Entrepreneurs / Small Business  May 20, 2011

Young entrepreneurs: Just do something

FORT COLLINS – In their first three years out of college, most young adults have usually found a job, moved into their own place, started paying their own bills, and, in some cases, gotten married and started a family.

In their first three years out of college, Colorado State University graduates Aaron Madonna and Juwon Melvin have started two companies, written two books, embarked upon a mission to clean up the drinking water of South American children, and have inspired countless students with their motivational speeches and blogs.

The pair graduated from CSU in 2008 and immediately began working toward their goal of making a difference in the world through helping students discover their paths in life. They wrote a book, “Destination College,” as part of their first business, DreamReel Media.

DreamReel Media was also the launching point for the men’s first blog, “Live Young, Live Well, Live Now,” which included daily posts meant to inspire and encourage readers to stay positive and push through the obstacles to achieving their goals.

Melvin and Madonna also speak at schools, motivating students and helping them realize that not only was college within their reach but also that they could achieve anything they want.

Now, the two have written a second book, “Help! I DK What I Want to do with my Life!” They are also starting up another entrepreneurial venture, this one to help children growing up without clean drinking water.

Soap for clean water

LifeSoap Co. is a for-profit venture that has promised to give 90 percent of its after-tax profits to a clean-water partnership in South America. Details of this partnership are not yet finalized, according to Melvin.

The company will sell three different “flavors” of organic soap, delivered to the purchaser’s door monthly. Melvin and Madonna say that they chose soap as their product because it is something that is used every day, and that they can spice up an otherwise boring product that will be a daily reminder of the plight of those who don’t have access to clean water.

The soap is manufactured in Montana, and has been available for purchase for one month, according to Melvin. To date, the pair have sold their soap to more than 100 people at $20 per box, which includes three bars of soap.

Melvin and Madonna were inspired to get involved in the clean-water cause after discovering that one in eight people worldwide do not have access to clean drinking water, and that 6,000 people die every day from water-related illness. They learned that children in some parts of South America have to spend their days walking miles to find water for their families instead of attending school.

The men are both strong believers in the value of education and want to change the destinies of these children by allowing them to go to school and break the poverty cycle.

As entrepreneurs, Melvin and Madonna want to change the way their generation thinks about business by turning LifeSoap into the best social impact venture possible.

“We care more about our impact on the world than the impact on our bank statements,” Madonna said.

“Don’t just make a profit,” Melvin added. “Make a profit and more important, make a difference!”

In five years, Melvin said that he hopes to be donating $10,000 a month to clean water initiatives around the world. He also envisions a storefront, rather than maintaining the business solely online. Madonna sees LifeSoap as the employer of 10 to 15 staff members by then.

Continuing mission

In addition to getting LifeSoap off the ground, the men want to continue their blog, which now operates as ThriveorDie.com, and publish one book per year to continue their DreamReel Media venture, Melvin said.

“Our corporate mission for DreamReel Media centers on empowering young adults to live with purpose and make the most of this gift of life,” Melvin said. “It’s our way of sharing things we’ve learned.”

Public speaking by the founders is also an important part of DreamReel Media.

“I love to give speeches and inspire people, so I can see myself giving at least one talk per month to college students who are looking to become entrepreneurs or to people who are committed to social causes,´ said Madonna.

All profits gleaned from the sale of “Help!” are reinvested in the company, Melvin said.

Both young men remember where they came from, shooting video blog posts on CSU’s campus and keeping their families close.

At a book signing May 6 at the Old Firehouse Bookstore in Old Town Fort Collins, they read excerpts from their most recent book and regaled the crowd with stories of how they ended up where they are today.

They also introduced LifeSoap with a video detailing a recent trip to South America and the children who inspired their clean-water initiative.

Later this summer, Melvin and Madonna will embark on a year-long trip to South America to volunteer with organizations related to their cause, such as Arms of Love, an international organization that works to give abused and abandoned children a home.

The trip will begin with a three- to six-month stint in Argentina, where the pair will work on clean-water research and mentor at-risk youth. The trip will be financed by money saved from jobs Melvin and Madonna held outside of their companies until this spring.

The men plan to continue running LifeSoap from South America, via Internet connections, with a team member back in the United States to package and ship orders of as they come in. Melvin and Madonna’s goal for 2011 is to donate $2,500 to clean-water initiatives in South America.

FORT COLLINS – In their first three years out of college, most young adults have usually found a job, moved into their own place, started paying their own bills, and, in some cases, gotten married and started a family.

In their first three years out of college, Colorado State University graduates Aaron Madonna and Juwon Melvin have started two companies, written two books, embarked upon a mission to clean up the drinking water of South American children, and have inspired countless students with their motivational speeches and blogs.

The pair graduated from CSU in 2008 and immediately began working…

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