To achieve success, you have to go through an incredible journey of ups and downs. And once you do, you feel humbled. I've realized the beauty of the American Dream is that once you've seen it, you start to think about ways to give back.
I've been fortunate to be part of three successful entrepreneurial journeys. And I've always believed the more you serve and give, the universe always returns the favor. I began my philanthropic journey by starting the BeProud Foundation, built on the premise that through awareness we can prevent future hate crimes in America.
Of course, getting a nonprofit up and running takes a lot of time, effort, and money. It's basically like another startup – except with a different kind of P&L. The greatest reward is the "change" you set out to create, which is more powerful than any financial profit you'll ever make in the business world.
BeProud took three months to launch, and our first public service announcement began airing today, integrated with a call to action on Facebook, my social platform Via.me and YouTube. If you are thinking about starting a foundation one day to give back, here are three things I learned along the way that may help you on your philanthropic journey.
Commitment is the first step. So many people want to do something when a tragedy happens. Given our busy lives, we tend to talk about it and then get preoccupied or distracted. That's why it's important to quickly take the first step and sketch out a plan. This can be the hardest part. It took me three sleepless nights to finally realize the only way something was going to happen was if I made this issue my problem -- and took the first step to do something about it.
Don't be afraid to ask everyone for help. I was shameless. I believed so much in the cause, I emailed everyone I knew from my Rolodex: celebrities, agents, friends, influencers, politicians, press -- everyone. The message had to be concise and offer specific ways they can get involved. In our case, we asked for their support through social media, and encouraged people to share their own reasons to "be proud" by uploading a YouTube video. Deepak Chopra and family members of Nelson Mandela are among the supporters.
Leverage social media – it's free. There are 2 billion people on the Internet today – that's as many as existed in the entire world in 1925. Connect with them. My premise for starting with social media was: If governments can be overthrown by the power of collective information, we can process change in social movements the same way. We started a grassroots effort to encourage volunteers to help spread the message globally. On Facebook alone we have close to 700 members that have joined the "Global Volunteers for BeProud" group. We also created a separate social media presence for BeProud on Facebook and Twitter.
Lastly, remember this: The fact that you're doing something with a greater purpose is a beautiful thing. No one can take that away from you. You're contributing to something greater than yourself. And, that's one of the proudest moments you'll have. I've also learned that life's biggest profit isn't a number; it's what you give back that inspires people. I hope with BeProud my journey is just the beginning.