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Mukumbi and Marissa Izma, co-founder of Same World Same Chance, at the building of a new school in Zambia.
Mukumbi and Marissa Izma, co-founder of Same World Same Chance, at the building of a new school in Zambia.

Grow: Mia Pearson

Students from Stratford start global charity Add to ...

Organizations that support causes around the world have a common goal: to make a difference.

Same World, Same Chance, co-founded by students Kimberly Hurley and Marissa Izma, strives to bring education to those who need it most in Kibombomene, a small village in the northwest province of Zambia. The goal is to build sustainable high schools where staff and students can live off the land while earning an education.

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It’s not easy to build a charitable organization from the ground up when you are still in university and working across two continents. No matter how compelling your mission, fundraising is a daunting task. These students needed to start somewhere and, like many entrepreneurs, they started in their own backyard. In this case, Stratford, Ont.

The first step was to leverage their personal brands in their local community to raise awareness for their cause and to gain much-needed third-party endorsements. As is the case with many student entrepreneurs, they felt they had to be written about by a reputable news outlet to be taken seriously by partners and potential donors. It wasn’t good enough to be great at what they were doing, they needed to be “seen” as being great. Local media coverage was the first step to getting there.

“We constantly came across people who would challenge our ability to build a charity, with Marissa and I being so young,” Ms. Hurley says. “It was important for us to prove that we were dedicated to our cause and ensure that we were more than prepared to go above and beyond to make Same World, Same Chance a recognizable and successful organization.”

The more the pair got the community involved in their efforts, the stronger their relationship became with local media outlets. The founders leveraged their relationships with local schools to create fundraising campaigns with students and secure coverage with their local paper. Next they formed a joint partnership with a local women’s clothing store, creating an annual fashion show to drive funding and secure more coverage. From there, the story continued to build.

But the ultimate goal was to gain international recognition. The media coverage in their local community provided a strong foundation, but as a global organization it was time for the two business partners to figure out a way to secure coverage in other markets around the world.

Ms. Hurley and Ms. Izma invited international media to visit the village and experience it first hand, a PR strategy used by major travel destinations to familiarize journalists with everything the city or country has to offer. Often coined a “fam trip” in our industry, the concept is to give a reporter, often a freelancer, the opportunity to experience life in the village where they were working. For Same World, Same Chance, the trip helped connect the journalist with the cause and gave her the rare opportunity to interview the villagers directly.

The outcome was immediate. Same World, Same Chance received international media coverage in a well-known European publication, increasing awareness of the organization and interest in the cause.

From that point forward, meetings with future partners and donors started to get a little easier and the young entrepreneurs were taken a lot more seriously. The lesson? A little local coverage can go a long way toward building credibility for you and your company. Once secured, you’ll be surprised by what might follow.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic . She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

Join The Globe’s Small Business LinkedIn group to network with other entrepreneurs and to discuss topical issues: http://linkd.in/jWWdzT

Follow on Twitter: @miapearson

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