Today is Blog Action Day and this year’s topic is “Poverty”. Last year during Blog Action Day I covered What If The Water Runs Out?, a decidedly dire possibility, which thankfully improved a little in my hometown since I wrote that article (although the problem is far from gone).
This year I want to focus on something positive we can all do as entrepreneurs – we can give something back – in this case, to help people help themselves rise above the poverty line.
I remember clearly the first time I did exactly this, although to be honest I wasn’t doing it because my business was succeeding, I did it because I had just closed a business that failed because I made a mistake.
Very long time readers of this blog will know one of my very first forays into online business was a community website focused on the Magic: The Gathering card game. On my Magic website I opened up a small e-commerce extension, where I sold the cards individually and in sealed cases.
After enjoying moderate success with my online store I made a tragic mistake. I received an order from someone in Thailand for a full case of cards, with a value of about $600. I took the order through an offline credit card processor (called a “click-clack”), but before I did this I phoned the card fraud hotline to make sure the card wasn’t reported as stolen, as per the standard procedures provided by the bank.
The card checked out fine, I charged it for the case and shipped off the product.
Fast forward a few months and I had sent off over $15,000 worth of product to Thailand, when I received a letter in the mail, telling me the very first order had received a charge back request. Basically, the owner of the card had said they had not made the purchase and wanted their money back.
Over the course of the next few weeks over $12,000 was charged back. It was clear my Thai customers were fraudsters, using a stolen credit card, and I had lost a ton of money.
I recovered from that instance after putting in ALL my savings and some money from my father to cover the dept. I was so heartbroken about the situation that I closed the online store shortly after and went into a depression that took several weeks to recover from.
Later that same year I was walking in my local shopping mall and came across the World Vision child sponsorship table. In case you are not familiar with World Vision, they help children and their families in developing countries, by using donation money from “sponsors”, who donate a regular amount to help support a child, the child’s family and local community.
Previously I had ignored the World Vision table, but this time, despite my poor financial situation after the credit card fraud, I felt a need to do something. I scanned the table full of pictures of the children in need of sponsoring looking for a keyword – Thailand. I wanted to sponsor a child in Thailand so he or she didn’t grow up to become a credit card fraudster.
I sponsored my first child that day and supported him until he “graduated” from the program after several years. Since then I’ve sponsored another three children through World Vision.
Although my action was stimulated by something negative in my life, as an entrepreneur I believe it’s our responsibility to help in any way we feel we can – whether our motivation is brought about by business failure or success.
World Vision does a great job at helping to educate and support people in developing nations so they can rise above the poverty standard. In my case I saw a direct correlation between something in my life and an opportunity to give back.
Take some time today to think about how you might be able to do the same and possibly help someone rise above poverty, although it certainly doesn’t have to be through the World Vision organization – there are many other options out there, a Google search for child sponsorship will present many options.