Shaun Emerson is an entrepreneur with a lot of experience in the technology field and with technology start-ups. When he came up with a new business idea, he thought why not offer a boost to others, particularly nonprofit organizations.
Project Boost launched on July 31 and its first client is Kaitlin’s Hideout, the Glen Ellyn-based play center dedicated to children with autism and special needs. The center also serves as a place for families to gain information along with social and emotional support.
“It’s about bringing attention to and helping local causes,” Emerson said of Project Boost.
Emerson is a resident and he wanted to start close to home, using Project Boost to help other local organizations that might benefit financially and would also gain more visibility online and in the community, he said.
Project Boost’s online website puts the spotlight on the nonprofit, in this case its first client, .
For every project that gets a boost on the Project Boost website a T-shirt is chosen. The founder of Kaitlin’s Hideout, Lisa Kelly, also a , chose a shirt with the theme, “Embrace Unique.” Sales from the shirts benefit the charity, with 30 percent of the sales returned to the charity. For every $25 shirt sold, $8 goes to the nonprofit.
“Ideally we want them to be two-week projects,” Emerson said. “But, we want it to be beneficial for the cause.”
The fundraising goal for Kelly’s project is $12,000, which would provide her with a year’s worth of operating expenses, he said. The goal is aggressive, but regardless of whether she makes it, the nonprofit gets more visibility and will still walk away with the donations that were raised. As of Tuesday, that amount was $924.25 and growing.
Plans for the site began last fall, Emerson said. The idea occurred to him while he was having breakfast with friends. One of the friends said he created a website to get people involved with supporting the Cubs. Emerson thought why not do something similar to help others in the community.
He began researching the concept, building and designing a website making contacts with organizations before launching the site.
The business is for-profit and does take a percentage from the sale of the shirts, he said.
The idea has met with some skepticism and when he approached Kelly, Emerson said, she was definitely not certain about the idea.
“The hope is people and groups will come to us and seek us out,” he said. “… My ultimate goal is we can really get people in the community, get people to support those causes in their community.”
When an organization decides to participate, Project Boost gathers information on the organization to publicize online and then a design is created for the T-shirt, Emerson said. Rather than just using an organization’s logo, Emerson has a graphic designer come up with the art for the shirt.
“The difference for us is ideally we want the T-shirt to appeal to a large audience,” he said. “Ideally we want people to donate.”
While people are buying the shirts and helping the nonprofit in the process, Emerson said Project Boost is also offering something of value. He went through 12 T-shirts before he found one of good quality he felt was worth offering.
Any organization is welcome to participate and use the site, he said. “The only thing we ask is that they be as aggressive promoting the project as we are.”
Emerson has invested a decent amount of money to get the site off the ground, but he said he believes it will be successful.
“If it evolves to the point where people come to the site to launch a project, it will be organic growth,” he said. “We are looking forward to helping launch local fundraisers and are reaching out to the local community. … We want to put our best foot forward for the cause.”