People Want to Help

Eric Franzo and the Purposely team help companies find volunteer opporunities for their employees. They facilitate and coordinate purpose-built events that bring employees from local companies to help nonprofits with ambitious projects. Purposely is a startup that is finding its place, in part, with the generosity of people in the impact business world who recognize the contribution that they are determined to make.

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Show Notes

 

Transcript

Jalen 

What are those milestone bumps that you hit and the lessons you got from them. 

Eric 

Yeah, so I think. They get less, and so there was a lot of mistakes and I should probably start maybe with the mistakes so we. Yeah, prior to. The pandemic we had been helping nonprofits manage their events. All that kind of stuff that was going well. I think because we were so early in the startup stage. We yeah, we're really like novice team. We didn't know what success looked like. What product market fit looked like. So we worked with a handful of nonprofits and we're like, Oh my God. We did it right, like we're we're. Doing some good like this is actually. Yeah, totally, and in hindsight now. I don't think so. I think like. We're it was. Really, nascent stages. I don't know if we actually. Could make a business out of that. I think it was too niche. It was too specific and for. The the actual vision of what we wanted to accomplish. For that to actually unfold, I don't think our team could have done it. I don't think we would have had the resources. And I don't know if there was necessarily a market there. There's plenty of other, you know, volunteer management software out there. It's hard to get people to move away from things I don't know if we're actually solving a particular problem there, so I think there's a bunch of things that, yeah, I don't know like in Hindi. Would that have? Been business, probably not, I would say. So yeah, Fast forward pandemic hits. All the events were canceled. Everything we were, you know we're helping with Canadian mental health or ride don't hide event canceled fibrosis canceled and so. We kind of made a quick decision. We saw that there was a lot of people that needed help. We needed whether grocery delivery and maybe medication delivered. And so we had a platform that was really good at being able to match people with volunteer opportunities, and so we're like, let's just hit that into a mutual aid platform. So if people are able. To offer their help. They can do so on. The platform and if people need help, they'd request help. And I think first mistake there was there was zero business model. It was just we wanted to contribute something back to the community. But also, you know we're burning cash, right? Like we can't just do that, and so there wasn't much of a plan there. We just kind of reacted because we saw that there was a need in the community. And we thought maybe, you know, we could turn this into something down the line. But for now, let's just offer it as. A free surface and that yeah. 

Jalen 

I remember that. It was pretty incredible. 

