Gladitood aims to connect the adventurous with goodwill projects around the world. Cofounder Ryan Brennell explains.
What inspired you to start the company? In 2011, I was living in New Zealand and took a trip to Samoa with some friends. On our second night, there was a tsunami warning, which was taken very seriously. We evacuated from our beach huts and climbed to the community safe house where we were welcomed into community leaders’ homes as family. People slept outside on the tombs of loved ones lost in a devastating tsunami two years prior, just to be close to them. We also learned that they were still trying to rebuild, and progress had been hindered because they hadn’t received the proper aid. We spent the rest of our time helping however we could. At the end of our trip, we left with a family in Samoa.
This trip had such an impact on me that when I got home, I started looking for opportunities to volunteer abroad. They were both difficult to find and too expensive. Our desire to do good was being capitalized on by opportunists with ill intentions. In most cases, it’s an agency charging thousands of dollars to volunteer in a community that doesn’t need the help of volunteers or hasn’t asked for it.
I created Gladitood to solve two problems: I want communities all around the world to have access to the funding they need, and I want to flip the voluntourism market on its head, eliminating opportunist agencies that charge thousands and instead highlight meaningful, affordable volunteer opportunities.
What’s your business model? Our platform for humanitarian and conservation projects is completely free, and it’s free to sign up for opportunities. We keep our lights on by applying a 5 percent fee to all money raised on Gladitood.
What’s your trajectory? In May 2014, Andrew Baur, formerly of Southwest Bank, joined our team as CFO. Funding he helped us acquire propelled us to launch our first projects in September. International Peace Initiatives surpassed its $14,000 funding goal and is using the money to help Kenyan women and children affected by HIV/AIDS by setting up a beauty shop training program to provide women with sustainable life skills and sex education. This month, we’re running a project that supports St. Louis-based Solea Water and is centered on a World Water Day event on March 21.
What do you wish you would have known before starting? I think there’s a real advantage in only seeing a couple steps ahead of you in the beginning. You take those first steps, and then you see the next couple and take those. Before you know it, you can look behind you and see for miles.
Where do you see the company in five years? Gladitood will have helped to feed thousands of children, empower thousands of women, bring clean water to global communities, save endangered species and clean up oceans. We’ll have broadened our perspectives with a family scattered around the globe and have spread a whole new idea of what it really means to travel.
Ryan Brennell, Geoff Raymond and Andrew Baur
Photo by Attilio D’Agostino
Photo credit: Attilio D’Agostino