Try everything and pursue all opportunities.”
Evan Robbins is a social studies teacher at Metuchen High School in New Jersey where he has been teaching since 1997. In 2006, in conjunction with his students, he created the Breaking the Chain club. The project has worked to rescue trafficked children in the fishing industry in Ghana, West Africa. In 2011 Breaking the Chain Through Education Foundation (BTCTE) was established as a registered 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to eradicating child slavery in Ghana, Africa. BTCTE works to rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate children who have been trafficked; support and improve their access to education; ensure their continued safety, health and security; and provide seed money and micro-grants to their families to lessen the grip of poverty and help stop the cycle of trafficking.
Where did the idea for come from?
My involvement started in 2006 after I read an article in The New York Times about a young boy, then six — at the time, the same age as my daughter Maya — who had been trafficked into slavery on a fishing boat. I brought the issue to my senior politics class. They explored regions where children are trafficked, including Sudan, where children are enslaved as soldiers, and parts of Asia, where girls in particular are forced into brothels.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I am a social studies teacher at Metuchen High School and work on Breaking the Chain Through Education with my students during the day and others in the evening. The old expression holds true “if you want something done ask a busy person”.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have found that with Breaking the Chain Through Education involving the community and inspiring large groups of people to help as the best way to bring an idea to life. I have also learned from the previous year and made improvements.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
My first fundraising dinner had 150 people and the next two years we were up to 175. This year we will be over 250 people attending our event. We have also doubled the amount of money that we raised each year.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m willing to experiment and try new ideas. While at the same time being conservative in my spending. I want to make sure that I’m able to fulfill my commitments and that I don’t over commit.
What advice would you give your younger self?
To have faith that everything will work out.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
That I actually find time to sleep.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Run ideas by others and be open to their ideas.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Try everything and pursue all opportunities.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Events have not worked and we have had poor attendance at times. We worked to see what went wrong and how we can fix it the next year.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Breaking the Chain Through Education is a non-profit dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and reintegrating trafficked children in Ghana. We believe in working to make the world a better place.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I have worked with our organization to increase the amount we give our children to pay for lunch and other expenses. This has enabled them to live a better life.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
E-Tapestry by Blackbaud. This keeps track of all of our donors and helps communication with our customers.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Half the Sky it talks about the issues facing women around the world in the 21st century.
What is your favorite quote?
It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
- You have to go with your gut. When I work with someone and I just don’t feel right about it I listen to my gut and stop. If I have a good feeling then I go ahead.
- Check with people you trust before making big decisions and listen to their advice. Helps if they are outside the organization.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.