Have a Great Idea for a Social Venture but Need Funding? Learn from Trash to Treasure’s Success!

The NewDay Challenge application due date is fast approaching. This year, $30,000 is up for grabs for your socially innovative ventures! To give you a better idea of the potential ways that your venture could benefit from this funding, I thought it would be best to find out from last year’s NewDay Challenge winners themselves, a venture most of you have probably heard of as they blazed onto the scene this past year: Trash to Treasure!
“The NewDay Challenge was the springboard that allowed Trash to Treasure to take off. Its a rare opportunity that students (who don’t even have real credit scores yet) are given thousands of dollars to try out their socially minded entrepreneurial ideas. We had this idea of a program that could massively reduce waste during campus move-in and move-out, but how would we get it off the ground? Collection bins and trucks and storage spaces rack up massive bills that no person in their right mind would foot on their own. Many programs like Trash to Treasure take a few years to get out of the red and start making money, time that four year students don’t have.
“The NewDay challenge was our goal from the beginning: if we could receive seed funding, we knew we could pull off the collections and fall sale. We looked at many funding sources, New Orleans and nationally based. NewDay funding was by far the most accessible as well as the best fit for our project. We had our hearts riding on NewDay. I vividly remember the week that winners were announced. The team was sleep deprived from hours of editing and tweaking the proposal. I remember the morning before winners were announced, feeling so uncertain if we were “good” enough to get support. We had a well developed plan and a solid team, but everyone has their internal moments of doubt.
“We were through the ceiling ecstatic and relieved when we were given 10 thousand dollars of seed funding. After all, the program was going to start in 3 weeks and we hadn’t bought any supplies yet. Once we had the money, we hit the ground running. Our first purchases were these giant green fabric collection bins called bagsters, tape guns, sharpies, and our volunteer favorite: sweet bro tanks. Our biggest purchases were the 3 summer storage units and the trucks to pick up the items. Having a fully planned out budget allowed us to anticipate all costs, planned and unplanned. We left around one thousand as a buffer for any unexpected unfortunate events.
“If I had to do the NewDay application again, this is what I would tell myself. Find a group of people who share your passion, and find them now! Starting large scale projects require dedication and more man hours than you ever expect it to. Finding your partners in crime before you start the application process allows you to grow the idea as a team, rather than forcing your pet project on your friends later down the road. Ownership of the project is critical for any team.
“I would also tell myself to be confident. People along the way will tell you no. They will tell you it can’t be done, they will tell you they aren’t able to help you. They are lying, its not that they aren’t able to help, you just haven’t sent them enough emails, or waited outside their office door to get them to believe in your idea and your persistence. Which leads me to my next piece of advice. Get a suit or some nice clothes if you plan on meeting with people who work in offices. Assume that all respect and trust of your partners is earned, not given. We prepped before every meeting, making sure we had specific requests and answers to all their doubts and questions.
“I’m sure this all sounds like a lot, which leads me to my last piece of advice. You can and you will do this. There will be hurdles along the way, but if you’re willing to get up when you stumble and willing to ask those around you for help, you will see results. We began as a group of three students working on a business model canvas in the Changemaker Institute, and now we have expanded our team to more than 12 members and have had help from over 100 volunteers from the Tulane Student body. People want to see a change in the worl. People want to help you change the world. Your idea is that chance to change the world!
​”Trash to Treasure would not exist without the NewDay challenge. We would not have been able to divert thousands of pounds of items from the trash. We would not have been able to become completely sustainable within our fist year. We would not have been able to donate over 5 thousand dollars to charity after the first sale. Which makes us wonder, how many other great ideas are floating around the Tulane campus that could bloom with the help of NewDay? Only one way to find out- time to take your idea to the table!”
This year’s NewDay Challenge application deadline is March 15th, 2015. For more information and application guidelines, click here.