Drinking in DC for a Good 'Cause'
District of Columbia
Jun 22, 2012
The past ten years have seen Nick Vilelle go from grad school at George Mason University, to West Africa with the Peace Corps, to Swaziland where he helped launch and grow the GEW campaign there and back to Washington, DC, where he is starting a new venture--a philanthropub.
GEW catches up with one of its former hosts.
GEW: CONGRATULATIONS ON LAUNCHING CAUSE. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING ON THE IDEA?
NV: Thanks! We have been working on it for about 5 years now. Raj and I first thought of the idea right after I had returned from my Peace Corps service in Togo, West Africa. Raj and I had been friends since grad school and we were catching up over a beer. Coming directly from a village with so little to the DC bar scene was a bit overwhelming. We both felt like there was something better we could do with all of the cash changing hands in the bar and restaurant industry. Now, after five years of talking about it, it is time to make it happen!
WHY A PHILANTHROPUB?
Our belief is that it is very important to make "charitable giving" easier, more fun and more social. We want it to become a part of day to day life. With the profit margins that exist in bars, we feel like it is the right way to reach the audience we were targeting, as well as being able to give away a significant amount of money. We have dedicated ourselves to give 100% of our net profits, so that our customers can feel good knowing where their money is going.
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT GETTING STARTED?
I'll tell you once we open our doors :)
WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST BREAK? BIGGEST MISTAKE?
My biggest break was finding a great business partner! Raj and I have always maintained open communication and been clear with each other about our goals for Cause. We are fortunate to share a vision for what we want to achieve as individuals and as an organization.
Biggest mistake: not starting this earlier. Think how many drinks have been had at bars since we thought of this!
WHAT DOES THE NEXT FIVE YEARS LOOK LIKE FOR CAUSE?
It has always been our thought that Cause DC is our pilot for this concept of a PhilanthroPub. If the concept catches on like we hope it will, we will pursue an aggressive expansion strategy. We anticipate that we will be able to donate quite a bit of money from the DC location, but if we have 5 or 10 or 100 other locations, these numbers begin to add up very quickly! We have talked to a lot of people about this idea, and there are a lot of them out there that can get behind the idea of having a good time for a great cause. So why not Cause SF, Cause Austin, and Cause Cape Town?
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED IN GLOBAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP WEEK?
I got involved with Global Entrepreneurship Week in November 2009, when I was working with TechnoServe and was responsible for hosting GEW Swaziland. We had a fantastic campaign in Swaziland and that has continued to grow to this day.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE EXPERIENCE OR STORY TO TELL ABOUT GEW?
The people involved with GEW are simply awe-inspiring. After every interaction, I walk away humbled, inspired, and feeling like there is more that I can do. This group simply knows how to get things done and to create impact.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE JUST STARTING OUT?
Find a good support structure. Starting something is a very lonely and sometimes intimidating process. If you have surrounded yourself with people you can rely on, they will help you deal with some of this stress and keep you moving in the right direction.