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On the “About Us” section of Welzoo.com an image of Bill Gates appears with the corresponding quote: “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” Underneath lies the response of University alum and Welzoo co-founder Jonathan Kaufman: “I am an incredibly lazy person.”
Finding the easiest, simplest way to do something is at the center of Welzoo.com, a fundraising website founded by childhood friends Kaufman, University alum Artur Fruman and Michigan State University alum Zach Firestone. The Michigan Daily was able to speak with Fruman, now in New York, over Skype, where he described the website’s concept.
“How it works is once any organization is listed on the site, any one of its members could choose that organization and sign up and make Welzoo.com their browser homepage,” Fruman said. “Then every single day they go online from then on we generate a 3-cent donation to the organization that they chose, everyday just for going on the Internet.”
According to Fruman, the trio of founders were all drawn to charity work, especially through Friendship Circle, a charity based in West Bloomfield that helps children with special needs by incorporating a prototype indoor city.
“They had a fake bank, a pharmacy, a theater and pretty much you’d go there with whoever you’re partnered up with and they get to get this kind of practice round at life,” Fruman recalled.
However, as the friends grew up, they found it more difficult to donate time and money to charity. The three looked for ways to support the organizations they could no longer take an active role in by the finding simplest means possible.
“We wanted something that cost zero money and took zero time and throughout that brainstorming process we were trying to come up with things that we do every day that we could turn into something good,” Fruman said. “You know, we breathe everyday, we brush our teeth everyday and we also go on the Internet every single day.”
This idea became the concept of “PassiveAction”: “The idea of effortlessly putting our everyday actions to use,” according to their website. And in today’s technology-driven world, what’s more everyday than the Internet? Picking up this concept, the trio began to pursue the idea of Welzoo in 2012 and started the company in Ann Arbor.
“Ann Arbor was awesome; Ann Arbor was the best,” Fruman said. “We had an office in Ann Arbor. Right on top of Village Apothecary we had a little office there; it was amazing.”
Originally aiming for larger nonprofits, Fruman said a breakthrough came for the company when they became involved with student organizations. He said the University’s South Asian Awareness Club, a student org., asked to list themselves on Welzoo to raise funds.
“We only wanted people to be able to support a nonprofit and student organizations were something we never even thought of targeting,” Fruman said.
“It was only a few months down the line where I realized that we were about to pay out some charities and I realized that this student org had raised a good amount of money,” Fruman said. “It was at that moment that I realized, what are we doing targeting charities and stuff when the whole basis for this whole company was because we as kids in college weren’t able to support our favorite organization? It was our age group that was missing out, that needed this type of platform.”
Welzoo pursued the involvement of more student organizations and continued to grow. Truman said that there are around 25 organizations that use Welzoo at the University alone. These range from fraternities and sororities to organizations like More Than Me, a charity that helps young girls in Liberia go to school, and Students for Diabetes Awareness.
When talking about Welzoo’s role in helping these organizations, Fruman said the site exists to complement the efforts of these students.
“I think it all boils down to their passion to make a difference and that’s what all these student orgs seem to be doing,” Fruman said. “We’re happy to be a platform to help them out.”
Realizing the potential for Welzoo, Fruman, Kaufman and Firestone raised funds and moved the company to New York. However, the co-founders have aimed to keep their own light-hearted personalities in the project. Whether it’s poking fun at the apparent simplicity or self-described “laziness” of the concept to pulling April Fool’s Day pranks on each other involving fake cease and desist letters, the team at Welzoo aims to enjoy their time.
Fruman described the dynamic between the three founders with Kaufman being the crazy, creative end; Firestone being more calm and proper; and Fruman himself lying somewhere in the middle, able to work with both of them.
When asked to think about a time when the three have combined their talents to accomplish goals for the company, Fruman pointed to Welzoo’s most recent YouTube video, “Student Org Meeting — Welzoo Discussion.” In the video, the three take a comic approach to a club leader discussing Welzoo for the first time with his members.
“I was the one who kind of came up (with the idea) and made it happen,” Fruman said. “Zach was the one who came up with potentially what the lines would be. Jonathan comes in with the camera and his creative ideas saying, ‘That’s not cool enough, let’s go just true and raw and make it happen, we’ll make it creative.’ It all worked out.”
Welzoo’s interest in videos and social media has helped the company spread its message. Their first video, “The Millennial Rebuttal,” countered accusations about how today’s generation is out of touch and shows how young people have connected and advanced society using the Internet. The video has nearly 150,000 views. Welzoo wishes to use social media in much the same way: to use social media as a means to raise charity. This includes their first fundraiser “#CutOutBreastCancer,” which used Instagram to raise money, and raised $700 dollars for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Fruman remains humble when describing what he and his friends have achieved, but their ambitions remain high.
“We’re a pretty young company so I don’t want to say we’ve accomplished enough yet, but I’m definitely really happy with the route that it’s going right now,” Fruman said. “We’ve raised almost $50,000 for various student organizations and nonprofits throughout America. It’s not a crazy number at all, we want that to be tenfold that number within a year from now.”
But it’s still not the money Fruman says he, Kaufman and Firestone are proud of; it’s the e-mails they receive from thankful students and recipients. Fruman smiles as he reads one of the e-mails from a girl whose Instagram post Welzoo liked. At the end of the e-mail reads, “You’ve made my whole day.”
“That type of e-mail where she sees what our mission is, to allow people our age to give back in a very small way. You know, give back in a way that they’re not doing anything; they’re literally just changing their homepage. And she said at the end, ‘You’ve made my whole day,’ which obviously, that made my month, that was amazing. Those are the little things.”
-See more: https://www.michigandaily.com/arts/02b-side-secondary-welzoo-nonprofit26