Chris was keen to run a charity himself and if successful enough that it could pay him a salary to live off, so he could devote 100% of his time to it, that would be ideal.
I grabbed Chris on Skype, talked to him about the idea, and he quickly said “I’m in”. Fortuitously, Chris had recently left his job and was in between projects, so clearly he was meant for this.
That left us with only one problem left – we didn’t actually have an idea for a charity.
Brainstorming Ideas For A New Charity
Chris flew back to Brisbane for a few weeks to visit family and work with me to get our charity going, before heading off to the USA to visit his girlfriend.
We committed to come up with an idea and lay the foundation for our new business while Chris was in Brisbane, so he could go to work on the project while in the USA.
Although we didn’t have a concrete idea, I did know a few things. I wanted to follow a similar “ideal” model to what I had previously strived for in for-profit web businesses.
The project has to -
- Be scalable following the many-to-many model. In other words, we can grow the project using the power of our users without any limitations. The more people on board, the better.
- Leverage my existing strengths. I want something that bloggers and Internet marketers understand and are willing to use and share. This has to be something that taps into the community I have a presence in so I can use my connections to spread the idea.
- Tap into Chris’ existing networks and strengths. Chris is a statistician by trade and already has contacts and experience helping set-up and support projects focused on education in developing countries.
- Focus on education. As an information publisher I make my living through teaching. I’m also eternally grateful because of how much I have learned through studying other marketers, entrepreneurs and experts.
Chris also shares this ideal and we both believe raising awareness through education is key to solving most of our world’s problems. Helping people who are hungry for education have access to it, is our goal.
- Have the potential to become something really big. Although I’d be happy to give $100,000 a year to our cause thanks to this project, I want the potential to be there to give millions, even hundreds of millions of dollars, if it takes off. Thinking and aiming big is how you achieve big, and this project has to have at least the potential and not be restrained by the model itself.
This criteria is tough, but not unrealistic. The next step was to gather a little mastermind group to come up with ideas.
I called up some of my local friends who all have a charity-related vocation or aspect to their persona, and who know the Internet well, and invited them to help brainstorm ideas. This group included Catherine, a consultant to not-for-profits, Mike, an experienced social media consultant and entrepreneur, Gideon, Chris and myself.
Sitting at a table outside on my deck, surrounded by some fantastic people, we shot ideas and discussed options. Clearly the causes we could support were many, as were the methods to support them, but I kept coming back to the core ideals I wanted the project to have.
Towards the end of the evening a simple idea struck me. I’m not sure where it came from, and I wasn’t even sure how good it was as I said it, but the more we talked about it, the better it sounded. It fit really well with all of the ideals set out, matched my strengths and Chris’ and had the potential to be huge, if enough people supported it.
We agreed that it was the best option and decided to run with it.
So What Is The Idea?
I can’t reveal exactly what our project is about just yet, but I can tell you we need your help. In fact the success of this project depends completely on whether Internet marketers grasp it, support it and use it.
I’m absolutely itching to launch this, but I don’t want to give away anything until we have a working model, so when I tell you what it is, you can use it immediately.
What I can tell you is that it’s going to be something you can plug right into what you do already if you are an Internet marketer. It will enable you to generate donations for the charity, which will be used directly to purchase education support services, items and infrastructure, starting in Africa where Chris has a team ready to start distributing, though we have plans to grow to other countries and provide other services as well.
My hope is that this service will become the de-facto method for Internet marketers to give back, leveraging what you do best and not requiring any work on your part beyond installing some simple code into your web pages.
Chris has been hard at work registering our charity and setting up our blog and logo. We brainstormed and did domain name research to come up with a company name and decided to run with MarkitUp.org (Mark It Up).
We are not 100% sure on the exact slogan to go with the name Mark It Up, but it means something along the lines of “Marketers using Information Technology to help people rise Up from poverty“.
Here Is What You Can Do Today
We’ve set up the MarkitUp.org email newsletter and we are ready to take subscribers who want to know exactly when our service is ready.
If you like the idea of giving back as a result of doing what you already do online, you’re keen to support this new charity and help Chris and I grow it into something significant, or you just want to know what I’m up to, please register here -
Thanks for your support and I look forward to seeing you put the first Mark It Up tool into action.