Eric 

Yeah, so it actually it went well. There was like a few 1000 people ended up signing up, yeah? People got medication delivered. Groceries were delivered, people were donating money to individuals needed help that lost their jobs. So a lot of good came out of that. It was. It was really great. We started working with. Think of an organization in Ontario called People's Pantry. They were doing food deliveries. We helped set up the logistics with them. Kind of adapted our platform to help them. We thought maybe that was. Kind of the. Future, but the business was helping out. Kind of these. I don't know what you call them like. They weren't official nonprofits, but they were these kind of community response teams that just organically formed, so they were. They didn't have an official designation, but they identified a need and they put together a group of people, and they're like we're going to help, so we're helping them logistically, just, you know, match with the right people. Get different volunteers to come in. And so that was going well. But also again, like they didn't have funding, they were doing with the goodness of their hearts. And so we're gonna charge them that like it. Just none of it felt. Quite right and and so. We kept that going for a bit and actually the site was still up even after we pivoted into what we currently do because we just wanted to. Yeah, offer assistance and it wasn't much of a cost to us outside of what we were paying ourselves and all that. But we knew that there wasn't going to be much of a business there. We did get a bit of a lucky break, and I think this is there was a huge lesson in here was to leverage advisors, so we kind of stumbled upon an advisor who was one of the Co founders of Cleo. So he happened to reach out and. They have an employee volunteer program over at Clio, and they weren't quite seeing the results that they wanted to see. Pretty low engagement for employee volunteering. And not even just during the pandemic, which no one volunteered, right? It was, you know, nonprofits had to transition into remote opportunities. That process was slow. It was really difficult. And so, prior to the pandemic, they they still weren't seeing any kind of volunteering. So he had reached out, he knew that we were working in the volunteer space and asked if we would be able to help. Is there anything we could? Do to help Cleo with their employee volunteer program and. I'm happy I think it was a good decision, Harper, we said. We didn't just jump into the next opportunity and I think biggest lesson here that we didn't apply early on as we were working with nonprofits was just making sure we talked to enough potential customers like we didn't talk to enough nonprofits early on to really identify what are the particular things that you need help on. Is it event management? Is it getting the volunteers? Is it? You know, scheduling those volunteers like what are those pieces that are important? So we kind of took a step back there. Didn't just accept right away and we said let's go talk to a bunch of companies so contacted tons of local companies and one of the things that. We were really surprised that was, I think 7580% of the companies we reached out to. We're like sure we'll chat like we'll tell you what the problems are. So people were more than willing to talk, which was great for us, right? It seemed there was a clear problem and they wanted to chat with somebody about it. So and we we. It was a very like low barrier. You know we're like, hey, we're a. Start up, we just want to learn, right? We're not trying to sell you anything. We don't have a product right now, right? We just want to see if there's anything that we could do to help in the future. We don't know what kind of pain points you're experiencing. So after chatting with a bunch of companies, we just kept hearing consistent problems and that was opportunity discovered so they couldn't find volunteer opportunities and they couldn't. Not that they couldn't, but they had a difficult time coordinating them. It's time consuming and so you have people you know. HR people and culture. Teams are in the midst of a pandemic trying to bring bring their teams together. Institute, you know, remote and hybrid policies. They had a lot in their place, so for like to get an employee volunteer program off the ground like they're not going to do it, they don't have the. For it so we said, great. Let's just build a really simple solution for one of those problems and see if that would help companies in any way and what we did there was, we built just a list of opportunities. So we just built a list of volunteer opportunities that worked for teams. So that people could volunteer together. And companies loved it. So that was kind of like when number one and. Kind of in that process. I think one of the biggest lessons we relied on Ryan a lot. So Co founder Cleo and started bringing in other advisors. And I think the single biggest. Kind of like important piece. For us was leveraging advisors. There is so much that we didn't know, and there's still so much that we don't know, and there's so many things we don't know that we don't know, and so having people that have been through it, meeting with them, you know, once every couple of weeks has been invaluable. It's the single best thing we've ever done as a company. And we're just. 

Jalen 

How did you... identify them in the first place?

Eric 

Yeah, so Ryan was luck, right? Reached out to us that was awesome and then just started networking with people so put calls out. Leverage grinds network. People that we knew. We asked for recommendations. Hey, we have a gap. We're not great at marketing, right? We don't know much about marketing. Is there anybody can? Put us in. Touch with so we just started having conversations. If people seemed aligned with what we were doing, if people really got it seemed passionate about volunteering, then great, right? They came on and helped, so we've had different kind of advisors throughout the years, but a few have stuck around. And so we have some for sales, some for marketing, some for general business, trying not to have too many. Or it's like the too many cooks in. The kitchen thing that can be a bit overwhelming, but we have some pretty core advisors now that. Kind of fill the. Gaps and being a small startup like we can't have employees for every single piece of the company. So kind of most of us do a little bit of. Everything, and then the advisors come in and and help kind of fill in those gaps. Kind of give us a bit of direction and it's yeah, it's really valuable and it's I don't know people are just willing. To help it. It's one of the coolest things I think I've found throughout all this is, you put a call out and people are like great. What can I do to help like it's I don't know. 

Jalen 

Yeah, that's awesome. It's nice space to be in. That world, right?

Eric

Yeah, completely so.

Jalen

Are these like a board of advisors? Do you get together on a monthly basis? Or are they basically they're people who are willing to take your call every once in a while to to talk to you... on a specific topic?

Eric 

Yeah, depends on the advisors. So we've set up some kind of more formal structures with certain advisors. So for sales, it's kind of a big area of focus for us right now. We think we have most of the pieces in place that will work for companies now. It's just getting the word out and so that's weekly meetings helps. The kind of company. Goal planning all that others it just yeah hey quick text. Have a question on this? Can we chat? We're thinking about hiring somebody here. Maybe we have like an internal thing that we need to work through. Can I leverage some advice? So really it does depend, but I think having. Some advisors with some of that formal structure we're meeting on a consistent basis is almost necessary, and then having the people who you can just call and you know have a quick chat with. They're great as well, so it does depend. 

