There isn’t a single thing in the world that doesn’t involve just doing it; eating better, learning a new language, traveling, etc. You just have to ask for input and start from the beginning.

 

Monica Weintraub hails from Phoenix, Arizona, where she has temporarily moved back to after living in China for the last seven years. Monica is the founder of donation subscription platform, Down to Donate, where she hopes to increase nonprofits’ low recurring donor base while simultaneously educating her generation about the world’s pressing issues through a crowdfunding-meets-subscription based platform. Her longterm vision is to create the world’s most extensive network of philanthropists, while helping each of Down to Donate’s 15 nonprofit partner organizations receive $10,000 every month.

Prior to Down to Donate, Monica founded her first startup in the ESL industry at the age of 23, which is currently in the acquisition process. Monica’s writings and photographs have been featured in various outlets such as CNN, Elite Daily, Inc.com, and SheKnows.

When Monica’s not at her laptop, she can be found looking for new countries to visit, new foods to try, new drinks to drink, and lots of dogs to pet.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

Out of frustration mostly. I had worked in the nonprofit sector before and had experienced first-hand what it’s like to ask people for donations, let alone what it’s like to ask them to be a monthly donor. At that time, monthly donors weren’t even a big thing. Then of course, after the 2016 election, most people took to social media to complain about the political system not working in their favor, yet they weren’t donating to the nonprofits who had the influence, knowledge, and experience to make change happen, and people were likely not voting.

Once I started thinking about how both of the lack of these actions were affecting politics, I learned about some bigger problems; A nonprofit’s support base is made up of less than 10% of recurring donations. In a world of Netflix and other subscription services, this seemed easily preventable.

There’s a good amount of us who have a tiny bit to spare, and you can’t really fight against the youth. We’re a force to be reckoned with, especially when we work together, which is why we think our small goal of 20,000 subscribers is achievable.

The follow-up issue is that my generation really does love to give back and support brands in the social good space like TOMS and the like. They just kind of need someone to do that vetting process for them. Which is where the crowdfunding-meets-subscription style platform I’ve developed comes from.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

From September 2017 to September 2018 I was developing Down to Donate. This entailed copywriting, SEO, branding, creating partnerships with nonprofits, budgeting, creating a pitch deck, writing a business plan, social media, designing the website, getting licensed, photoshoots, video shoots, logo design, UX/UI development, researching, and a million tiny things no one tells you about when starting a business. This was the fun part for me. I’d happily work 15 hours a day.

Now that my business has launched, I have taken on an entirely different role. For the last year all I wanted was for my site to be live, now I wish I could back to building the foundation instead of marketing it.

We’re a two-person team. Just my cofounder and myself. So now, my days can look anything like this:

Coffee and a podcast
Catch up on emails
Brainstorm marketing ideas
Meetings with our partner nonprofits
Pitching potential new partners
Get distracted by memes
Gym
Lunch
Brainstorm with my co-founder
Write investment pitches
Event planning

I don’t really have a set schedule. Anything could come up, and it can often be hard to prioritize different tasks when you’re such a small team. It’s hard to stay relevant with how much content is put out daily. You wonder how you can keep up and not get left in the dust.

How do you bring ideas to life?

You just have to do it and not let the naysayers get in your head. This, of course, is easier said than done. You have to do it one step at a time, even if you don’t know the steps or their order.

I, personally, am used to not being in my comfort zone and taking risks. I think the biggest setback in bringing ideas to life is that a lot of people fear competition or rejection. To me, competition is a good thing, and rejection helps you to navigate better solutions. It lets you know there is an existing market for your idea. With some solid branding and passion, there is a good chance you can make your product better than your competition. How else would there be identical services like Lyft and Uber or Netflix and Hulu? There is always room for improvement.

There isn’t a single thing in the world that doesn’t involve just doing it; eating better, learning a new language, traveling, etc. You just have to ask for input and start from the beginning.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I am biased because I’m in the space, but social good is exciting. I love seeing both corporations and small businesses take action and bring awareness to different causes and nonprofits. It’s an easy trade-off; buy a product, help a kid get glasses or have a percentage of your purchase go towards gun safety awareness. There is so much happening in the social good space that makes it easy for us to be aware of what’s going on in the world.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I’d say I’m good at adapting and being honest with myself. Reid Hoffman has a well-known quote that states, “An entrepreneur is someone who will jump off a cliff and assemble an airplane on the way down.”

