I recently met up with Jordon Rooney, Founder of NFBD (Never Fear Being Different). With all of the negativity we constantly hear regarding social media, I was really interested in hearing about NFBD and how Jordon is using social media for good. After speaking with him, it’s clear that he is really affecting how young people are using their online presence in a positive way. He advised me that we need more smart people out there using social media the right way, and I may take him up on that advice.
What is your business?
NFBD (Never Fear Being Different) is a nonprofit that aims to amplify social impact in the digital age. We work with two groups: nonprofits and youth. We help nonprofits figure out social media and how to use it to effectively spread their message to new and current audiences. We also provide opportunities for young people by training them on digital literacy: what does effective online leadership look like, building your personal brand, and monetizing social media. Social media, if used appropriately, can help to level the playing field for otherwise disadvantaged populations and help pave a path to success.
How did you come up with your idea?
I started out as as a motivational school speaker, visiting 160 schools in 14 states. I was posting my talks online, but didn’t view social media as the main source of influence; I thought it was more about physical presence. As I continued to post my talks and increase views, I realized that the world was changing and online leadership and personal brand was an even more effective way to get my message out.
People began to reach out asking me to help them build their social presence. Young people are really great at social media and online presence. I connect the two groups through different programs.
VLOG University is the main program. High school students are paid to provide a service to nonprofits, similar to an ad agency. The first one was during the summer of 2018 and funded by the Buhl Foundation. Students who participated improved their digital literacy by over 70%, increased their confidence level by 60%, and one student landed a freelance job. I am planning for the summer of 2019 with a longer program and more students.
The NFBD All-Star Football Game is the second program we run. It is one of the the largest high school level football all star games on the East Coast, bringing together high level high school football players and top college football players. It is not just about football. We have seminars on social media impact, goal setting and communication. Our goal is to provide the tools and to teach future influencers how to use social media for good.
What is your vision?
To get more people to embrace the positives of social media and leverage it for good. We are in the age of technology. People say that they want to stay off of it, but over 80% of the US uses it. If you have access to the internet, then you have access to resources.
Did you picture yourself doing what you are doing now?
No, not at all. I didn’t know what I was capable of until I started to be around people doing powerful, impactful things, who were doing things similar to what I was doing.
Why did you choose Ascender?
I didn’t know what an incubator was or a coworking space was. I was just searching start-ups in Pittsburgh and found a start-up that was a part of an incubator, and searched incubators in Pittsburgh and began applying. I came to an info session, met with Stephan, and applied. I went to Bootcamp and was accepted into the incubation program. Since then, I have started two businesses.
What advice would you give to people starting out?
Choose something that you are good at and that you think about a lot, because you will instinctively innovate. Then think about how you can make money from it.
Did you have any detractors?
All of the time, especially in the beginning. I had people who told me two years ago “no” and now they want to hire me. There are people I emailed 6-7 times who are now reaching out asking me what things cost.
It’s about building your network to create access and learning how to communicate with results to back it up.
What are your lessons learned?
There are three main lessons:
1 – One that I am still learning is don’t do everything yourself. As an entrepreneur, letting go is one of the hardest things to do. You need to be a leader and manage other people to take on tasks.
2 – When things are trending and going well, people will gravitate to you, and not everyone means well. Genuine people normally won’t try to sell you on things, they will offer value.
3 – Build patience and relationships.