Founding Student Name(s): Dylan Zajac
Brief Description of Solution: Computers 4 People bridges the digital divide and reduces electronic waste by collecting, refurbishing, and donating computers to individuals and organizations in under-resourced communities to promote equity and access to opportunity. Additionally, the organization teaches computer literacy classes, computer building classes, and distributes free internet.
Funding Dollars: $1,415,174
What led you to launch this venture? I was in the car with my dad and stepmother discussing the large number of computers I saw being thrown away through my side hustle business. My stepmother told me how dozens of her non-profit clients didn’t have access to computers and desperately needed them. Something clicked in my head. I could significantly reduce the amount of electronic waste while bridging a digital gap in under-resourced communities seen around the world. The next day I bought the domain names for computers4people.org and computersforpeople.org. Then I started learning about non-profits and how to form a 501(c)(3). I didn’t have a doubt in my mind that this wouldn’t work. Obviously, later down the road, I faced countless challenges surrounding funding, sustainability, age, and balancing school, but I overcame them one-at-a-time.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? Quantitatively, giving out 2,310 free computers to people who need them has been the greatest accomplishment thus far. However, for me personally, it has been the opportunity to hire 10 full-time employees. This is a testament to my hard work and drive to create a long-lasting sustainable organization. Additionally, we have been able to hire multiple staff members that were formerly clients of ours through various employment programs. This only adds to our mission to bridge the digital divide and offer opportunities that weren’t formerly available.
How has your business-related major helped you further this startup venture? Drive and motivation to be successful cannot be taught. What can be taught are the skills needed to accomplish a goal. I pursued a business-related major to gain an advanced understanding in management, accounting, law, finance, and technology. Coupling an above-average understanding of business with unmatched dedication is necessary to be successful in the startup world. Babson has made me a better communicator and more well-rounded entrepreneur.
Which business class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? This might be an uncommon answer, but I feel accounting and managerial accounting has had the largest impact so far on Computers 4 People. I do all the accounting, budgeting, and payroll for the organization. Additionally, I have to make very specific reports for federal and state grants as well as report to Computers 4 People’s board of directors. Understanding the intricacies of an income statement, balance sheet, debits/credits, and allocating funds properly is extremely important. Non-profits are built on a foundation of trust since you are using other people’s money to deliver services. If you mess up, the organization can lose its integrity. These accounting lessons helped me make sure the organization’s finances are being managed properly, which allows us to keep growing and get more funding in the future.
What business professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Babson’s President Steve Spinelli has made the largest impact to Computers 4 People so far. He connected me with an IT company called Greenpages, which donated 150 laptops to Computers 4 People. He was also instrumental in Babson College making its first donation of 300 laptops in the summer of 2022. President Spinelli has connected me with inspiring mentors, such as the directors of Babson’s Social Institute and Franchising Institute, and accomplished entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. Their guidance has provided me with invaluable insights spanning various facets of the business world, including the electronic recycling industry.
What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Growing up I was inspired by many YouTubers that built brands and businesses around themselves. I think of people like Casey Neistat, Roman Atwood, MrBeast, David Dobrik, and Jesse Ridgeway. Watching these people growing up showed me what hard work actually looks like and set an example for me to follow. These Youtubers were able to film, edit, and upload a high-quality video that got millions of views, every single day. Then they were able to make profitable businesses out of their brands and content. This pushed me to create hundreds of YouTube videos and eventually pursue the large entrepreneurial aspirations I have now.
What is your long-term goal with your startup? Computers 4 People will be one of the largest non-profit organizations in the world serving the thousands of individuals who lack access to essential technology and skills. We will tackle future unknown challenges of digital inequity among underserved communities while keeping the quality of our free services top notch.
How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? My startup ecosystem for Computers 4 People consists of all the other local non-profits in my area. Creating these relationships, that are now over five years old, has been proven time and again to be essential to our growth. We all support each other through attending each other’s fundraisers, making connections, and running programs together. Running a non-profit shouldn’t be a competition—we all need to work together if we want to grow and serve more people.
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