Local Gastown entrepreneurs Mike Tan and Taylor Conroy have found a way to change the world, one latte at a time. By spending $3.33 a day with 32 other friends for 3 months, you can build a school in Africa – no joke. I’m excited to present this weeks entrepreneurs: Change Heroes. This all-star team checks all the right boxes when it comes to a meaningful mission, a simple concept, and a scalable idea.
1. Who are you? Tell us about your business/core idea and what inspired you to create it.
Change Heroes is a social enterprise – and tech startup – on a mission to one day see a world where every child has access to education.
To fulfill this mission, we built an online fundraising platform that makes it easy for anyone to raise $10,000 with their friends to fund a school in a developing country.
It’s all based on a simple formula: A group of 33 people donate $3.33/day for 3 months, which amounts to $10,000 – the cost of a brand new school that will educate and empower hundreds, if not thousands, of children.
You can watch the full story behind Change Heroes in this TEDx Talk by our founder, Taylor Conroy below:
How 33 People Will Educate Every Child on Earth
2. What makes you unique compared to all other crowd-funding and charity platforms?
Unlike most crowdfunding platforms where funds are raised with a group of strangers, Change Heroes is based on “friend funding.” Specifically, campaign runners recruit their personal networks of friends, family and co-workers to work toward a common goal in a fun, social way.
We also give donors extensive feedback and relay the tangible results of their generosity through photos of their schools and videos of the kids they’ve educated; we even facilitate trips so donors can see the school they’ve build firsthand.
3. How has Vancouver’s rising startup community played a role in the development of Change Heroes?
We wouldn’t be where we are without our Vancouver HQ at the Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub, or the valuable mentorship and workshops we receive from Launch Academy and institute B. Through our amazing supporters, we’ve had the opportunity to meet Prince Andrew, gain funding from IRAP, win StartupWorld Vancouver, and gain access to influential advisors and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley.
4. What kind of challenges has your team had to face and how have you mitigated them?
Because we’re a for-profit social enterprise that’s focused on solving an epidemic social problem, and because we’re also a tech startup with an all-star team with diverse backgrounds, it’s been critical to keep everyone focused on our mission.
Sexy new opportunities present themselves to us almost daily, and while many would be fun to execute or great for increasing revenues, we always bring ourselves back to our why – our reason for existing – before we make a decision.
To keep focused, we post our mission statement (“…to one day see a world where every child has access to education) on the wall at the office, we showcase our company manifesto in creative ways, and we host badass company retreats (our next one will be in Nicaragua, where we’ll surf, practice yoga, and visit schools we’ve funded through Free The Children).
5. What core problem are you specifically solving for Vancouverites?
Vancouver has a beautiful heart; people here want to give back, whether it’s through supporting environmental initiatives or helping women in the Downtown Eastside. It’s also a social city, and one where many young professionals are strapped for cash as well as time. Change Heroes offers a solution that lets these people give back, collaborate with friends, and do it for an affordable amount in a short amount of time (you can afford a latte a day for 3 months, right?).
Change Heroes offers a way to make a huge impact by providing education to hundreds of children. That doesn’t just apply to individuals either; we recently launched branded campaigns, and have Disney Interactive launching as one of our corporate beta testers! We’re hopeful more Vancouver-based companies jump on board too!
6. What entrepreneur has inspired you the most for running your business and what makes them so special?
Coming up with just one isn’t easy; we’re inspired by Craig & Marc Kielburger, Richard Branson, Muhammad Yunus, Blake Mycoskie, and John Wood.
For the purposes of this question, we’ll focus on the Kielburgers, the spirited brothers who co-founded Free The Children (our primary implementing partner), as well as Me to We, and We Day. Craig started the organization when he was only 12, and it’s since grown into an international charity and massive movement with over 1.7 million youth involved in programs in 45 countries.
7. What Vancouver celebrity would you most be excited to have as a member of the team and why?
It would be a dream to have Chip Wilson’s support in helping us build a remarkable company culture, as he did with Lululemon.
8. What’s your advice for current or future entrepreneurs?
1) Don’t wait until your 60 to make an impact on the world. Do it now.
2) Start with Why? (Watch this TED Talk by Simon Sinek)
*End of interview*
Change Heroes is an incredibly concrete and meaningful concept. It addresses the Why? and makes it easy for a social circle to make an immediate impact. It does so in a concrete way of visualizing your morning Starbucks latte (and possibly helping you break your bad habit). They also have a very talented and passionate team that knows how to spread an idea.
A lot of great concepts have been applied to this business and if you read Influence and Made to Stick, you’ll learn how you can influence people to do almost anything and make your great ideas stick. I’ll add in that their website is also beautifully designed and has a great blog. I’m very excited to see how far they can take Change Heroes – after all, who doesn’t want to build a school in Africa as you cycle off your caffeine addiction?
*Vancouver Entrepreneurs is a weekly feature on the city’s most notable entrepreneurs and startups that are making a local and even a global impact. If you think your venture deserves to be on the series, send an email to paul(at)vancitybuzz(dot)com to explain why you’re a fit*