Jalen 

And you find you have advisors. Of specific sorts that are that the anchor people. Specific topic areas. 

Eric 

Yeah for sure. So I think the sales is the biggest one, but I think it's one of those things. So advice is that we've had on board and probably with a lot of companies. Or people that. Have been at companies at all different stages. So even if someone's title might be or their head of sales at somewhere, they've probably dabbled in marketing. They've probably dabbled in customer success. Because they've been at a smaller startup stage where they've had to wear all those. Hats and so. I don't know if. It's been luck or it's just. Most people out there have. Just worked in multiple roles and so you see the title, but that's not the exclusive thing that they do and I'm sure for yourself for myself, right? Like I I do, most of our sales, but I also touch marketing. I also touch customer success. I'd love to do development at some point even though I pretended that.  

Eric 

Yeah, they've they've been through all these different stages, so I'd say yeah, obviously we have somebody for sales, but he's great at customer success. He helps in marketing, sees how all those pieces kind of work together and I think that's yeah, it's one of those things too. Like you can be. Big, especially early on in. The start up. All of those pieces have to work together, right? It's like your sales that. You bring people in through marketing. You have your sales like. Those should be. That whole messaging should be the same we should be talking to each other. Should be strategy there in terms of customer success, same kind. Of thing so. Yeah, by working with somebody who's been through all of that, it's it's helped immensely. And then now at kind of a larger company where they've seen that growth, they've seen what it takes to scale. So you kind of identify those pieces because, like again, early on, we didn't know what product market fit looked like. We didn't know there were so many things that we didn't. Know and so having somebody. I'm going to be like, OK, yeah, here's here's why you're on the right path or here's what you need to adjust. Here are the questions you need to be asking to make sure that you're on the right path. Yeah, it's again, it's invaluable like advisors have been the single best thing that we've brought on. 

Jalen 

Yeah, sounds incredible. So you're saying you know basically where the mouth and chain of trust, sort of thing... someone who knows someone. 

Eric 

That's it, yeah, and I think you had mentioned before SVI right? So you'd post on the SVI list. Communities like that. I mean, there's communities all over the place. SVI is a great example of 1 where there's people who and it. Yeah, it's not just any type of company, but they're purpose driven companies. The companies that want to make an impact have some kind of social purpose. Embedded in, you know, the very foundation of that product. We want to talk to people that yeah, are values aligned like that. I think it's been one of the more challenging things about starting a business, especially not having a business background is I. Yeah, there were a lot of things I didn't know, but. I didn't get into it. Just it's probably sounds like a cliche answer, but for money, like I think a lot of people that they have, they start with some kind of they want to see some kind of change. They've identified something with like, OK, great, I think. There's a particular idea here that I can execute to make a positive impact in the world, and I don't think money is the main driver of that. For a lot of people. And it wasn't with us like we saw a need in volunteering, but there were kind of these groups of people that often didn't volunteer. We wanted to make it easier like we have all these apps. If you want to go find an event right or you want to create an event meet up, you have event, right? There's all these tools for people like that to. Go volunteer, we kind of have lousy like. Words online like that's it like. There's really not much else that's out there where we have like, really outdated technology. So I figured one of like the best things that we can do, which is volunteering like selflessly. Give back to our communities and technologically like we're not being served in that way. So that was the driver. It's like what can we do in this space to make sure more volunteering happens as you create a business you realize. OK, well we need to make money. We need to sustain ourselves. There's all these other. Pieces that come. And make. It it's difficult and I think connecting with people that had that initial intent of just doing good in the world and then OK had to learn all of that. Business acumen like build up that business sense to be able to leverage that other piece has been really, really important. But yeah, I think I know I'm like long winded going around this, but it's. I think in terms of. Associating with. Like getting the right people on board. It was really the mission driven people who. Yeah, have kind. Of worked along that path of creating a business understanding. Yeah, the the need for revenue. All of that kind of stuff. But also making sure you don't lose that vision and so trying to associate with those people along with those people and get that advice so that we can kind of do the. Same in our business. 

