Today I’ll be speaking with Katie Blomquist, the founder and executive director of Going Places and the co-founder of the nonprofit Entrepreneur Academy. She’s got a lot going on, and I love the fact that she just keeps putting herself out there, finding a need, and filling it. The thought for the day is to utilize some of those tips and tricks. It’s not just going to be nonprofits. There are all kinds of tips that you can learn for any business owner or anybody looking to start a venture in this podcast and the action. So listen up, take notes and apply some of the things that we talked about. We go through some challenges and ways to surmount those challenges in terms of starting and growing a nonprofit. However, those experiences can be applied to any business venture. So apply some of those things, especially towards the end. And also Katie is available herself. If you’d like to reach out directly and get someone to help.
Katie’s Nonprofit And Business
Katie has a nonprofit called Going Places. They provide disadvantaged kids with their most basic childhood rights. Which is a right to joy. They do this by providing every single child in the low-income elementary schools with a new custom bike. So they’re giving between 400 and 600 bikes to all the children. Katie has been doing this for about four and a half years. She also founded an LLC. In her LCC, she has a business partner who is in the UK. Together they created the nonprofit Entrepreneur Academy. He is a nonprofit consultant so, between his expertise and hers, there’s nobody they can’t help. They have three courses in the Academy, whether it be a nonprofit just starting up or someone who is several years in and ready to scale, develop, and grow. They’ll take them on that journey.
The Birth Of Going Places
Katie used to be a teacher at PepperHill Elementary School, which is a title one school. Title one means low income, high poverty. She taught first grade, and this little boy in her class asked her for a bike on his birthday, and it just got her thinking she was saturated in the environment of poverty. She was aware of the shoes, books, beds, and other things they didn’t have. But she never thought about the things that bring us joy and memories that we all take for granted. So she did a GoFundMe to get all 650 kids in her school a bike and it went viral. She raised over $80,000 in three months using GoFundMe. It was really wild. So she was a guest on The Steve Harvey Show. He flew her out and donated $20,000. Lester Holt flew in a camera crew and covered it. It was in Time Magazine, ABC World News Today Show. So she was able to end up leaving teaching once the school year finished, and gave bikes to all the kids there. Then she found it going places, and she’s been running it full time ever since. That was kind of a shock to the system because she expected it to just be that instant same thing of money pouring nonstop and it wasn’t. People viewed it as a teacher doing a nice thing for a business. The only difference is its tax-deductible money. Now the sentiment is still the same, but it was just all of the sudden a lot harder to get funds. Something Katie talks a lot about in her Academy is the wow factor. And that is not what a person is doing better, but what a person is doing differently than what’s out there already and a big wow. It’s the things that make someone surprised enough to say, “wow”. Keep in mind they give bikes to whole schools, not just some kids. And 400 to 600 bikes at once. On top of that, they’re custom bikes. Therefore, It’s a lot of money to raise. They’re not just bikes from Walmart. They work with Kent Bicycles, which is an international bike company. So the bikes are always a neon color with white and they’re named. Every year they switch out the name and the neon color so they stand out. When people see 400 of those bikes they literally say, “wow”. People continue to want to share and donate to that because it’s different than what they normally see. And it’s something Katie has been able to emotionally connect with the public over because, in one way or another, every single person either grew up with a bike or they didn’t. We are all on one side of the other. Most of us grew up with a bike. And if you didn’t, you feel emotionally disconnected from the experience and it is awful. If you did, imagine what your childhood would have been like without that bike. There are also some people that feel connected to it on either side.
Where Is The Growth Rooted?
