Erin Smith is a philanthropist and entrepreneur who lives in Weston, Florida. Erin was born in Santa Monica, California, and moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at a young age. She attended and graduated from South Plantation High School. Erin has been married to Thomas “Tommy” Smith for about two decades, and they have four children together.
Erin Smith is a philanthropist who volunteers for a variety of community events and philanthropic projects, particularly in and around Weston, Florida. In addition to their commitment as parents in school-related and extracurricular activities, she and her husband have made numerous donations to the Broward County School system. Erin has donated to the JT Reading Room, which helps youngsters improve their literacy abilities and raise their chances of academic achievement. Erin has helped collect money for the fight against breast cancer and has given to Cancer.org on a regular basis. Her work with Project We Care is the most notable of her accomplishments.
Erin Smith co-founded Project We Care with her daughter Riley, a family-based non-profit organization dedicated to serving the needs of veterans. Erin assists local veterans in assessing their needs and providing them with necessities such as food, clothing, and household products by meeting with them and working with others engaged with the Veterans Administration Subsidized Housing program. She contributes to the creation of warm and welcoming homes for these brave men and women. Erin Smith also attempts to instill a sense of charity in her children by volunteering with a variety of organizations in the Weston, Florida area, including Lifenet for Families, Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center, and Habitat for Humanity.
Where did the idea for Project We Care come from?
The idea for Project We Care came to me during a time when I was volunteering at the VA Subsidized Housing program. One morning, just after I had dropped off some food and toiletries to one of the veteran’s homes, my daughter Riley came with me. When we got back into the car, she asked why I hadn’t brought any food over for their pets (since they were staying in an apartment). That’s when it occurred to me that this family probably didn’t have enough food for themselves let alone their dogs! After several years of partnering with this organization and making sure that our veterans are taken care of both medically and by providing them with necessities like groceries, clothing, household items etc., I knew there was a way we could make their lives better and help them out even more.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day is mostly responding to emails and phone calls, as well as working with our sponsors, donors and volunteers. I try to be as efficient as possible with my time so that I can still be personally involved in things like picking up groceries for our veterans. Not to mention, four kids who keep me pretty busy!
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring ideas to life by talking about them! I’m definitely extroverted by nature, which helps a lot when it comes to running a charity and getting others involved. So I’ve found that talking my ideas out, especially with others, is the best way for me to work out details and be more creative. Once an idea is solidified, I begin the process of finding those who are interested in being a part of the project.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One trend that excites me is how so many people are now giving back to their communities. When I was young it wasn’t very common for individuals to volunteer at soup kitchens or homeless shelters like they do now.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
My ability to multi task! I imagine myself in a plate spinning act but with ideas and tasks. In a good way, though. I find it exhilarating. I always make sure to set aside time for my family though. I try to get the most important things done when my kids are in school or having after-school activities so that when they get home, we can spend time together.
What advice would you give your younger self?
My advice to myself would be to learn how to say no! I’m always afraid of letting people down by not being able to help them with their projects. I try to help everyone and am pretty good at it, but sometimes I need to put my foot down and realize that saying no is ok. You have to realize too that if you say “Yes” to everything, in the end you are doing a disservice to yourself and others because you aren’t going to be able to do your best for everything all the time.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Though it may not be popular, I believe that animals are just as capable of feeling emotions and pain as human beings.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I network! Whether it’s in person or online (which everyone should definitely be doing), networking has helped connect me with like-minded individuals which has led to great opportunities for Project We Care. It also helps me meet new people who are interested in making our veterans lives better.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Project We Care’s growth can be attributed to our sponsorship system. I made the decision early on to only provide services through donations, while keeping individual expenses low so that whatever was donated could go almost directly to the veterans themselves. This way, potential donors are more likely to give because they know what their money is going towards.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest failure as an entrepreneur was not having a business plan. I pretty much started Project We Care on the fly, and spent the first few years figuring out how to run it most efficiently. Keeping records has also been difficult because of my busy schedule; but now that things are more organized, I hope to be able to expand our programs even further!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’m very passionate about supporting veterans. If I had more time (and money), I would love to build support housing with various service providers who could help them with their unique needs. Many veterans suffer with PTSD or other mental health issues which can make it difficult for them just to find employment
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I spent recently was on a bunch of fruit for my children at a local farmers market. It wasn’t a very big purchase, but it made them really happy and reminded me that sometimes the little things can make people feel special!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use a lot of Google Apps and several productivity tools (Evernote, Trello). Facebook and Twitter also help me stay connected.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a book I recommend because it teaches people to follow their dreams and persevere no matter what. It’s a great inspiration for anyone, especially those who want to help others!
What is your favorite quote?
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” – Confucius
- If you say yes to everything, you may not be able to do your best for every project.
- Networking is very important because it connects you with people who can help your business grow faster!
- Be sure to have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish before jumping into something big like starting a business.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.