“Young Entrepreneur Building a Better World With Nonprofit”
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John Jantsch (00:48): Hello.
John Jantsch (00:48): Welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jan, and my guest today is Camden Francis. He’s the founder and c e o of a nonprofit organization called Beyond the Crisis. It’s a few food distribution charity that’s distributed over $100,000 of food items to housing communities and homeless shelters across Massachusetts. I should also tell you that Camden is 18 years old. His nonprofit Beyond the Crisis landed him on the Drew Barrymore talk show, Bloomberg Radio podcast, numerous podcasts with npr, including All Things Considered. So we’re gonna talk about his entrepreneurial journey. So Camden, thanks for joining me.
Camden Francis (01:28): Thanks so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
John Jantsch (01:31): Well, I, I have to say you, you have a, you earned an honor. You are the youngest guest I think I’ve ever had on the show. Wow. I betcha I’m not the first person that’s told you that though. Oh, you’re, you’re pretty young to get started in accomplishment. It’s, yeah, yeah. It’s what you’ve accomplished at such a young age is newsworthy, so that’s why you’re making it on these shows. So let me, let me ask you about Beyond the Crisis, going back to when you started it, cuz I know you’ve been doing this for at this for a little while. What, I mean, what was it that led you to start, what, what made you say I need to do this thing?
Camden Francis (02:02): So it was really at the height of the pandemic. I’m very ambitious. I’m an entrepreneurial minded kid, but I really wanted to do something to help my community. So it was that combined with like entrepreneurship that really turned an idea into like a mobilization to really help families in need.
John Jantsch (02:20): Yeah. So talk a little bit about the start of it. Was it, you know, talk a little bit about the challenges. I mean, starting any entrepreneurial venture is a challenge. So what were some of the challenges? And then maybe kind of talk a little bit about the day-to-day what, what the organization actually does on a day-to-day basis.
Camden Francis (02:37): Yeah, so kind of during the, like the days of like founding this organization, I did it with my 13 year old brother. We were so young at the time. One of the things that we did was we got a mentor so we reached out. I have a great network. I’m very fortunate. My dad also is an entrepreneur himself, so that’s helpful. But I reached out to the CEO of Y M C A in Metro North region. Her name is Kathleen Walsh, she’s my mentor to date with the nonprofit. And that really helped us not fall into too many kind of pitfalls because like we kind of bootstrapped the organization, which means we self-funded it and with resources from a 13 year old and at the time I was 16. So it’s pretty amazing that today we’re able to distribute a hundred thousand dollars worth of food items. But it really goes to show you that kind of it you, if you put your mind to something and if you get the right partners in place, you really have good people behind you and a community that really can use your idea, it’s marketable and it can really help people then it can really go far.
John Jantsch (03:33): Yeah. So talk a little bit about the day-to-day, what, you know, what’s the actual function of the organization, how does it work?
Camden Francis (03:39): So day-to-day what we do is we kind of reach out to kind of housing communities and homeless shelters across Massachusetts that can really use kind of food items. So we kind of have them fill out surveys and they get back to us with kind of what they need. And usually we can fulfill those requirements because we also have sponsors in place. We have sponsors in a trustee board. The trustee board is what we took from like colleges. We saw colleges and universities. They have kind of dedicated donors like every month that really believed in the mission and the CO that they’re supporting. And we saw why can’t we do this at a nonprofit level? So that’s really helping us. But yeah, also our corporate spots is a really great, they’re kind of large kind of food brands and they kind of can help with the specific food donations necessary.
(04:24): But we have a great network. We’re kind of linked with kind of governors, congressmen. One of our most strategic donors right, is Jim McGovern, who’s kind of a huge advocate for kind of the US and global food insecurity, health and nutrition. And also we’re heavily involved at even a national level with the podcast outreach. I mean the media outreach that we’ve done. And we’re kind of also involved with the White House and helping them kind of strategically use some of our research because what we’ve found is we’re food distribution charity, which is pretty unique because we’ve found that there’s actually enough food to go around, but families lack access to available food elsewhere. And a lot of food right now is just getting wasted. So we have people on our team working with food recirculation, so kind of taking food from restaurants that isn’t really used and will go to waste and redistributing it to soup kitchens. And we have people on the ground who are drivers kind of delivering the food from point A to point B. And then we have the operations on the executive board who kind of handles the operations of the
John Jantsch (05:25): Organization. What was, I mean o obviously listening to you describe what you’ve accomplished really in a fairly short time. But when you were getting started, what was the hardest thing and and again, think of anybody starting any entrepreneurial venture, what was the hardest thing for you?
Camden Francis (05:39): I would say in the most humble manner, because I was so young, I knew that I didn’t have right the knowledge that a lot of 40 and 50 year old entrepreneurs had. And it wasn’t necessarily naive to say, but it was like the ability to kind of make mistakes that was really scary. It’s scary for entrepreneurs in general, right? They don’t always know if their idea’s gonna work out. But being at such a young age, you hear feedback from like other people in your inner circle, family and friends and there’s like, they’re like, yeah, right, like this isn’t gonna happen. But really seeing kind of the progress that we’ve made so far and saying really focused and present has really been a blessing for me, my brother and the other people around this organization and my family as a whole. So it’s great seeing it come together.
