If you are like me, then you are pretty skeptical on what non-profit to invest time and money into. When I hear the word non-profit I think, “Great, a poorly run business, that doesn’t sow much from what they reap.”
I researched them, followed them on twitter, sported their shirts, and now, after catching their vision, fully support Myfight.
This week I had the privilege of interviewing Jesse Murphy Founder and President of MyFight about the incredible organization that is MyFight on iamnickedwards.com. He Tweets here He blogs here .
NICKEDWARDS: What led up to you starting MyFight?
JESSEMURPHY: Growing up basically all white, middle class Dillion Montana, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw that slavery still existed in Sudan, for $50 you could buy a human being. That’s when I heard the first whispers from God regarding my calling. In college, I first wanted to raise 1 million to buy and free 20,000 slaves, but after some professors gave me their thoughts, I realized that if I spent 1 million bucks on buying people, far from ending slavery, I would actually be investing in it. When I graduated I applied to Stanford and my $200 application somehow got stuck on their server.
NE: So you didn’t get into Stanford?
JM: (He laughs) No, I applied to work with my church’s mission program and sorta got crowded out for a specific position by a girl who didn’t know where Africa was (probably not true, but those were my bitter feelings at the time).
NE: Oh, got it, you didn’t make it into Stanford, and you didn’t get the job, thats rough..but I guess you wouldn’t be where you are today if it wasn’t for those two pride breakers.
JM: Yeah… Finally, while walking through a World Vision “Step into Africa” display, at the end of the experience following the life of a child with AIDS, there was a prayer wall. I was furious. My prayer was: God if you don’t let me do something about this, I refuse to care anymore. I don’t think God needed my threat, but I feel like he was waiting until it really was a Popeye momement for me, a “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more,”… I think he was waiting until I was truly willing to go all in until he opened the door. I went home that night, designed the first shirt, committed my measly savings to get it going, and from that moment on the doors flew open in what felt like a divine-zipper progression.
NE: Well my question was, “what was your first step, but you answered that one.” So you participated in a walkthrough with World Vision. Had you experienced true poverty prior to the World Vision simulation?
JM: Well, “true poverty” is a bit of an elusive definition. But I had spent 2 weeks in Mexico in high school. This was probably my most shocking experience outside of my culture. no bathrooms, or any other sort of amenities. It was very challenging for me actually. I had spent two summers in China, I saw more oppression and injustice there than I did poverty…Honestly poverty was never the issue that I deeply cared about though.
NE: Huh… What do you mean?
JM: I hate injustice…always have. This may sound presumptuous, but I feel that in my relationship with God my heart beats nearest to his on the issue of injustice. But the fact was, as I spent 3 years research slavery, I realized that slavery in all of its forms are almost always only a symptom. The more fundamental issue is extreme poverty. Not poor, but the trap of extreme poverty, such that a mother would sell her daughter to an orphanage that would adopt her out, or such that a little girl prostitutes for food, or a young boy becomes a child soldier for security.
NE: Wow, no matter how “in the know” or “informed” I think I am, that still hurts me as if I have heard it the first time.
JM: I pray it always does bro, for both of us. I hope we never become callus to it.
NE: And thats why MyFight deals with extreme poverty?
JM: Yeah, as I came to understand it, if I wanted to fight injustice sustainably and systemically, I had to take on extreme poverty, and for those who are unjust… Only God can change heart of evil people, and he does. But there is a whole lot we can do to a man-made systems (like our economic system) to improve the scenario.
NE: How does MyFight plan to improve the scenario?
JM: Good question, well at a very basic level, when we sell just a few shirts somebody gets a loan, and for them that changes everything. Since August we’ve funded over 100 ladies in northern Honduras. That’s over 100 dinner tables that have food on them provided by mom. That’s kids in a 100 families with shoes, provided by mom. That’s kids in school, not on the street. And that’s from a few hundred t-shirts.
NE: That, seems really simple…
JM: But I can’t look at the monthly sales numbers and compare that to the number of slaves in the world, I’d lose all hope. I have to believe that if we stay disciplined and steady and focused on creating a business to end poverty, then a few years down the road we will be able to see some really incredible stuff happen.
NE: How big is the MyFight team?
JM: For all intents and purposes we’re still a very baby organization, just now exploring our second and third employees, finally at the place where we can take bigger steps. etc
NE: How long did it take you from when you started MyFight to your first loan?
JM: From when I wrote on napkins? 15 months..
NE: I think all humble beginnings, whether song or idea, originates on a napkin. What were some problems you ran into?
JM: Well we found it was so much harder to build the first relationship than we ever expected. So much talk so little action in the industry of “doing good” even though we were offering a sweet deal for our partners, it took a long time to convince them that we were legit. We first took an exploratory trip to honduras in 2009 to teach financial literacy and figure things out. the trip was great, class went well, but we were a mess trying to figure out the micro-finance thing. We wasted about a year thinking we would set up our own MFI from scratch. We finally realized that we had NO business trying to set up a very complex financial institution in a foreign country. Even though we’d been studying micro-finance for some time at that point, we were still just bumbling fools from Montana. We then realized that we would be better off partnering with good MFI’s. We’d focus on becoming the best in the world at turning t-shirts into micro-loans and partner with people best at giving out the loans.
NE: Now you guys went to Ethiopia as well right?
JM: We tourned attention to Ethiopia where things were looking good for us.
NE: And thats where found success?
JM: Well, After a few months of back-and-forth we ran into about a mile high stack of red tape, and then the Gates foundation came in and wanted to partner with our partner, naturally, we got the boot. After 15 months of this (or so) my roommate was like “hey, my stepmom actually helped start an MFI in Honduras several years ago, wanna meet her?’ After I punched in the throat, I said, “of course,” that MFI, Adelante Foundation, turns out to be one of the largest in Central America, has very high standards, a great reputation, and so much more. We spent a few months in talks with them, and Boom, we were in action. They chose the specific borrowers.
NE: Ok just a few more.
JM: Of course, go for it.
NE: As you look to the future of MyFight, what are you most excited for?
JM: I’m mostly excited to change the model of doing good. I want women to have better lives. I want kids to know what school is like, dream and achieve. If I have the privilege to meet those women ever, I’ll be a better man for it. But this isn’t about me meeting them–it can’t be. Our partners said it beautifully “we’re not a pen-pal company, we provide micro-loans.
NE: As the founder and President of MyFight, what are you weary of?
JM: Number one, Good intentions. Good intentions is not synonymous with good work. Doing good is not enough, we must do well at doing good. Nice people with good intentions, exacerbate the problem all the time. This of course comes at the expense of those we’re actually hoping to help. For example, in the past 60 years, over a trillion dollars in aid has been given to impoverished areas of Africa, in that time poverty went from 11% to 66%. Number two, non profits have this awful habit of slowly transforming into safe, innocuous, un-useful, and utterly uninspiring tax shelters for their biggest donors, spending most of their time appeasing donors and the IRS while loosing the wild-eyed-optimism that got them started in the first place.
NE: Last but not least. What can I do? What can we as a click justice generation do to get involved and make a change?
JM: Most basically people could take our FB profile and make it their own. post something on their social media. at a bigger level, buy a shirt. buy somebody else a shirt. at a bigger level. Host an event. intern with us, be a roadie. For bloggers, putting ads on their sites is very useful. Oh and then super cool people can talk to the strangers on airplane rides and land incredible and exclusive touring gigs for us.
NE: I heard news that you are touring with Rodrigo Y Gabriela?
JM: Yep, one of the most amazing opportunities we’ve been given. As has generally been the case with MyFight people pass on the embers of our organization, each stirred by a different piece of it, but when the message passes organically it’s stronger and more credible. Through a serious of unpredictable events a couple guys got bumped to first class on a return flight from Mexico, met Rodrigo y Gabriela, at some point in the conversation they discussed MyFight and today we find ourselves traveling exclusively across the country on a whirl-wind tour that we didn’t expect. As we prepared for it last week I was constantly reminded about our annual strategy meeting during which we committed to each other to live the white-knuckled, all-systems-go, adrenaline-filled life of “getting shit done”. As we speak, two of our new team members are heading to Chicago for the next event. Sleeping on couches, driving long days, and tirelessly promoting the story of MyFight. We’ve an incredible team, I’m excited to see where we are in 5 years.
Buy one of MyFights Shirts Here. Follow them onTwitter. Oh and design a Tshirt for them Here !
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