Stever Harvey coming from across the country has kept up the national media for years. They’ve continued to fly in, which has been amazing because that’s extremely unusual. However, It’s mostly the community in Charleston. It’s the people and the businesses there. A lot of people have said they’ve been watching for years to make sure they know what they’re doing and it wasn’t a one-time thing. Now it is obvious that Katie knows what she is doing and it wasn’t a one-time fluke. People who were previously watching now feel comfortable attaching their logo, name, reputation, and money to them. So it was just constant networking and proving herself to people. And then getting the right people around her. Developing the right board is huge. And Katie has an amazing board that is really well connected in the community. She strategically picked people for their skill and talent connections. And they proved themselves because they are connecting with people who trust them and their decisions. People feel good when complimented and want to be a part of the team. Katie learned this through trial and error with a little help from a mentor. The GoFundMe was just a trial. She built the plane while she flew it, and she was really good at public speaking. And she discovered she was exceptional at connecting with people. Those were the two biggest skills for her. That’s just what she needed to get this going in the beginning. Then she was doing a lot on her own. Afterward, she met someone named Adam White, who used to be the director and co-founder of Chase After A Cure. He did that for ten years. And he had just left there and wanted to start helping Katie. So he joined her board team for the past three years. His board term is now up, but the two are still good friends. Overall he helped her with a lot such as permitting permits, events, board development, and much more. On the other hand, when it came to media and getting out in the public, Katie had a natural talent for this. It felt instinctual to her skill set and then she surrounded herself with people that have other skills to complement what she had going on for growth purposes.
The Academy In A Nutshell
Katie’s business partner, Kev Kayak, lives in the UK. He’s a nonprofit consultant, and he works with high-level nonprofits. He’s worked with school districts because they’re technically a nonprofit. Katie found it going places. A lot of consultants know how to help nonprofits grow, but they didn’t actually do the leg work founding it. A lot of executives and directors will come into a nonprofit, knowing how it works and how to run it. But they weren’t actually the ones that found it. Katie has this unique insight that a lot of people don’t have about how to build people around me. There are things Katie has seen herself do that she doesn’t see other nonprofits doing. And so together there’s just no one they can’t help. So when nonprofits that are just starting out all the way to several years become ready for that next higher level, they have lessons the first 2 or 90 days. The third course is 120 days, and they’re video lessons. So you watch on your own time. And then they have weekly one on one coaching sessions via Zoom with Kev and Katie where they can further curtail the lesson to what you’re actually doing. They provide lesson worksheets and downloadable templates. For instance, they provide you with your bylaws so you can edit them for your nonprofit. But what they give you has been created through a real lawyer. They give you an agenda for board meetings and every document you’ll need. As well as what your budget should look like because nonprofit budgets look different than a for-profit budget. And not everyone knows that year one looks different within the year three budget. They give you those templates so you can just fill them in and not have to wonder what you should do. The Academy is for everyone. The third course is for people who are nonprofit. That’s about five years in and when people are ready for the next higher level. But they encompass all the way through to transition from a working board to a fundraising-directed board. With advice on what that looks like and what types of people should be on there in that third course. The main focus is on board development and they have to focus on developing their programs and time management. All these different things get to higher-level networking and higher-level social media stuff. So if someone has a passion they are a prime person to do this. Moreover, if someone has a mission for starting a nonprofit, and they really want to give, but they don’t have the skill set. That is what Katie’s team is here for. They would never discourage anyone from starting a nonprofit.
Personalizing A Nonprofit
It’s always better if the founder is the face of the nonprofit because it’s their passion and that gives it a personal story. The personal story is what the public is going to connect with because it involves someone who your nonprofit is helping and you have a connection to someone who’s been affected. So people want to hear that story from you. Katie would always recommend taking a public speaking course and telling people to remember that you’re not selling a product. This isn’t about you. It’s about someone else. So when you remove yourself from it, you should have no problem asking someone for money because it’s not for you. You are not benefiting from that money. It’s for disadvantaged children. So it shouldn’t offend you if someone says no because it’s not about you. So removing yourself from the equation makes it a lot easier. But if you really dislike being told no, being on the news, or being on camera, have someone else be the consistent face to represent your nonprofit and have them go speak on your behalf when you’re on the news. For events and stuff, you should be the one speaking, but for other things, someone else can do it. Make sure to choose someone who’s connected to it as well and have them consistently be the face because people want to recognize the same face. Katie didn’t take a public speaking course because if she’s talking about something, she knows every answer about her nonprofit since she created it. If you put her up there and have her speak about something she doesn’t know much about then, of course, she’ll be more nervous, but there’s nothing to be nervous about because she could answer every question about the nonprofit. She believes people equate public speaking to something they don’t know a lot about and give a speech that they try to memorize or read. If you are having trouble try going to YouTube or Googling public speaking. Also try recording yourself in your room alone, talking about the nonprofit. Give the spiel, pretend you’re presenting to a room of people and watch the things that you do multiple times then apply those tips and try it again. They say you want big hands because it’s not good and you feel like you’re being too animated, but it’s not too animated. It’s more engaging. So things like that you have to look at with an open mind. Try to realize that it’s not as crazy as it feels.
