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How to Start a Movement: Part I

A while ago, my friend reached out to me about how The Smile Project began...questioning how it started and if I would be able to give her any tips should she want to start something similar in her field. I've never really known how to define The Smile Project until another friend told me it was something of a movement. All this led me to sit down and type a 5-page document into my computer to send to my friend. This is the first 2.5 pages.

How to Start a Movement

1. Find your cause. If you already know what that is, you can move onto the next tip. If you don’t, I’ve got some thought provoking ideas:

  • Write down your top three strengths

  • Write down your top three interests

  • Write down your top three weaknesses

  • What “wake up call” would you like to give yourself

  • What “wake up call” would you like to give the world

The most important of these questions is actually, in my opinion, the third. You obviously want to do something that aligns with your passions and your strengths and it has to be something you’re interested in so that “work” doesn’t feel like work. However, there is also something incredible about someone who can turn their weakness into a strength. Maybe you feel as though you lack confidence in your own appearance so you run a true beauty campaign and suddenly realize how absolutely stunning you are. Not only have you been able to rewire a part of your brain and change a major component of your day to day life, but you have been able to impact people through your campaign as well.

2. Do something about it. That’s really all there is to it. The something is the elusive part. So first you have to figure out where you’re going with it:

  • So what’s the point?

  • That’s the main issue. Obviously, you are completely and totally passionate about your cause but how do you convince a random passerby that this is worth caring about. People, naturally, look out for themselves and want to see how what you are doing can benefit them. Think of tangible ways you can benefit someone…whether that’s solving a pre-existing problem or making their lives easier. You need a value statement for them to take hold of.

  • The value statement:

  • This ties directly into the “what’s the point” spiel above. If you’re seriously considering starting a campaign of any kind, I think this is the most important thing to do first. I’ve been working on The Smile Project for five years now and I still squirm a bit when forced to explain what it is or what I do. Take some time writing a really nice boilerplate that you can memorize and recite on a whim. This will also get people interested in early on making them more likely to buy into the business.

  • Tips on writing a boiler plate.

  • The Structure:

  • Is this going to be a one-time event like a charity 5k? Do you want to have this last after you’re gone or is it just going to be an extension of yourself? Do you see this as a tangible business down the road or more of a side project to entertain time? You have to be realistic about your end goals so you can best set up your day to day activities to mirror that. What you don’t want is to reach a point where you’re simply “maintaining” the status quo of the organization. But I’ll get to that later.

  • The mentor:

  • When I was completing my senior research paper for college on happiness in business and marketing emotions, I reached out to almost 30 or so entrepreneurs. I heard back from about half and used the knowledge for about a dozen in my project. Of those dozen that I had the opportunity to learn from, several have become mentor figures in the sense of entrepreneurship. Obviously, shoot for the moon, but don’t be afraid to find smaller and newer groups that are doing what you are doing already. They will be your best resources.

  • The Pollination Project gives small grants every single day to new start-ups. They also feature the start ups on their website. Though I’ve never applied for a grant, I have scanned their website and connected with many others who are working on staring their own social change campaigns. Check out their website and then hover over “grants” --> “all grants awarded in (year)”

  • This is an added note (4/17/16) but some of the best mentors I have are old professors and teachers and even friends. Yes, I have incredibly wise friends who are a bit older than me, but I have also been inspired by those my own age and younger. Find people who share your vision and work with them. They are truly your greatest asset.

  • The Platform

  • This is a big one. You have to decide how you want to build it. Websites are great but can cost money/take more time. Also, a lot of people tend to learn about organizations through social media anyway. On top of that, perhaps the best perk, social media is free. When you are ready—do not rush this—make a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube or whatever else seems relevant. Make sure not to overwhelm yourself at first. If it’s just you, it may be hard to run all these channels effectively. In that instance, it would be better to focus on one or two where you can have the greatest impact. Then, as you devote more time to this or have someone else join the team, add another site. I started TSP with Facebook, then a website, then Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram and most recently Boomcast. That being said, I know I am not using them all to my full potential.

  • Hootsuite is a great way to manage all forms of social media. Once you have more than one thread running, I highly suggest creating a free account on here. You can schedule posts for months in advance.

  • One relevant thing is to create a catchy hashtag. This can be huge if you can think of something creative, short, and memorable. I try to use #SpreadTheSmile but I’ve used so many that I feel like I don’t have one, strong, established hashtag. Something to consider early when setting the tone of your business on social media. Are you going to be fun and light-hearted or more serious and urgent? If you can establish a solid brand identity early that will make a world of difference down the road.

  • For more info on social media on business, usually has great advice or even a simple Google search will provide a TON of information on it

  • A website: super cool. Even if you know nothing about website design, you’ll learn pretty quickly (I did and technology is not my area of expertise)! I use a platform called Wix.Like most website builders, it will be free unless you pay for special features or get rid of ads or buy your domain (all of which I now pay for). I wouldn’t worry too much about a website just yet. I would allow social media to grow and see what you can do solely focusing on that. If you do want to jump into the website right away, at least hold off on paying for it as long as possible. That is a quiet expensive that does add up.

  • I’ve also heard great things about Square Space for building websites but I can’t speak from any personal experience with them.

  • One thing to consider with building a website is first, if you even need one. If all of your needs are met through social media, don’t spend time creating a website. My main purpose for the website is twofold: to try to reach older audiences who may not have Facebook and to maintain a weekly blog in a neat and organized forum. You have to find value in something before putting time into it. I don’t find much added value in my LinkedIn account. Therefore, while I have a group that could be incredibly useful someday, at present I focus on my other accounts.


This is just the first half of a longer document. Next week, I'll be taking my first real "vacation" as a college graduate making her way through the real world! I will be attending my friends wedding (and okay, I'm only taking one day off from work, but it still counts). Because next Sunday will also be full of activity and excitement, I have decided to hold off on part II and save it for then. Hopefully as I continue to learn and grow through The Smile Project, I will be able to provide you with parts III, IV, and V at some point.

Thanks for reading and let me know what other topics of service I should cover for #ServiceSunday.

Love always,


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