John Jantsch (06:26): Was there ever a time you felt like chucking it? It’s like why am I bothering, this is just too hard. I mean, I know what I was doing when I was 16, 17 years old, , there was a lot of other things that, you know, that I wanted to go do. I mean, did you ever have a moment where you just felt like, I just can’t do this anymore
Camden Francis (06:43): many times because it was really during the beginning that we, I’ve had that moment now, not so much because I see kind of what it’s doing for families, right? Who really could use and benefit from it. But during the beginning when like my friends kind of wanted to hang out constantly and some of the plans I couldn’t make, it was definitely hard to kind of make those sacrifices. But knowing that they paid off to date is really great. But yeah, I really, I did this nonprofit to learn about to, in addition to help people to learn about entrepreneurship as a whole. And I’m currently launching a, like a tech startup right now that’s even more kind of, I would say interesting and almost unique.
John Jantsch (07:24): Awesome. So would you say you are, you hinted at this a little bit, talking about how in some ways you were so young that you didn’t know what you didn’t know and you weren’t afraid to like ask because you weren’t maybe embarrassed by, you know, by not knowing. Would you say that your youth or your age has been a help or a challenge or both?
Camden Francis (07:45): It’s definitely allowed me a platform, right? To really kind of tell my story to uh, kind of communicate what I’ve done and what I plan to do and kind of how I plan to continue to help families in need. That’s really the main goal of the organization and it’s really important with nonprofits to just really stay focused on the goal. Why are you doing it and how can it help people? But being so young in the beginning, I really wasn’t taking seriously, I was sending so many emails they were getting bounced back, rejected, rescinded ghosts. But yeah, it really kind of gave me perseverance and it’s good to be young and kind of have developed these skill sets early on. So when you’re older you kind of have this knowledge, you have skillsets developed and you can really kind of make an even bigger difference because that’s what I plan to
John Jantsch (08:31): Dos. So was there also, I talked, I asked you if there was time you felt like quitting. Was there also that moment or like one day that you remember, you know, maybe you got some buddy to say yes, you know what where you, where you said yourself, this might actually just make it.
Camden Francis (08:46): Yeah, I, for us, really one of the greatest days for us is kind of being on the Drew Barmore show and being able to tell our story mainstream in front of a live audience and have it also make national coverage on c V s. And that was kind of like a breaking point because at that point we kind of had an audience, we, we had listeners, we got volunteer opportunities from that, more donors, we had partner opportunities. I had the ability to network with even um, more powerful influential people such as CEOs of companies. You name it like governors. It was, yeah, it was a really kind of, when I look back at it, it was a almost gonna be a core memory probably in my experience as a young entrepreneur. But yeah, there it’s been a rollercoaster ride
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John Jantsch (10:31): What would you say, and I think you’ve already hinted at this, but I’m gonna ask you anyway, has been the most rewarding thing about doing this, putting in the work?
Camden Francis (10:39): I would say the most, yeah, the most rewarding thing for me was kind of doing it with my younger brother. We’re so close, we’ve gained so much knowledge about entrepreneurship and just having him as a partner. You know, we’re very close and eventually kind of when our parents kind of pass us on the baton, it’s really great to have like a best friend who you can trust and who you can bounce ideas with, idea with and just grow together. And I would say that’s definitely one of the best things for me.
John Jantsch (11:10): Yeah, that’s awesome. So I think I read this somewhere, your college bound?
Camden Francis (11:19): I am, yeah. So I currently applied waiting to hear back. I applied to a select number of colleges, a few Ivys, Vanderbilt over in Tennessee. I applied to Duke, so like top, top colleges and I’m playing to, I study either entrepreneurship or finance. So yeah, it’s exciting waiting to hear back, but
John Jantsch (11:38): So what does that mean? Assuming you’re gonna go off, what does that mean for the organization?
Camden Francis (11:43): Yeah, so right now because of how we run the organization, a lot of our kind of staff are virtual and we have a really great volunteer base. But we’re planning to grow the organization super organically. And what that’s gonna allow us to do is kind of just keep growing at small and steady rates and keep making a small impact. When I’m in college, we’re probably not going to grow and scale anymore, but we know that we can kind of retain what we have and continue to help like a specific number of families, which we’ve already kind of kind of assessed and worked through. So
John Jantsch (12:17): Yeah, so that was my next question was, you know, what’s the vision for the future for the organization? But it sounds to me like you almost want to take where you are now and just get better at doing what you’re doing
Camden Francis (12:27): Exactly. But we also have vision for the future. We really wanna stay focused, stay present, but we really want to turn it into a family foundation to kind of establish a a long lasting legacy of giving and have something in the family where either I can donate time or resources to my brother or kind of even maybe 10 years down the road, who knows if the organization’s still gonna be running, but kind of having this be like a family thing. Like the Francis family founded this and this is what we do, here’s our impact and kind of this is our legacy. So that’s the play.
