Entrepreneur Stories – GiveForward

Wealth and Wisdom | Entrepreneur Stories | Give Forward
Ethan Austin & Desiree Vargas Wrigley are the founders of GiveForward. GiveForward gives people personal fundraising pages to raise money for loved one’s medical expenses.  We’ve helped thousands of people raise millions of dollars for things like chemotherapy, organ transplants, travel, and living expenses while undergoing treatment.

What were the obstacles to starting your business (educational requirements, certifications, licensing, insurance, etc.)?

Since crowdfunding is a new arena, there aren’t any educational or certification requirements but it definitely required a certain leap of faith to get started. Probably the biggest obstacle to getting started was getting the courage to start. Creating a company in a new industry with very little experience and few resources can be daunting, but it can also be liberating, because you don’t yet know what you don’t know.

How did you find suppliers/services you needed to get started?

We were lucky enough to have access to a lot of great free/affordable tools. But now, there are so many resources both online and in person for entrepreneurs. From Google Apps to FeeFighters to multitude of tech and start-up blogs, there has never been a better time to start a company with just a little bit of capital.

How did you finance your start up?

We each brought some financing to the table. To fund the first wave of the web design, Desiree took out a $10K loan from Prosper.com and put the rest on her credit cards. Ethan’s father left him a little bit of money when he passed away from cancer that Ethan was able to invest in the company. That money lasted the first 6 months, so they bootstrapped GF for two years, waiting tables and doing freelance writing to make ends meet. In Feb 2011 GiveForward closed a $500k seed funding round led by Tim Krauskopf (founder of Spyglass) New World Ventures (Chicago venture capital firm run by JB Pritzker) Social Leverage (Venture Capital firm run by Howard Lindzon), and David Cohen (founder and CEO of TechStars) among others.

Is this a full time business or a supplemental income?

Full time.

What advice would you give others?

Don’t be scared of what you don’t know. Be excited about finding the answers. Don’t shy away from an idea because you don’t think you’re an expert in every aspect of the project. Instead, be open to learning.

What organizations do you belong to?

We belong to a number of professional organizations, but more than just joining an organization, we suggest you really make an effort to get out there and talk with people in the industry. Attend tweetups, go to benefits for nonprofit organizations, you name it – if you look hard enough, you’ll find there are lots of great ways to network & meet people, you just have to do a bit of research.

How has your lifestyle changed from being an employee to becoming a business owner?

We became a lot poorer :) In the beginning, you almost don’t notice everything you’re missing out on because you’re working so hard. But after two years of working towards your vision without a paycheck, there are certainly times when you look enviously at a friend’s new clothes or allow yourself a few moments of self-pity when you have to skip an expensive trip with friends. That is why it’s so important to find other metrics besides money to motivate you through those tough years. At GiveForward, we measured success in thank you emails and cards from users. Having these moments of success to reflect on made the sacrifices seem small compared to the good we were doing.

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2 Responses to “Entrepreneur Stories – GiveForward”

  • Terry Byrne

    If wealth was so easy to amass we’d all be doing it; but, unfortunately, we can’t all do it, or else there wouldn’t be enough of it left to go around.

  • Brandt Smith

    @Terry – Anyone can amass wealth. If you follow basic rules, work hard and smart, and have self discipline anyone can succeed.

    Also, the excuse that there isn’t enough to go around is bunk. Wealth is limitless, and as long as you are creating, there will always be enough to go around.

    To be blunt, stop making excuses, read a high quality success book (Think and Grow Rich, 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Jack Canfield’s Success Principles, etc…), get off your ass, and make something of yourself.

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