Jalen 

Yeah, well, that sounds like a a quintessential impact business issue. You know, purpose pulls you in and then you realize, Oh yeah, we we need to make money doing this and we're going to keep keep. On doing it. Yeah, and so being able to see connect with people who have gone ahead of. You and or have. You know converted from money, focus to. Purpose focus. 

Eric 

Yeah, that's totally it. To be helpful. 

Eric 

And yeah, and it's it's such a. I mean, you learn a lot like I don't know how much should go into here, but it's even in like the investment world like there's it gets really tricky. It gets really tricky for a purpose driven business because you have especially like you have VC's out there. You have investment firms that. Their goal is. Like they wanna 10X that money, right? That's their goal. So they would like to push you in whatever direction is gonna see their maximize their return on investment. That's not necessarily, you know, whatever purpose driven goal you had. Like and so I think that field can be. I think it's disheartening. I've talked to other founders who are trying to move in that social impact space. I think it's it's difficult for people, right? Just getting funding and I know there's yeah, there's impact VC's and and and investment firms out there which is great. But a lot. Of kind of the capital that's that's allocated. I don't think is necessarily in that space. I think there's different motives that are moving people, and so it, hey, it's it's a difficult kind of see to to to wade through a little bit. 

Jalen 

So given this, that journey that you've been on and getting this getting purposely going. If you were. To be able to like jump back in time. And whisper something important in your ear. What would that be? 

Eric 

That's a really good question. If there's two things we're covered, the advisors I think that that's a key one. I think the other piece would be. Willing to let go. UM? I think it initially having a vision for something. It's people always call. It's it's your baby, right? It's hard to you know you you've you've given it so much attention and thought and you've put your heart into it and. It's when, yeah, inevitably, you're bringing new people into the team. Other people are going to have different ideas, right? And I think probably the biggest piece for me would be making sure that I'm taking in those ideas authentically. I think early on. You know one of my teammates had said, what if we started work with companies that actually might be where the. Business is going. And I was like no, no, no we're, you know we're focused on nonprofits. A couple years later, we're working directly with companies that they were. Right, you know? It could have at least been something that we explore. You can't just drop everything and be like, OK, somebody has an idea. Let's go do this fully, but let's just maybe we talked to a handful of. Companies, maybe we really like authentically take that idea and and and so I think being more open, not just OK. I have this vision and I want to execute this. I want to see this. Being open to others input and making sure that you know they feel valued in at least. We we tested right. We talked to a couple of companies. Whatever it happens to be. So I think there was a few points there early on where we did get really good advice and I just don't think. I I'm OK taking responsibility there. I don't think I listened to it because I was, I think, kind of tunnel visioned in a particular idea that I had a particular outcome that I wanted to say. And that could potentially work for some people, right? The idea is brilliant enough, just they execute it and. Great, it just works. That was not me was. Not brilliant enough to I think to see the bigger picture. There so so. 

Jalen 

Well, part of what I'm hearing you say is like it's. At least give room for other people's brilliance. 

Eric 

Yeah yeah, yeah. 

Jalen 

And to like check things out, right? 

Eric 

Yeah, that's it. That's it, yeah? 

Jalen 

That's awesome. Well, Eric, that is a lot and I really thank you for sharing today and I'm really hoping that people are going to not only enjoy this but also like check out purposely because you know the what you're bringing into the world and then the need the need you're meeting is pretty awesome. And hope to be able to check in with you some other some time later. 

Eric 

Yeah for sure. Yeah no thanks for that. And yeah, I'm really excited on the path that we're on now like. It's been yeah, it's been a heck of a journey, but I think if we can. Actually see what we want to see like happen in the world just means more people volunteering. It means kind of a whole other demographic volunteers. Being able to help nonprofits in a really meaningful way. So yeah, it's it's a lot of work, but it's it's really fun. We have a great. Team and yeah, hopefully we can. Make something of it. So thanks for having me on it was a pleasure. 

Jalen 

You're welcome. 

 

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