Olga Fler, while being a student at 19 years old, opened her own Advertising agency, which attracted high profile brands such as Mercedes as clients.
Her latest project is Meet for Charity, which brings together people for the good of others. Famous people give one hour of their time to a meeting with the highest bidder and the proceeds are donated to a charity. This has been extremely successful in Russia and Olga is looking to expand this concept internationally.
Here she tells us how it all began and how Meet for Charity works and what advice she would give to someone who wants to get involved.
|PROFESSION||Entrepreneur and Philanthropist|
|PHILANTHROPIC FOCUS||Providing an auction platform for people to bit on meetings with celebrities|
|QUOTE YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE BY||
Everything what God does is good
|ROLE MODEL||Grace Kelly and Victoria Beckham|
How did you come up with the idea of creating “Meet for Charity”?
The idea behind the project was born in my office at work. One of my colleagues really wanted to go out with me, but I needed to raise money for a charity project. That’s what prompted me to offer her a bold idea! Putting a post out on Facebook with her picture and ask for a date. Whoever bid the highest would win a date with my colleague Oksana. After the post went live the website practically melted down with one Moscow entrepreneur emerging as the winner, and paying the amount I needed for the charity. Overall my Facebook audience liked the idea and my friends immediately picked up on it and expressed an interest in participating as well. So it all began, from a typical office chat emerged a simple yet effective idea and a unique project was born that changed the notion of charity in Russia.
Who was the first famous person who agreed to take part in the auction?
One of the first famous people to get involved with the auction was Sergey Kapkov, who previously headed up the Moscow Department of Culture. Then more media personalities joined up, for example, Alyona Doletskaya, former editor in chief of Vogue Russia who happily agreed to participate in the project. The latest auctions have featured such famous personalities as singer and songwriter Roma Zver, actors Lyubov Aksyonova and Evgeniy Stych-kin, famous restaurateur Arkady Novikov, and politician Ksenia Sobchak.
How do you choose which foundations to support?
In practice, any foundation can contact us for support and we will always look to help where we can. We want to see that the foundation is engaged in significant activities and making a worthy contribution to helping people and the overall charitable environment. Plus, the foundation should have complete transparent reporting.
Why do you think a large number of famous people accepted and have continued to take part in Meet for Charity?
I believe that many famous people are instinctively drawn towards helping others. Money gives them the means to assist but they also often find pleasure in simply giving their time. We are asking them to contribute in a different way by setting aside an hour of their time for which the other person is willing to pay a large amount of money. For example, the chance to meet Anna Chipovskaya went for the staggering sum of 2 million rubles (approx. USD 30,000). Therefore, the simple act of a person giving up an hour of their time could even save someone's life.
People taking part have to understand the whole nature of the cycle; they have to take time and make time to devote themselves to a charity meeting. These usually last much longer than the designated time. It often happens that people find common ground at Meet for Charity meetings; this can be both from a business and a personal point of view.
Many entrepreneurs and business people have quickly created their own joint projects after the charity meetings. Meet for Charity has even been bought as a birthday present. Someone even softened the conditions of a lawsuit thanks to a meeting with the plaintiff. And sometimes people meeting fall in love with each other, but this information is secret.
Were there any cases of refusal to participate in the project?
There are, of course, participants who are not always ready to be involved publicly. For example, there are young women or famous actresses whose husbands do not want their wives to participate in a public auction. In such situations, we have a closed auction to manage the privacy issue. Of course, there are people who are afraid of publicity or are simply reluctant to participate in such fundraising efforts. However, in most cases, we receive very positive responses.
Why has Meet for Charity become so successful?
We were there at the right time and in the right place, ready when people had a need not only to help and not receive anything in return, but to help and receive a benefit from it. In our case, the rewards were meetings. Most often, people have the motivation to help, but they are afraid to go to the orphanages personally or transfer money to someone without being able to verify how the money actually gets spent.
What’s more, we create a win / win situation that will definitely create benefit and deliver an unforgettable experience.
Firstly, you will assist people and children in need of help and secondly, you will meet a new person or even an idol of your childhood - a meeting which will leave you with an unforgettable experience. Many meetings with people from the corporate world result in a profitable partnership. And others have led to friendships and contacts.
What is planned for Meet for Charity in the future? Will it roll out on an international level?
Yes, we plan to enter the international market very soon. Since this business model is fairly simple and easily scaled, we have plans for London, Dubai, the United States, Israel and India. In my opinion, these are the most attractive markets for development.
If you could turn back time, what would you do differently?
I believe that nothing needs to be redone. Everything has its time! The mistakes that we make and the bumps that turn up, make us stronger and prepare us for future difficulties. It is necessary to go through all of these experiences yourself in order to move forward.
Of course, as an entrepreneur, I am always aware that there are some difficulties. If I look back, I would advise myself to pay more attention to strategic planning and operational objectives. Also, I would never be afraid to ask for help and advice from people who are stronger and more experienced than me. Because real professional assistance can only be obtained from them.
What does your typical day look like?
I wake up around eight in the morning. I try to do meditate every morning or think about tasks and things that are meaningful to me. I have breakfast and then head off for meetings. It’s so important for me to break for lunch and dinner. Sport is a key part of my life and therefore I train an hour each day, every day. In the evening, I usually meet up with friends or attend some social events or an interesting lecture. Sometimes, I am even the speaker. I try to return home early to think about tomorrow and catch up on my sleep.
What advice would you give to a person who is just planning to get involved with charity?
Get yourself involved in charity! But do it rationally, plan your resources and invest your time carefully.
Very often, people engage in charity with complete altruism, and after a while they spend too much on it with results that were not what was planned. If not managed properly, you can quickly loose the passion, the light in the eyes goes out and you risk a burnout. Yes, you could probably help out indefinitely but you should always create an orderly system and plan and understand just how much you can invest in terms of resources whether monetary, moral or physical. You have to ask: How am I going to do it? Will it bring in money / income or will it be for non-profit? What model will lie behind this activity? How effective will it be in the long-term?
It may seem cynical but charity is a business too. A successful charity needs a strategy, mission, proper accounting and a robust business model.
Be sure to ask questions. What are your Key Performance Indicators (KPI)? What is the goal you need to achieve personally in this area? What is your motivation? And how can you change the world for the better? When you can ask yourself these questions and are able to answer them, that fire in your eyes will begin to burn more and the strength to continue will not weaken but rather increase. You will calmly and steadily move forward towards your goal and will achieve significant results.