FIP 119: Tips for young founders with Lamia Makkar who launched her first startup at age 13

This week on the Finding Impact Podcast, we’ve got Lamia Makkar and we’re going to talk about Lamia’s experience as a young founder, with the hope of inspiring and helping other young founders succeed at what they’re doing. Lamia started her first non-profit Haiti: Hands On, at the age of 13, when at times she had to skip school to present to CEOs in Boardrooms in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where she lived. Fast forward 8 years later, to today, and Lamia has kindly come on to share her experience.

On this podcast, you will learn:

  • Why she started a non-profit at 13 years old
  • Challenges she had to overcome because of her age:
    • Basic infrastructure to run an organization: couldn’t open a bank account or register as a 501c3 in the US until she was 18 years old.
    • Getting people to take her seriously: validity of being recognized as a serious stakeholder while still not being able to register with proper documentation; fundraising; buy-in from Haitians
    • Opposition from parents: stigma surrounding Haiti; safety, etc.
  • Advantages, because of her age:
    • Able to answer questions about their doubt, ie. at their age, there was no social stigma around saying, “I don’t know.” Very easy for them to ask other organizations questions and interview them before building anything
    • High level contacts sharing information with them since they didn’t see them as a competitor nor us just trying to build their careers.
  • How to ask the right questions and who to reach out to:
    • Researching education nonprofits in Haiti and throughout the world
    • Sending out cold emails to ask how do you do what you do
    • Looking for potential partners in Haiti, and donors in the UAE
    • Practicing a phone script and writing a business plan and proposal
    • Getting people to understand your why, and understand that you’re serious, before they have time to ask your age
    • In the UAE and other fundraising markets, getting people to understand that this is something that is already happening; proof and a track record
  • Could not solicit donations online since they were not registered, but raised their first $100,000 over two years only from babysitting, tutoring, running events at school, bake sales, etc.
    • Used that money to start building, then recorded a lot of pictures and interviews of the construction so they could then go back to some of the same corporations and funders to show that they are actually doing something.
    • Raised $35,000 from that second round
  • How they hired older team members:
    • First team member to help with operations and logistics was in his mid 20’s and someone Lamia had met during her first trip to Haiti and was involved since the very beginning
    • Others included construction workers who reported directly to the local coordinators
  • Their balance and mix between cold calling, googling information, and having regular advisors
  • Lamia’s advice for other young people who have an idea for service to their community or other communities

Links to Resources:

Connect with Lamia: