Opinion and Viewpoint

BIELAWSKI: A surprise swing into entrepreneurship

June 22, 2013

BielawskiWhen I embarked on my 110-day, 48,000-swing, cross-country golf odyssey, I had prepared for the rigors of hitting 500-600 golf balls a day on deserted roads in 100-degree heat. I had carefully planned our route and conducted a feasibility study to determine our equipment needs and the days it would take to hit a ball from Ventura, Calif., to Charleston, S.C.

What I hadn’t prepared for was becoming an accidental entrepreneur.

At nearly halfway into my journey, I’ve had a crash course on how to run a not-for-profit, all while keeping my job of hitting a golf ball across the country to raise $100,000 in scholarships for Providence Cristo Rey High School students.

Management

The biggest unanticipated issue is supervising a team of three while coordinating activities of a remote team composed of social media, fundraising and accounting. My support team includes two videographers documenting our journey and my cousin, Nick, who drives the camper.

Logistics

When and what are we going to eat? Do we have enough water and gas? Where are we going to park for the night? Does it have electric and water hookup?

When you live together in a small camper under rough conditions, these kinds of questions can consume you. Anticipating 2-1/2 days to cross the desert, with no cellular or other services and only two days’ supply of water and gas, logistics need to be part of your strategic planning.

Crisis management

The truck hauling our camper got a flat tire on a dirt road in rural New Mexico aptly named Smugglers Lane. Not only would it cause a big delay in our carefully planned journey, it was also possible that no one would come along for hours.

I drove the Gator 30 miles to the nearest house for help. Our most important job was to remain calm, plot solutions and make sure our water and food reserves could get us through a worst-case scenario.

Social media

I’m fairly green to social media, but it is a vital part of any marketing effort. We’re using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and our website to spread our message, but communication dead zones have been unanticipated bunkers. There have been weeks where we haven’t had cell service or Internet, and it’s forced us to plan ahead with our social media messaging.

Fundraising

I’ve found fundraising to be a balancing act: Keep in touch with donors, but not so much as to annoy. One sponsor has software that’s helping us strike the right balance by tracking donations, addresses, emails, personal information and patterns of donations.

Finances

We work hard to keep expenses to a minimum so we can give as much as possible to Providence Cristo Rey. Everyone knows revenue needs to be greater than expenditures, but that’s even more critical for a not-for-profit like ours. Our goal is to give 90 percent to 95 percent of what we raise to fund scholarships at the school.

When I finish law school in December, I don’t know what my next step will be, but my summer golf trek has given me much more than a powerful swing and maximum hip rotation. I set out to help underserved teens get an excellent education, but this journey has been an education for me, too.•

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Bielawski, 24, is a Fishers resident and Indiana University McKinney School of Law student. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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