Doing Some Good: An Interview with GoneReading's Brad Wirz
Recently, I learned about GoneReading - an online store whose profits are donated to libraries and reading programs around the world. We all know how important books are and how valuable libraries can be, so I was so excited to hear about this philanthropic organization.
Today, I am interviewing GoneReading's Brad Wirz about what the organization is, who they help, and how everyone else can get involved.
1.Tell us a little about Gone Reading.
GoneReading is a philanthropic enterprise – a for-profit business – that markets a unique collection of products for people who love to read. You can see them all on our website at www.GoneReading.com. The only difference between GoneReading and any other business is that we donate 100% of the profits to fund libraries and reading-related charities, in the U.S. and all around the world. GoneReading is all about readers. On the one hand we provide readers with great products, many of which can’t be found anywhere else. We take the profit generated from those sales and channel them to help bring the magic of reading into the lives of less-fortunate readers.
2.How did GoneReading get started?
I spent 20 years in the corporate marketing world, but a couple of years ago I ended up on a volunteer trip to Central America. When we arrived at our remote camp in the jungles of Honduras I learned that we would spend the week building a library for the local villagers. As a book lover, I was intrigued. I learned that this would be the first library for a hundred miles in any direction. Thousands of people from hundreds of villages would essentially have access to books and reading material for the first time in their lives. All from a tiny library, perhaps the size of a typical Starbucks. That experience definitely put the wheels in motion, and about six months later I quit my job, ended my career and started GoneReading. On later trips to rural India and Nepal I saw the long-term effect of small rural libraries in such communities. When done right, farmers learn to improve their crop yields, parents learn to improve the health of their children, kids stay in school much longer, savings-cooperatives are formed, local businesses are launched. That tiny library creates a cycle of prosperity where previously there had only been cycles of poverty. It’s not quite that simple, and it takes a lot of hard work from a lot of hard people over time, but the effect is marked, and quite magical!
3. What are your goals with GoneReading? Have you seen any progress?
One of the things I learned in my first 5 minutes in Honduras is that I don’t bring anything to the process of actually building libraries. Mixing cement on the jungle floor is not as fun as it sounds! So we don’t develop libraries ourselves, we help fund some amazing organizations that specialize in that work, but lack the funds they need to grow dramatically. READ Global and Ethiopia Reads are two such organizations to which we donate our funds. GoneReading is still tiny – we launched less than a year ago – but we’re growing very rapidly. So far this year our revenues have more than doubled month-over-month, so we’re clearly headed in the right direction. Our goal is to fund massive change… tens of millions of dollars per year, so we’ve got a lot of work ahead, but we’re going to get there over time. In 2013 we plan to start selling in retail stores across the U.S., so that will be a major milestone for us.
4. How can our readers get involved?
I’m so glad you asked! Three things: One, check out our website at www.GoneReading.com and buy some of our products. If you love to read, I know you’re going to find something you will absolutely adore. Two, share our website with your friends that love to read: Pin your favorite products on Pinterest, or use Facebook and Twitter to share our website. Lastly, and this is brand new, we’re actively recruiting libraries in the U.S. to participate in our new fundraising pilot program We can help you raise real money for your library. If you represent a public library in the U.S. and want to learn more, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you so much for joining us, Brad, and thank you for the work you are doing to spread reading around the world!
And right now, thanks to Brad's generosity, YAHighway readers can get 25% off GoneReading items by using hte code YAHIGHWAY25. The code lasts until April 30.
GoneReading is just one of the many amazing charitable organizations out there to promote reading. If it's something that interests you, I encourage you to do some research and find ways to get involved. It's always nice to do some good in the world!