Friendship Circle Alumni Create A Business Based On Giving Back

There are moments in life that shape who we become. For Zach Firestone, his days as a Friendship Circle teen volunteer were defining moments. Zach is the co-founder of Welzoo.com, along with Jonathan Kaufman and Artur Fruman. Together, they built an online vehicle for supporting over 1.6 million charities just by browsing the internet. His company’s philanthropic mission is not by chance, it was a deliberate idea inspired by his time at the Friendship Circle.

Zach first got involved with the Friendship Circle just before his bar mitzvah and became a devoted volunteer in high school. The incredible facility lured him in, but the people inside kept him coming back.

Zach Firestone Friendship Circle Volunteer

Jonathan Kaufman (left) and Zach Firestone (right) volunteering at Friendship Circle in 2008

The Friends of Lifetown program gave purpose to his adolescent years and showed him the power of being there for someone else. After being paired with his special friend Danny Jonas, he saw the world more clearly through very different eyes. It wasn’t long before he realized what the bond between two people is capable of.

Volunteering at Friendship Circle

Zach Firestone Volunteering at Friendship Circle in 2009

With time and additional life experience, came the achievement of a dream long in the making. As Welzoo.com continues to grow, Zach was kind enough to sit down with us and discuss how he and his partners got the idea off the ground.

Friendship Circle : How did the Friendship Circle affect your career path?               

Zach Firestone: Friendship Circle taught me that an individual has the power to significantly impact someone’s life. Bassie and Levi Shemtov are key examples of that. Their mission taught me that the simplest thing, pushing someone on a swing or helping with an art project, can do so much. Friendship Circle also gave me a foundation of how nonprofits work. A few years ago there was a gathering of Friendship Circle alumni volunteers, in the hopes of coming together in support of the organization. That was a really tough thing for people my age to do as we were just getting started in our careers and were unavailable. I started thinking of ways to make that easier and the Welzoo idea was born.

FC: Other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?                                                                                  

ZF: Talking to everyone about the idea and gaining the feedback that contributed to a better user experience. If we had just pushed out a page on the spot then the idea would’ve failed, the online space is too competitive. We needed the user to feel engaged from the start.

FC: Has Welzoo’s philanthropic foundation made it easier to stick by it and ensure its success?

ZF: Absolutely. We toyed with the idea of letting users keep the money, but that went against the values that inspired this company. It’s all about making charity an accessible priority for the younger generation and Welzoo makes it fun and easy to do.

Zach Firestone Welzoo

Co-founders of Welzoo.com Zach Firestone (right) and Artur Fruman (left) in their Manhattan office.

FC: What habits make you successful?                                                                                                

ZF: Seeking out good investors and utilizing the power of word of mouth. We also found the value in finding the right environment to work in. We’ve recently relocated to NYC and work in a collaborative office space where various startups help each other build on ideas.

FC: How do you conquer moments of doubt that often stop so many young entrepreneurs in their tracks? What pushes you through?                                                                                      

ZF: Keeping perspective and having an overall goal is key. Holding onto what we originally wanted to accomplish and remembering that it’s attainable. Sometimes an alternative route is necessary to make it happen. We were lucky to have had Friendship Circle believe in our idea from the beginning, and it wasn’t long before we knew that we had something valuable on our hands and to stick by it.

FC: If you could go back in time to day one of your startup, what lessons would you tell your former self in hopes of saving time and stress?                                                                    

ZF: I would’ve planned better. Thinking that so many things were impossible to predict wasn’t always the case. Sit down with an accountant, sit down with a lawyer. Write out a business plan. Some things actually are set in stone and then you’re making room for the unpredictable items that will inevitably fall in your lap. Also, learn that spending money will help produce the greatest return. Don’t take the cheap or easy way out, it will cost you more in the long run.

5 Tips from Zach for Today’s Young Entrepreneur

1. Do something you’re absolutely passionate about.

The most successful ventures are the ones built on love and sincerity. If you put your heart and soul into what you do, you’re that much more likely to accomplish your goals and impact others by emotional contagion.

2. Drop the ego.

Young entrepreneurs think they know everything. They do not. I know very little and learn every day. Once you accept that successful people made loads of their own mistakes along the way, you’ll be more honest with yourself about where you need to improve. You’re not Bill Gates just yet, so don’t act like it.

3. Consult with everyone.

This is a natural continuation of #2. Once you’ve established an idea as yours, get all the advice that you can. You may think it’s perfect, but you have just one subjective opinion: yours. There are plenty of people who have gone through the obstacles that you are now, and they can point you in the right direction each step along the way. Your idea and process will be infinitely improved by seeking and considering the advice of all different kinds of people.

4. Develop a clear mission.

This one sounds obvious, but it usually isn’t. It’s amazing to have a great idea, but that won’t take you all the way. You need to sit down and decide exactly what your mission is, and then use it to build your plan of action. Otherwise, it gets way too messy and things can fall apart.

5. Think differently and be bold.

This is the key. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Do something new. Don’t do what everyone else is doing! You need to set yourself apart. You need to be the most effective one in your field, and that won’t be accomplished by mimicking their actions. When you come up with a creative marketing idea, do it. Don’t worry about possible failure. You miss all the shots you don’t take, right? 

Visit Welzoo.com today to start contributing to your cause of choice.

Jam Out With the Maccabeats at Walk4Friendship

With a cappella at the forefront of popular music and entertainment, it’s no surprise to see talented groups…

Big Dreams on Two Wheels – Friendship Circle Hosts iCan Bike Camp

They came, they biked, and, best of all, they beamed with pride. Such was the scene Tuesday at…

Baird Cares! Volunteers Visit LifeTown

It was not a typical day at the office for wealth management teams from Baird in Birmingham. Jay…

New ‘Animal Friends’ Program Brings Wags + Smiles

Six furry friends marched through the doors of Friendship Circle’s Meer Family Friendship Center on Thursday and right…

Pearlman Family

Power Walkers: The Pearlman family – Team Dani P.

They walk for love. They walk for hope. They walk for friendship. They are Friendship Circle’s Power Walkers….

Lubin Family

Power Walkers: The Lubin family – MJS Packaging

They walk for love. They walk for hope. They walk for friendship. They are Friendship Circle’s Power Walkers….