Interview with Nolan Felicidario

Hey beautiful people! For the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing interviews and tips from the epic people behind Step on Poverty . Wha...

Hey beautiful people! For the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing interviews and tips from the epic people behind Step on Poverty. What I love about Step on Poverty is it's blatant belief that teens and young adults can do epic things and disrupt inefficient systems. I know you'll love reading these interviews!

Everyone, give it up for Nolan Felicidario! Just a little bit of housekeeping: the things that are italicized are my thoughts, and the emphasis is added by me.

Could you give me a brief bio about who you are and what Step on Poverty is? My name is Nolan Felicidario. I am the founder and Senior Executive Director of Step on Poverty. I am currently a freshman at the University of Michigan majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics with minors in Complex Systems and Sustainability. (You know, just taking it easy. lol.) My hobbies are graphic design, writing, and I also dabble with home renovation.

While in the United States it may be beneficial to donate free goods, this is possible because we have a well-developed economy. Not all countries have this privilege. Benevolence sometimes blinds pragmatism.

Step on Poverty is a nonprofit organization founded to give high school students the opportunities to pursue their ambitions under the guidance of peers and the principle of economic pragmatism. Using what we call the Initiative Model, students can either join existing initiatives that match their interests or create new ones that align with their passions. Currently, Step on Poverty has three active initiatives (shoe initiative, consulting initiative, and environment initiative) all of which are being collaboratively run by members and alumni. I’ll go ahead and mention a little bit about each initiative.

Currently, the shoe initiative has collected over 4,500 pairs of used shoes that will soon be sold to micro-businesses in developing nations at below-production-prices in order to support local economies, rather than flooding them with free donations. The students organize collections in efficient manners in order to quickly collect shoes before they end up in landfills across the nation. The students plan to collect double of their current amount, collecting more than 5 tons of used shoes before May of this year.

As for the consulting initiative, 15 members have been continuously practicing the art of selling in order to provide pro-bono services to local businesses. Unlike most consulting groups which solely seek the company of large corporations, the students understand the importance of their local economy a majority of which is made of local businesses. Instead, students are attempting to improve said businesses through basic consulting services focused around marketing. Although it seems like sales is unnecessary, as Steve Jobs once said, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. Students are tackling intense public speaking and have already acquired several clients. They are planning to acquire many more.

Lastly, the environment movement is promoting sustainability through education and the provision of sustainable opportunities. The students are currently spearheading Project Sustainable Lunch, a movement focused on installing Recycling and Composting bins in local high school cafeterias. Although we are successfully working on establishing the Recycling bins, the system to install Composting bins does not exist within our local community. This necessity for a community food-based composter started Project Community Compost, a movement wherein members are attempting to collaborate with local officials and leaders to establish a full-fledged anaerobic digester in Troy, Michigan.

Although we only have three initiatives as of now, we are looking forward to expanding into many more. Step on Poverty is merely in its first year of operation yet it is already making tangible community impact both domestically and internationally. The organization is showing the world that brilliance can come from anyone. (Hey teens- perfect opportunity for you to make a difference. Hit him up.)

What has been the hardest lesson you've learned running Step on Poverty?Being an iconoclast is the most difficult challenge that I have faced while cultivating a community with Step on Poverty. While tirelessly searching for grants, I have found that many people do not like what they do not understand. Step on Poverty’s ideas are contrarian, which alienates our cause as opposed to other movements which are purportedly more “focused” or “benevolent”. Regardless of the rejection and failure that we experience, I truly believe that this movement is one that is worth all of the work that I invest both now and in the future.

So you’re in college, doing so pretty intense studying, as well as being the Executive Director of Step on Poverty. What's one tip you could give to teens on how to balance everything?
Efficiency is critical to a balanced schedule. I find that many teens suffer from procrastination that is rooted in some sort of anxiety. Rather than worry about what has happened or will happen, I accept fate and embrace work. Although I am not the epitome of efficiency, I believe that I am fairly successful in completing what needs to be done.

What is the biggest (or most popular) mistake you've seen people make when they are trying to be benevolent but are actually being inefficient with their giving?Step on Poverty was partially founded to right the wrongs of economic dumping associated with shoes. The most popular mistake is that people believe that donating free things will help; however, especially when dealing with foreign developing markets it is important to consider the economic repercussions.

What is one quality you think every social entrepreneur (and aspiring entrepreneur) should have?
Resilience. Entrepreneurs always face failure whether on a large or small scale. Regardless of what happens, it is important to keep trying and to learn from your mistakes. Always improve, always progress. (Literally love this so much.)

What do you guys think of Nolan's awesome perspective? Inspiring, no? I'd love to know your thoughts. You can find out more about Step on Poverty on their website.

Keep being epic,

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