Darius was on stage with NYTimes columnist David Brooks in front of 2,000 people, and he couldn’t be more in his element. Just a week before that, he found out from a Tweet that he was going to be in the opening Keynote of a major conference. I had a chance to catch up with him after his panel to hear his story and find out how he ended up on that stage.
At 25 years old, him and his co-founders (all friends from Georgetown University) have been able to build an impactful non-profit, GOODProjects, that’s already transforming communities in Washington D.C., aimed at reducing gun violence and ending poverty in the area.
In this episode, Darius walks us through how the idea for his organization came about, from running their very first over-subscribed summer camp to growing to 25 team members, attracting major donors and even launching an investment fund in the process.
2:18 This episode was especially inspiring to us because it’s a story about a founder that created an organization to solve a problem he deeply cared about that’s making a tangible difference in the community where he operates.
3:43 Why chasing money and success alone doesn’t keep you motivated for long, and how to make sure you’re doing what you actually want to be doing, not what you think you should be doing.
5:01 The importance of stopping to say ‘Why’
5:39 How Vadim met Darius when he was on stage with David Brooks in front of 2,000 people at the SXSW EDU conference.
6:01 Darius explains how he originally met David Brooks after reading an article that he wrote about David Simpson and deciding to attend a dinner that Mr. Simpson was hosting.
7:00 Vadim: People think that people at the top are not accessible, but successful people are interested in connecting with other people that are working on interesting things.
7:24 Darius discusses how he found out about the fact that he was Keynoting SXSW EDU through a press release.
8:07 Vadim: This is a great example of why saying Yes is important. If you say yes and show up, opportunities will come.
8:35 At 25 years old Darius and his team now runs a 25 person non-profit. He discusses how him, Danny, and Troy decided to start GOODProjects after graduating from Georgetown because of the poverty and violence they witnessed in their community growing up.
10:15 Darius talks about how the team decided that he would be the Chief Engagement Officer (Executive Director) and how they got to working on their very first initiative – a summer camp for kids.
11:53 They saw that in the summer of 2015 gun violence went up 50% in the community where they were working. They decided to solve this problem by taking kids off of the street, and offering them a better alternative – the summer camp.
12:24 They put the young kids through the program, and made the older kids counselors so that they can make money and have incentive to stay off the streets.
12:43 Because they did not have a budget for marketing, they decided to go door to door and had over 200 kids show up on the first day
13:07 Vadim: a lot of people will create the product, but will not do the marketing work to actually create awareness, and that’s the hardest part.
14:01 Darius talks about the importance of being lean. They got over $200,000 in in-kind donations to make sure that they can stay in operation and cut costs as much as possible. To cover their own costs they got a deal to get rent covered for 3 months while they operated their program.
15:28 After the first summer camp program there was a lull, and after camp was over the team had to decide what to do. They ended up coming across a grant from the Mayor’s office to pilot a Juvenile Mentorship program. The GOODProjects team had experience working with incarcerated youth, and decided to jump on the opportunity.
16:20 On a whim the team decided to apply for this $500,000 government grant, and ended up winning the grant 6 weeks later.
18:00 Darius talks about how staying focused and doing the work ultimately resulted in growing quickly over the last year. It started with a Gala that they hosted attracting 350 influential people, only in their 2nd year of existence. This Gala turned into an opportunity to run a $1 million investment fund.
19:32 Darius: Having an attitude of yes is important. We are an “instant” generation but in any given day there are a lot of blessings that are presented, and we need to stop to acknowledge them and take advantage of them.
21:10 Darius: Having co-founders has also been incredibly important and a blessing in helping growing this organization. Troy is brilliant at operations, which means that the programs are always running smoothly, something that Darius doesn’t have to worry about. Danny is very skilled on the financial side of things and also acts as a sounding board for all of Darius’ ideas.
21:52 If you’re a leader, you need to have a team. Every organization needs everyone doing every little thing. It’s like the spurs method. If everyone does their job, then you will be successful.
22:20 Darius mentions his brother, and why he has been such an important mentor to him from a very young age and through this business.
23:25 You can find Darius and his company at GOODProjects.org