Overcoming Challenges With Nonprofits
The biggest question people always ask is how they are finishing the year. For example, Katie’s team got 15 random checks in the mail from companies saying happy end of your funding. And it would range from $250 to $2,050. This is in 2020, and people are asking, how did they do that? And it’s not one thing. It’s not just one day. Katie did one thing and it changed everything. The main answer to every problem is networking. That is how she built this nonprofit. That’s where volunteers, sponsors, donors, board members, and friends have stemmed from her network. And so she always compares it to going to the gym. You can’t go to the gym once and work out and expect to be skinny. You can’t eat a salad once and wonder why you didn’t lose 20 pounds. Networking is the same thing. You can’t go to one network and expect everything to change. It just takes that one person to change everything but it’s very rare. The only time you go to a networking event, you have to consistently go and then you’ll find over time that things are blossoming. It’ll be like all of the sudden you’ve lost weight and you wonder when that happened. It’s a slow burn. And that’s kind of what it’s like with a nonprofit. You can’t always pinpoint the source, the exact day, or minute. But it’s a result of all the networking because the more you show up and the more people see your face, they get to know and trust you. Then they become friends because they’re probably entrepreneurs. Or you have something in common with other people networking. You’re not someone who sits in a cubicle from nine to five. Those aren’t people networking. So you may not have as much in common with those people. You develop these friendships and then they start hearing they meet other people and who say they are looking for a nonprofit for their company to be a sponsor of. Or they’re looking to volunteer more this year. They could also recognize you, but they’re not going to think of you first if you only show up once or twice. Katie networks almost every single day of the week, sometimes several times a day. And she always feels like giving up, but she forces herself to keep going because it’s so important. And she doesn’t see a lot of other nonprofits doing that. They may show up once or twice. She is consistently there, and it has benefited her team because of it. Katie is the first person that comes to mind when these companies are looking to engage with a nonprofit, whether it be volunteering, sponsoring, or just referring people.
The Importance Of Social Media With Nonprofits
Katie has been asked to teach graduate assistants in College social media sessions. And she’s had another huge nonprofit in town reach out to her for the same thing for their board. She’s finding this is being asked of her more and more. So she decided maybe she should just create a class. She felt really good that people are liking what they’re seeing. They want her to teach them what she is doing, and it’s not about having 20,000 followers. Katie realized it’s about the engagement she has with the followers that she does have. And that’s where people find out about things. No one will know what you’re doing unless you post about it. And if you post about it once, you’re not in anyone’s algorithm and you’re not on anyone’s feed. So she posts nonstop on her personal and nonprofit account. And in her Instagram story, everyone who follows her sees it the minute she posts. She is constantly posting and you can schedule this stuff out on social media calendars. She has a whole course on it now with a workshop as well. This is a two-hour class she has developed in the course. The first course is the lower-level stuff. And then by the third one, higher-level stuff, But if anyone is interested in just the one time, just socially, and that applies to all businesses, it’s not just nonprofits, she is available for that. Katie can do it virtually or come in and teach in-person to any business.
The first time I met Katie, I was always blown away by her passion. She puts herself into an area where she sees an opportunity to help. Katie wants to help people, whether it’s bicycles, going places, or anything. From nonprofit help in general to social media, she will put herself out there to help. I think she has some really good wisdom nuggets. So I just encourage people if they are listening, to reach out if you have questions on any of these things. Katie updates stuff in the course redoes lessons and adds additional videos constantly. She says, “Why reinvent the wheel? Let me just tell you exactly what to do”