How Nate St. Pierre Has Made A Business Out Of Changing The World

by Tim Jahn on September 3, 2010

I truly admire folks that seek to make a difference in this world.  Especially those that have found a way to support themselves doing so.

Nate St. Pierre is one of those people.  A while back, while leading a web team at a big company in Milwaukee, he participated in a leadership workshop.  One of the questions was “Next year, I will….”  Nate wrote down “change the world.”  His idea of changing the world 15 minutes at a time became ItStartsWith.Us.

Transcript

Nate St. Pierre:

I am Nate St. Pierre and the founder of ItStartsWith.Us. I started this probably I think it was, I wrote my first blog post in like April of 2009. I’m bad with dates, but I think that’s when it was. And this is just a worldwide group of people who spend 15 minutes a week making a difference in the lives of the people around them. It’s a very simple concept.

That’s what it started as. And since then, it’s grown very fast and very big. And I think we probably have, I think we have 3,500 people in about 100 countries right now. And we all do this and we all do it together.

So we all work together at the same time and we do things on an individual level to reach out into our own lives. And then sometimes we come together and use our collective power to do something good as well. Now, we have a spin-off of ItStartsWith.Us called, Love Bomb which is where if somebody’s going though a really tough time in their lives, death of a friend or depression or something like that and they talk about it on their blog, we have the Love Bomb team which once a week will select one person like this and on Thursday will drop a Love Bomb on them.

Hundreds and hundreds of comments all at once from people who have been there and done that, and been through it enough for help and advice and support and encouragement and love. And it takes five minutes out of your week and you can literally change a life. The results from that are astounding. The stories you hear are incredible.

Tim Jahn:

What motivated you to start this?

Nate St. Pierre:

I was leading a web team, a team of designers and developers for a big company here in Milwaukee. And I was working hard at that and my family stuff and whatever. And I decided that it’s about time I work hard and give something back and do something a little bigger. And I was in a workshop, like a leadership seminar thing at work where it was very much what are your talents, and strengths, and passions, and hobbies, and what do you care about?

And then there was another section, kind of like what are you going to do about it? And it said, “Next year, I will…” and I had to fill it in by hand and write. So I wrote for 20 minutes and I came back and looked at it and I said, “Next year, I will change the world” and then a bunch of other stuff I don’t remember, right. But I remember that.

And I thought about it for a long time, like four or five months or so. And then I came back and decided, I can’t do it alone. But if I can build a team that will engage in fun, easy, effective ways to do good, people will jump on board. And it looks like they have. So that’s pretty cool.

Tim Jahn:

So you were working, leading a web team at a big company and you were at a leadership thing, and you filled out – it just kind of came to mind, I want to change the world. But what made you actually act on it?

Nate St. Pierre:

Well, I’ve been yelled at for years by professors, and teachers, and friends, and family to stop wasting my time and live up to my potential. I’ve always had high potential but pretty much I use my talent and skill to coast and to stay under the radar and have nobody bother me. See, leave me alone, right. Don’t bother. That’s the kind of guy that – this is my work hat. When I have this on, don’t – yeah, don’t bother me, I’m working.

But you know, I was 30 at the time, just turned 30 and I thought, I’m actually going to try to live up to this potential they’ve been talking about and give and do something worthwhile, and see what happens. So I just kind of made the decision that I was going to commit to doing something. Didn’t know exactly what but I figured out I would do it. And this is kind of how it all came together. So it’s what I decided to do.

And I have, I mean, the rewards I’ve gotten from this, I’ve changed over the last year, I’m a better person now, I know that. Like you can’t help but be when you start helping other and you see all the touch points that they have with other people and you start making conduits for people to use their own lives for good. It matters. I mean, the stories I see every week it’s just, they floor me. So the small things that I do to organize it, you know, the effort that that takes is far less in comparison to the value that we all get out of this project. So I’m happy to do it.

Tim Jahn:

And it’s all just one weekly email with an action. I mean, that’s the base of this?

Nate St. Pierre:

That’s all. Yeah, there’s no ads, there’s no affiliate links. There’s nothing. Like I don’t make money from doing this. I’m starting to branch off into business now because I’ve had so many large organizations come to me and say, “How can we implement this in our company?”

So I’ve started a business end where I built out a business model or a system for large organizations to use to mobilize their internal people in the same concept. So I’ve built all the tools that I use to control this and I give to them. And I add them to my network and I consult with them and I figure what they want to get out of it and how they can make it applicable for their own business.

