If you had told me when I started college, I would start a non-profit organization and run it full time after I graduated, I would have kind of chuckled, nervously looked at the ground, and said, “What is a non-profit?” I had no idea I would create The Word Wagon, actually apply for 501 c3 status, have a founding Board, and have a central office run out of my parent’s basement. Neither did I have any idea I would get such a response in book donations. But I am getting ahead of myself. In this blog post, I hope you will allow me to be honest and share about the months post graduation, how it has gone to make The Word Wagon my full-time job and sometimes how I think, “Can I really do this?”
It has now been a little over 6 months since I graduated from Belmont University. I have much respect and gratitude towards Belmont University as professors and fellow students were very instrumental in helping me to see the feasibility of The Word Wagon but I was still uneasy about some uncertainty of the business. I went back and forth from the idea of do I find a full time job and do The Word Wagon on the side or just go after it with everything I have. Jumping in with both feet. I even went for an informational interview and actually got to the final round of applicants for a really good full-time job but did not continue with the interview process. A few weeks after graduation, I went to the beach with my family and remember taking the leap of faith (hints the name of this blog) in talking to my parents about turning that job opportunity down and going after The Word Wagon full-time. This was the start of many conversations, and while I have parents with the motto of “chase your dreams,” there were rightfully some concerns with the idea. I had concerns too.
Thinking through the options for a future with The Word Wagon, I remembered one conversation with a friend when I was worried about not having a “job” for after graduation and she said, “Casey, you already have a job with The Word Wagon.” That was a great thing to hear and take to heart. I was going to continue The Word Wagon and understood I had a huge support group surrounding me within this. Was this an easy decision to make over night? No way. I understood to make this work, I would move back home, work out of my parent’s basement, and not have a full-time salary (yet). Having lived on my own for so many years, I was hesitant at first, but understood this was a good move for me at the time. Adjusting to life back at home has been difficult at times to not live on a college campus with hundreds of other people. You learn you have to be a lot more intentional about planning to reach out to friends and go out to meet people. I also learned that living and working in the same place are challenging for me. Finding that work life balance is difficult.
Throughout this process, I have learned so much. When you are working towards something you have a huge passion for, some things come easily, yet some have more challenging aspects. While we do not sell a product or service for profit, a nonprofit is very much a business. From the none business major, this is a challenge for me. Creating budgets, marketing campaigns, money management, (insert other business phrases) are not my strong suits. Everyday is a learning curve, but we are not meant to know everything, which is very humbling. My tool kit is very much equipped for the mission and the vision of our organization. I am passionate about children’s education and more specifically children’s literacy. My heart glows when I get to see a child connect with a story, read with a volunteer, or the moment a child is vulnerable about wanting to learn to read yet not knowing how. Throughout the months of having more time to devote to The Word Wagon, post graduation, I have become very familiar with surrounding myself with those who have talents in the areas I lack. Creating a supportive community around you is vital to stay accountable with your tasks and to focus on the main mission. The following are some of the many lessons I have learned through the process of starting The Word Wagon and continuing to grow this business and read with as many children we can!
- Many times the life you have envisioned for your life looks a little different than you had anticipated.
- Be flexible, resourceful, and conscious in all you do.
- If you have passion for your idea, people will come behind your idea and help to see if grow. (this humbles me every single day.)
- People are extremely generous.
- It is so important to have trust in what you are doing.
- Surround yourself with people you look up to, can lean on for advise, and will tell you when an idea is dumb (and it will not offend you).
- Finally recognizing: It is all going to be ok!
All in all, details can bog me down, but the time spent reading with a child makes everything fall into place and work in the way it is supposed to. From the child who comes to read and walks away hugging their book bundles to making a budget for this organization, it is all worth it because children’s lives are being changed one book at a time. Thank you for allowing me to be honest and vulnerable in this blog post and I would love to hear from my fellow entrepreneurs who ventured out, saw a need, and said, “we need to do something.” What are things you learned through the process? What would you do over again? Would you change anything?
Because of the love and support I have received for The Word Wagon, we are able to announce we have traveled over 3,000 miles, read with over 400 children, held over 40 READing Days across Middle Tennessee, and distributed over 4,000 books. These numbers show wonderful growth and great potential for the future of The Word Wagon, but these outcomes only really come from support such as yourself and the many volunteers who come to read.
If reading with kids is a passion you have or simply helping with a cause that is focused on changing lives, please consider coming to volunteer with The Word Wagon. You can follow this link to our website to learn more and sign up for a future READing Day. you time will be well utilized and you will walk away with the feeling, no the knowledge that you made a difference in a child’s life. Thank you as always for reading this post and please share it with someone who should learn more about The Word Wagon.