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Janelle von Kleist-Bernard: I’m Not Someone Who Has Been on the Hunt for the Next Big Idea, but I Came Across a Gap

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Janelle von Kleist-Bernard

Janelle von Kleist-Bernard of GiveRise.

Tell us about yourself?

I have always enjoyed the arts – drawing, painting, piano, theatre, music, sewing, you name it – and have dreamt of having a positive impact on the world since I was a little girl; I just never knew how.

Today, I am the founder of my passion project, GiveRise where I am able to use my love for creativity, art and sustainability in a way that benefits important causes.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

I think a lot of people are drawn to startups, to the allure of potential financial success and the freedom of a flexible work schedule.

But reality is quite different. While you may be your own boss as an entrepreneur, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you get to choose shorter work days, work weeks, or more vacation time. On the contrary, the work is ongoing and you need to put in the hours.

There is this romanticized notion that all you need is a great idea, a strong pitch, and interested investors who will put you on the fast track to success.

When in reality, nothing is a guarantee and the work starts long before that.

From researching to prototyping to testing to launching, (and sometimes having to restart from square one) it’s a long road to even get to the point of being able to pitch your business. So whatever the idea is, it’s crucial that you love it.

If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey, and give yourself one tip, what would it be?

I would tell myself to go all-in. I may have thought at the time that I was all-in, but looking back, I was taking small, controlled steps towards my goals.

Had I dove in head-first, we would be farther along in this journey. We would have collected more wins and losses, both of which are vital to learning and continued growth.

It can be scary to share your idea with others; there’s a fear of rejection or even ridicule, but it’s important to get out of your head and to bet on yourself.

Others can’t bet on you if you don’t first, so I would also tell myself that it’s okay to ask for help. Starting a new business takes a village, and people are more than happy to offer their support if you let them.

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What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?

That I never wanted to be an entrepreneur, oddly enough. I’m not someone who has been on the hunt for the next big idea, but I came across a gap that I had personally experienced, a gap that I wanted to be the one to fill.

I have a genuine interest in the success of this company because of the impact that it could have. This passion and belief in GiveRise led me to entrepreneurship and now that I’ve started, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?

Routine and starting the day off with some fresh air. In the beginning of this journey, I would wake up and go straight to work, too eager to get the day started. But you can burn out pretty quickly if you don’t take care of yourself first.

Now, I make a point of waking up earlier, going for a walk regardless of the weather, and taking breaks throughout the day.

Having a wind-down routine in the evening has also been incredibly important. When you take care of yourself, your body and your mental health, you are investing in your own longevity which will carry through to your work, productivity, and relationships.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

After graduating from university, I wanted to do something meaningful and give back to local communities around the world. As a new graduate with student loans to repay, I didn’t have the means to donate amounts that I thought would be sufficient to make a difference.

Eventually, I came up with the idea of selling my artwork to raise money for different causes. I took to Google to find a platform where I could sell my artwork specifically for the purpose of fundraising and was surprised to find that it didn’t exist.

For years I had it in my mind as something I would one day build. As the years went on, I continued to work on building my career in marketing and researching how to create an online marketplace on the side.

I eventually ended up in a marketing role for a purpose-driven company with a nonprofit arm. It was my dream job and I became an ambassador for the nonprofit where I commissioned charcoal drawings to raise money for the cause.

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Enter Covid. After getting laid off, I finally had the chance to commit the time needed to start my own business. Turns out, losing my dream job was the best thing that could have happened to me.

Where do you see your business in five years?

We have big plans for GiveRise. We are working towards welcoming all charities, schools and nonprofits across Canada to the platform, specifically the smaller organizations who don’t get funding from the government and are volunteer-run.

In 5 years, we hope to have partner organizations in every province and territory across Canada, and have the traction to provide them with a steady stream of revenue so that they don’t have to worry about the stresses of fundraising.

Our vision is to then take our services outside of Canada, supporting causes around the globe. We hope to have inspired people not to participate in the fast fashion industry, and to be mindful of the positive impact that they can have on their communities and the environment.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?

The charitable sector is known to be risk-averse, and reasonably so. Many organizations are volunteer-run and don’t have the time or resources to explore all new avenues of funding.

And they get pitched from all sorts of businesses who promise to be the solution to all of their problems.

It can be challenging to cut through that noise, to gain their trust and prove that we are genuine in our goal to support their causes.

But now that we have multiple organizations on board, we hope we will gain momentum so that we can maximize our impact.

Talk to us about your biggest success story so far?

Aside from our launch, we consider every new nonprofit partner to be a success story and celebrate them with as much enthusiasm as we did the first.

We love getting emails when they receive their first donations through the platform, and we mirror that excitement every time.

We have also been holding free virtual fundraisers for new partner organizations. It’s our goal to provide them with a steady flow of donations so that they can continue to focus on their causes and the important work they do.

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Anytime we are able to do this through GiveRise, we celebrate them as big wins.

How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?

I’m not much of a salesperson. I don’t have any specific tactics per se, but I’m passionate about what we do and I think that shines through once you get me started on the subject of GiveRise.

We’ve been cold calling, emailing, networking, connecting on Instagram or LinkedIn, and have been spreading through word-of-mouth.

Sometimes, these connections turn into hour-long conversations of us sharing uplifting anecdotes of our work, giddily talking about our shared interests, and raving about how lucky we are to have such amazing teams working alongside us.

It’s a great feeling to connect on deeper levels, and those relationships that we are building mean a lot to us.

What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?

Do it because you love it. If you’re a serial entrepreneur looking for the next big idea and the potential financial successes it may bring, I personally believe that you’re in it for the wrong reasons.

It’s a long and arduous process, and unless you believe that your business will truly have an impact, the sheer desire for success might not be enough to push you through the unglamorous moments.

At least it wouldn’t be for me. Personally, one thing that got me through the rough patches was knowing the impact that GiveRise could have on people, animals, and the environment.

It was experiencing first hand what it feels like to do something you love (in my case, drawing) in a way that helps others, and knowing that, if we continue to push forward, we could provide that same feeling to fellow creatives and empaths.

And finally, what do you hope the future brings both you personally, and your business?

The future for me personally and the business of GiveRise are one and the same. I hope that using our creative passions in a way that supports local communities is something that I can continue to do for as long as I am able.

I plan on traveling to meet as many of our partner organizations as I can, to bring attention to their causes and support them in person as well as through the services of GiveRise.

Follow GiveRise on Instagram or Linkedin.

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