It’s exactly that. I am thrown curve balls regularly, but thinking quick helps a lot. This is a trait my co-founder has as well, which allows us to bounce ideas off of each other and then almost even one-up each other with an even better idea. I am the founder of my business, but I have to be honest with myself when someone has a great idea that could make it better. I have to be honest with myself that I absolutely do not have all the answers, and more importantly that I don’t have to have all of the answers.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t be lazy. It’s not often that incredible things fall into your lap. The most successful people in the world did have a tiny bit of luck to help them gain their reputations, but that luck wouldn’t have come if they didn’t work hard.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I call it the Famous or Failing Theory. And that’s that people only care if you’re one or the other. If your business doesn’t do well, it almost satisfies people. If you’re having incredible success, everyone wants to be your friend and support you. There’s no in between. Very rarely will people reach out when you start a new project and say they’re excited for you. They will reach out if it’s failed, or if it’s become a household name.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Listening to podcasts or reading books about people’s journeys into entrepreneurship has helped me through my darkest days. Being a founder requires so much discipline. No one tells you what to do or how to do it. I still have no idea what I’m doing, so listening to other successful people share their version of getting there helps me navigate that road and keeps me motivated.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Down to Donate admittedly is about .01% of where I want it to be. What I do know is that people value transparency and feeling a connection to brands they love. I’d say storytelling and showcasing who we are as business owners are the best strategy to retain and get new customers. Hiding behind customer support and not being accessible to your users could be the downfall of any business.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I’d say my biggest failure is glamorizing being an entrepreneur and choosing the wrong people to work with because of that. I started my first business at 23 while living in China. I was just so excited to say I was a business owner that I forgot what it meant to have a good, reliable, and passionate team. I understand now that who you work with on projects needs to be someone you could work for. Meaning someone you respect, and someone you can learn from.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I’d love to see the use of QR codes be better implemented into how Americans spend. China is ahead of the game when it comes to P2P and business transactions through apps like Alipay and WeChat. They truly have come up the fastest and easiest way to send and receive money, no matter where you are or what you do. This could solve massive problems in the US for both businesses and people. Bitcoin is closing in on this, but not with the quickness Alipay and WeChat have tackled it.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

My AirPods are my favorite purchase of the year. They’re just over $100, but they really help me disconnect on a flight or at the gym. I understand Bluetooth headphones are not revolutionary, but the fact that it feels like nothing is there makes it so easy to get lost in music, books, or podcasts and step away from what’s causing me stress.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

The majority of what I do these days is email marketing, and I am by no means an expert at it. For over a year I was using Newton (RIP) which helped me track who was reading my emails and how frequently. This made it easy to send a follow-up and let the reader know that I know they read it three times. It’s a little creepy, but it leaves them usually no excuse not to respond. Since the loss of Newton, I’ve just switched to Polymail, which is significantly more expensive, but so important for people who need to track emails.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Whether or not you identify as a woman, #GIRLBOSS is a must. I read this book after following the Nasty Gal journey since about 2011 and have always been a huge fan of Sophia’s. About six months after reading it is when I started my first business. It was so empowering and showed that what people believed you had to do to start a successful company could be entirely disrupted by a younger generation that typically doesn’t have a plan. We just go where our business takes us.

What is your favorite quote?

Constraint creates creativity.

Key learnings:

  • As a founder, there is no such thing as a typical day, and you will regularly wear many hats that you didn’t even know you were capable of wearing.
  • Bringing ideas to life is one of the most challenging and questionable things you can do, but once your ideas become a reality, the reward outweighs all of the second-guessing.
  • Be honest with yourself. If there’s something you can’t do, ask for help. If you’re unsure of one of your ideas, ask for input.
  • Recognize when you’re being lazy or not feeling motivated. Listen to or read about people who felt that way during their entrepreneurial journeys and find out how they overcame that.
  • Work with people who motivate you and people you can learn from, even if they’re lower on the chain of command than you.

Connect:

www.downtodonate.com
Instagram: @_downtodonate
Twitter: @_downtodonate