We love to hear when businesses are able to combine a lifelong passion with actively helping others – and that’s exactly the case when it comes to crowdfunding site Pursu.it. The latest in our Eureka Diaries, founders Julia Rivard and Leah Skerry talked with us about how they came up with their website to help amateur athletes tell their story, and also help their fans fund their training.
Julia and Leah were both passionate Canadian athletes: an Olympic kayaker (Sydney 2000) and a high level gymnast respectively. They experienced first hand how hard it can be to financially pursue a dream in athletics – and even harder to make their stories visible to the public. Though the pressure to make money eventually led them to careers outside of their sport, it also led them to each other and eventually to the creation of Pursu.it!
As for their “Eureka!” moment, Julia and Leah run a successful web application firm, Norex, and were early supporters of the crowdfunding trend that came about with Indiegogo and Kickstarter. One day they were discussing a recent donation to a fun but rather silly “griz coat” Kickstarter (the creator wanted to manufacture life-like faux fur bear coats): “We were lamenting how much money we were spending on Kickstarters! A couple of glasses of wine later, we decided to make money for good instead of donate money just for fun. With our shared love of sport and athletes-with-a-dream, it was a no-brainer – Pursu.it was born.”
At Norex, employees allocate 20% of their time to an “innovation project”, giving Julia and Leah the perfect platform to start building their idea. During this time, both women, along with a senior developer and a handful of volunteers, were able to get Pursu.it up and running in just a few months.
Ready, set, fund
Pursu.it began with just six athletes, with their sites set on the AthletesCan Conference in 2012. Since then, it has grown to help dozens more, and in their first year of business, Pursu.it raised nearly $200,000 in funds for amateur athletes.
One of Leah’s favorite athlete funding successes was with Montreal diver Maxim Bouchard. His campaign reached as far as MTV UK and found support from Olympic Diver Tom Daley. MTV UK tweeted “Hot Diver wants you to support another hot diver” and in just 60 days, Maxim met his $12,000 goal and 100,000 people from around the world had shared his story.
One of Julia’s favorite moments came on Thanksgiving when she got a call from one of the athletes, saying: “My mum and dad are sitting around the table sharing what we are thankful for, so I wanted you to know how thankful I am for everything Pursu.it has done for me.”
Julia and Leah have shown no signs of slowing down – they have a hefty list of goals for their second year of business. They already passed the $300k mark (just three months after their one year anniversary!), so their goal is to reach one million dollars in their second year.
But more importantly, they’d like to reach even more hopefuls and help send at least 40 amateur athletes to the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics. So far, three of their athletes (Megan Imrie, Rosanna Crawford and Brendan Green) have already qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi – keep your eyes open for them this month.
We love how Julia and Leah used their own setbacks as amateur athletes to find a way to remedy the situation for future athletes facing the same issues. It’s amazing when you can achieve your own dreams, but even better when it also helps others do the same!
Their advice to anyone else wanting to turn an “aha” moment into a reality is: “Put your dreaming into action. Take small steps, like setting up a bank account for your business. Before you know it, your small steps will have taken you very far. Don’t give up too early. It’s a lot of work but the work has to be done to see success.”
We’re feeling out of breath just thinking about the hard work that Pursu.it – and the athletes – are doing! You can learn more about Pursu.it – and even support an aspiring Olympic athlete – at http://pursu.it/
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