So like for instance, if you’re a restaurant because I have a lot of contacts in the restaurant industry. So if you’re Applebee’s for instance and you have 100 stores participating in the ItStartsWith.Us program that you’ve set up through me, then the mission for the week can be, “Okay guys, take one of your regulars or someone – take one of you’re regulars who comes in and find a way this week to make them feel special, to make them feel loved, part of the community, do something cool for them.” And that’s it, and you let them go. Now you got 100 stores doing this in their own way, with their own people.

Think about the PR, the outreach to the community, the talk, buzz, the positive press that that generates. Plus you’re building a team with your own people like who are giving back and the third, you’re generating business best practices out of it because now one week later you have 100 different ways to make your customers feel special.

You can take the top five and make those best practice across you’re organization and do something different next week. Its – you can customize it to whatever you want to do as long as you stay true to making it personal one on one difference and letting people do something meaningful to them. Don’t tell them what to do, give them an idea and let them execute.

Tim Jahn:

Its cool how you’ve, how you’re creating your business model now to almost bring this, you know, you said to other organizations. Did you set out that way though? Was it in the back of your mind like oh I can make a business out of this?

Nate St. Pierre:

It was in the back of my mind to run it like a business and that it would never be a charity. Like, I didn’t know if this would end up having anything applicable to making money or not when I first started. Because I did this 30 hours a week, on top of my job, on top of my family. So I did this from, for a year. I did this from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. every night for a year until it got to this point. And now I just quit my job two months ago I think because I had so many businesses lined up that for the business model aspect of it that, I had enough that, you know, momentum that I could switch over to doing that.

But no, I didn’t start, I started it just to make a difference because literally I want to change the world. And here’s the cool thing, this business stuff too, I’m making it so that it’s great for business or organizations. It could be a nonprofit, it could be a community organization, it could be a fan club for a band, right.

Anything, anyone who’s united around a common cause, you can use this platform to unite those people, to also give back in a fun, easy, free way that makes a difference all in the name of your brand and customize it to what you guys care about. It’s so easy.

So the original thought was just change the world. And you know what its cool, is it still is that. Like I turn down businesses that want to work with me, because I’m like, I don’t like, a little shady, like how they do things or whatever. I want people who care and want to make a difference. Because for me, I’m still achieving my mission of changing the world.

And the fact that I’m bringing businesses into it, is just a part that. Yes, it makes money and yes, it helps me sustain this whole thing and keep it rolling. But ultimately, they all funnel into this huge network called “ItStartsWith.Us” in which the ultimate goal is to have millions of people at once making a difference, doing things that are important to them and important to the people in their lives, all at the same time. So it’s all part of the mission.

Tim Jahn:

So the idea of making money from it is more to continue to sustain it and grow it and it’s not to cash out and then go hang out on the beach?

Nate St. Pierre:

No, not at all. No, I may not run this forever. I may turn it over to someone else because I have a ton of ideas and a lot of stuff I want to do with life and this is amazing. But I’m a huge introvert. I am – I’m not comfortable doing interviews, I’m not comfortable speaking in front of people. I like to work in a cave and get stuff done. So for right now, I’m running this team and I’m kind of synonymous with the face of ItStartsWith.Us.

Which is fine because it’s my idea and this is, I run it. I’ve gotten it done to this point. But at some point hopefully, someone else with enough passion, and energy, and smarts to run all this will show up and I can kind of transition. And I don’t know I may want to do this for 20 years, I may want to do it for five. I don’t know. I just know that I’m not in it to cash out, I’m not in it to just sell to somebody, I’m in to change the world.

Tim Jahn:

And you’re doing this full time now then?

Nate St. Pierre:

Yeah. I am doing the start up thing so I’m on some loan and some debt to get it done and we’re going to give it a shot through the end of the year and see if I have enough business side to sustain. If I do, great, and I’ll keep on and I’ll expand. And if I don’t, then I’ll just go take a job somewhere and keep doing this on the side like I was. So either way.

Tim Jahn:

Well that’s an interesting perspective.

Nate St. Pierre:

Yeah. I grew up with no money, none, none, none. I mean, poor. And I still have no money. And money isn’t a thing to me. I live – everything I own fits in this room. I don’t have much. So I just want to do cool things really.

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