Make Creativity Your Angel Investor

9 Tips from the Directors of Living On One

“Over a billion people around the world live on a dollar a day”, said Chris Temple, “and we couldn’t understand how someone could [do] that.”  But when he and co-founder Zach Ingrasci set out to impact the problem, a different financial hardship nearly stopped them. “We got rejected by nine different sources of funding”, said Zach.

I caught-up with Zach and Chris for an interview shortly before their appearance on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose. The two Executive Directors and Co-Founders took time-out from their twenty-five city, sold out, film premiere of Living On One, a documentary film and project to raise awareness, increase engagement, and impact people living on one dollar a day or less.

Don’t Let Fear Stand in the Way

“We didn’t get the funding until a month before [going to Guatemala]”, said Zach.  They had just about given up and so had friends and family.  “They said they had supported me, [but] they never thought it was actually going to happen,” added Chris.

But that didn’t dissuade them.  With only a portion of their budget covered, the two Claremont Mckenna College students boldly forged ahead.  “It was a risk,” said Chris, “but this path is highly rewarding. If you have that spark, that opportunity of the moment, don’t let fear stand in the way”.

Start Despite Not Knowing Everything

“We started off truly not knowing how to make a film,” added Zach.  “But the documentaries we were seeing were [what we call] ‘Poverty Porn’.” And the two were convinced there was a better way.  “We wanted to show more of the dignity of the poor [and] how innovative people could be.  But also the problem as well: a better balance.”

So they planned to live for eight weeks in a rural Guatemalan village on $1 per day.

Sharing Breeds Sustainability

“A lot of times people try to go it alone, and especially for students, it’s useful to find someone and create a shared vision.  That’ll allow you to be more sustainable and find how you can create a career out of this,” said Chris.  “Alone, it’s pretty hard to push something that is unique, different, and pushes the limits,” added Zach.

Excite Your Peers to Prove Demand

And they interacted with their audience as well.  “We wanted to bring our peers along in a unique way,” said Zach.  Each week, they posted a video from Guatemala.  They let users ask questions and they answered them in the following week’s video.  “These short three-minute videos got 600,000 views on YouTube and it proved to us that there was a really powerful story here, and [that] it was being done in a unique way.”

Just Go for It

After planning for eleven months, “we had about a third of our budget… and we just decided to go for it,” explained Zach.  It created a “sense of urgency” that later became a critical part of their success.

When the two got home, “we started leveraging [our 600,000 views] to get mentors,” said Zach.  Charles Tsai helped them do a TED talk in Buenos Aires.  The result:  “We had an incredible reaction… and we kept running with it.”

Leverage Momentum to Gain Allies

Next, the two paired with a Stanford University professor to teach an online class in microfinance and impact investing that’s live-streamed to seventy-five campuses.  “No one is getting credit for [the course], but interest in the class [alone] is getting people to take it,” noted Chris.

Their authenticity and unique point of view fueled further momentum and enticed industry veterans to support their effort.  “It let us build a team around us… of pretty powerful people in [media]”, said Zach.  “We’ve been on this national film tour in 25 major cities in the US.  And to see 300 people cram a 200 person auditorium to watch this film about poverty is so encouraging to us.”

Impact is 2-way

While in Guatemala, two locals helped the team manage their money and overcome obstacles, sharing meals now and then.   “Had we not become very close with them, [the story] wouldn’t be anything close to what it was,” highlighted Zach, “it really wasn’t our story, it was their story.”  And their relationship left a lasting impression.  “[I have] a much deeper physical and mental respect for what so many people around the world go through and born out of that is an inspiration, desire, and a need to give back,” said Chris.

Dive Deep

And while many might have chosen lower cost online distribution, Chris and Zach decided to dive deep.  “We decided we could get this [film] to really big audiences, eventually through distribution,” said Zach, “when you [distribute] online… you lose out on that.”

With the tour, they built excitement at the grass-roots level that blossomed into even more support. “The communications firm, Weber Shandwick, generously offered pro-bono support from their teams in every city that we went to.”  “Over 5,000 people viewed the film on the tour, [and we’ve received] thirty-six million media impressions,” and that didn’t even include their appearance on CBS This Morning.

Embrace Creativity

In this economic downturn, students “have had to become very creative with what they do,” said Zach, and “it’s allowing people who are very intelligent do something different with their lives.” “All this momentum around social entrepreneurship, especially around the younger audience… it is really different now.”

“We have plans to end the tour in Guatemala this spring,” said Chris, so “please continue to interact with us on facebook and twitter.”

Kevin Owyang

Where I went to high school, “From those to whom much has been given, much will be expected” was a constant reminder from teachers and the very walls on which those words were emblazoned. Then I went to MIT. And, in time I would have responsibility for a $3.0 Billion book of business and play an instrumental role in raising $250 Million in venture funding. And through that I would learn the world has two standards of ethics – one for business and one for everything else. In many ways that was the first chapter of a journey that took me to today. Now, I just spend every moment spreading the word that Giving Back is the coolest, best way to spend your time. To read my whole story visit: Thanks!

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