John Jantsch (13:01): So little bro, you’re ceo, is that it now?
Camden Francis (13:04): Yeah, I think I’m gonna give my brother some of the reigns for sure. I’ll definitely be on call helping out. It’s great kind of with Zoom and Google Meet and all these apps, right? You can kind of do conferencing like we’re doing now. But yeah, I think that I’ll just kind of keep it small, keep it manageable, that’s really kind of the main thing.
John Jantsch (13:22): So are you able to talk about the tech startup that you’re working
Camden Francis (13:25): On? There’s a lot of disclosure around it, but I can give a few specific kind of details and really what I’ll go into, I’m not gonna go into the design aspect of it because it’s very, but we’re gonna almost our kind of like partner or the organization, our main competitor is gonna be LinkedIn and we’re gonna make this app almost like kind of how Facebook started it around college campuses. LinkedIn is, it’s a great app, but I’m finding that it’s hard to find internships on the, on the app. It’s hard to find job opportunities, especially for really young, talented, um, individuals and students out of college, right out of college. So by making a platform that’s very user-friendly and allowing it to be college-based, have students kind of make groups and be able to kind of establish whether that be like whatever groups, life groups, fitness groups, stuff like that.
(14:19): And in addition, it would be a great networking app, which is also, which also allows students to kind of not just waste mindless hours on social media, but kind of use social media to kind of allow themselves to impact their futures and really kind of create core connections. And then with that corporations, right, we can go on our app and they’ll pay us like a fee, a costing fee, but over time, right? If we get corporations, large corporations, there’s so many of them costing fee or if you have their fee, the retention there is going to be pretty great. And also if we kind of get, get a user base right when these users grow up, it could be the next big app because they’re gonna already know how to use it, they’re gonna be familiar with it, these college students, then they’re gonna get maybe older thirties, forties, then their kids are gonna also be familiar with it. So it’s a great time to launch something like this.
John Jantsch (15:07): Awesome. So here’s the hardest question I’ll save for last. Do you see yourself as an inspiration be seen as such?
Camden Francis (15:13): I’m so humble that I’m really trying to grow my skillset, grow my mindset, stay concentrated, stay focused, and in the future who knows where life will take me. But as of right now, I’m so grateful for the work I’ve done so far and I’m very motivated. It’s great kind of to have motivation when I wake up in the morning, I’m excited, I’m ready to go. And that’s just, it’s great. It’s really great and I’m super blessed for it. But eventually I plan to kind of keep growing my platform too.
John Jantsch (15:45): Are you a reader?
Camden Francis (15:47): I am, yes.
John Jantsch (15:48): Yes. So, so where, what books does give us your top three or four latest reads that you think everybody ought to
Camden Francis (15:55): Read? Yeah, off the top of my head, I think I might have a few of ’em listed somewhere. Hold on one sec. Sure. Sorry about the delay here. I just, off the top of my head, hard to remember. Okay. So How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. That’s on my list.
John Jantsch (16:14): That book’s older than Me even. Yeah,
Camden Francis (16:17): great book. It’s a Relic, the lead startup Crushing it by Gary Vaynerchuk. And then I also am big into podcasts, so I look at kind of the Harvard Business Review and kind of how this was made podcast and a few other podcasts such as that. But yeah, I’m a big reader. I love to kind of learn and that’s kind of how I ideate how I get these ideas, how I network big part of. Awesome.
John Jantsch (16:41): Awesome. So Camden, tell people, is there someplace you’d wanna invite people to check out beyond the Crisis or obviously any way to connect with you personally?
Camden Francis (16:50): Yeah, sure. So I have LinkedIn, a Camden Francis, uh, you could go check me out there. I’d love to connect. I’d love to answer questions regarding the organization, what I do, and also be on the crisis’s website. Go check this out. www.beyondthecrisis.org. Everything’s up there. Yeah.
John Jantsch (17:06): Awesome. Well, Camden, I appreciate you taking a few moments to stop by the Duct Tape Marketing podcast and good luck wherever your next ventures Legion. Maybe we’ll run into you one of these days out there on the road.
Camden Francis (17:16): Yeah, maybe. So thanks again for having me. It’s a pleasure.
John Jantsch (17:29): Hey, and one final thing before you go. You know how I talk about marketing strategy, strategy before tactics? Well, sometimes it can be hard to understand where you stand in that, what needs to be done with regard to creating a marketing strategy. So we created a free tool for you. It’s called the Marketing Strategy Assessment. You can find it it @ marketingassessment.co. check out our free marketing assessment and learn where you are with your strategy today. That’s just marketing assessment.co. I’d love to chat with you about the results that you get.
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