Getting into the jive of the Year of Reading is Michael Taylor of LeapTee who has launched the “Syrian Refugee Book Drive” to benefit Syrian refugees in Sweden. Michael has gathered a number of Arabic books and is appealing to the community to contribute more. He also uses his company LeapTee, an online t-shirt selling portal, to help raise funds for the cause. Here he shares his vision and motivation…
TEMPO: How do you see Michael Taylor?
Michael: Urbanite. Foodie. Explorer. Web developer. Aspiring writer. Also: Managing Director of LeapTee, a U.S. based crowdfunding platform.
Born in Texas, influenced by Atlanta, and making my rounds in Abu Dhabi. Alumni of the University of Massachusetts. Intrigued by design, traveling, photography, blues music, strategy, writing, good deeds, armchair philosophy, fabulous food, and even better conversations. Seeking to inspire and to be inspired. To envision the unlikely, to work hard for things that are worth it, and to be surrounded by those who bring out the best in me.
TEMPO: How does this gel with your company LeapTee?
Michael: LeapTee’s concept revolves around combining crowdfunding and social media to disrupt charitable giving and transform philanthropy. It was the best decision I made to pursue that passion. I continue to be inspired by LeapTee’s mission and the incredible individuals, volunteer groups and organizations that can use LeapTee to change the world for the better.
Most people think being an entrepreneur is the path to freedom, wealth and glamour. It’s actually none of those things, and on an expected-value basis, it will never be.
Being an entrepreneur is about “making a dent in this universe,” to quote Steve Jobs. My love and passion for philanthropy comes from the ability to do this, or at least try. It is extremely gratifying and a tremendous privilege to have a job that allows me to make a dent in the universe by building technology to serve the greater good.
TEMPO: Why a “Syrian Refugee Book Drive”?
Michael: In 2015 alone, Sweden, a country with less than 10 million people took in nearly 200,000 refugees from war-torn Syria. Adjusting to life in a very different place has many obstacles.
These refugees have many needs. Learning Swedish can be a challenge in their new (and possibly temporary) home, and there is very little reading material of any kind available in Arabic.
Basic education and reading material may not rank as high as food and shelter, so it is an issue that can easily be lost in the global conversation. At LeapTee, we aim to highlight these kinds of issues, and are sponsoring a book drive to aid Syrian refugees.
TEMPO: Of all the possible benefactors around the world, why Syrian refugees?
Michael: I’ve been gestating a novel for years and now it is in its final stages of editing and due out this summer. My editor lives in Sweden and has made friends with many Syrian refugees. She asked me, since I spend so much time in an Arab country, if I had any friends who had Arabic books that they could donate. It seemed like the perfect cause for LeapTee. I think she was only hoping for a few books for a few people, but with several hundred thousand refugees in Sweden, I am certain we can do much better than that.
TEMPO: How is LeapTee doing?
Michael: There are many people who still think I’m just some t-shirt huckster—but that misses the point entirely. Our platform allows anyone to raise funds—whether it is for a good cause, a business, or just to make some extra money—with no upfront costs, no risks, and no overhead, and with zero technical skill required. That is real tangible help to people in a world where there are so many barriers to raising money. We aim to eliminate all of them.
TEMPO: Is there any philanthropist that inspires you?
Michael: Muhammad Yunus. The Bangladeshi economist pioneered a new category of banking known as micro-credit, which grants small loans to poor people who have no collateral and who do not qualify for conventional bank loans. He actually won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in this field. The programme has enabled millions of Bangladeshis, almost all women, to buy everything from cows to cell phones in order to start and run their own businesses. Micro loans are on average about $200 USD and Yunus gave out loans that were on average $27 each. So he may not be a philanthropist in the traditional sense, but his micro loan concept has made all the difference.
TEMPO: What’s a typical day for Michael Taylor.
Michael: Nothing interesting here. Between getting my daughter to and from Repton school, I work non-stop. I do this because I believe in LeapTee’s mission and I relish the challenge. My daughter needs a role model who shows her how to pursue her passions, take risks and suck all the marrow out of life. I believe I can better be that person if I’m in a job I love, living a life I love. I try to do this, every single day.
TEMPO: What are your future plans?
Michael: We would like to find a cause to sponsor each month. There are so many people in need in this world, and so many issues that deserve attention. We know we cannot cater to everything or everyone, but we can be the example.
TEMPO: Your message to encourage philanthropy?
Michael: Everyone has the power to make positive change in the world.
Start a campaign on LeapTee, donate a book, buy a shirt. Find somewhere to volunteer, find a cause you are passionate about—chances are, you are already passionate about something. If you have ever tried to fall asleep with a mosquito in the room, then you know even a small thing can make a difference. Never believe that your contribution is too small. Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something. And please find a way to contribute to the Syrian Refugees Book Drive.
Sidebar: Here’s how you can help:
Provide Arabic language books
We have locations they can be shipped to in the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, and we are adding more throughout the campaign. We have a book drop at BrandMoxie’s office at twofour54 Rotana #307. Contact us to get a location near you.
Become a donation location
You can become a donation location yourself and encourage students, faculty and friends to bring Arabic language books. At the end of the campaign, LeapTee will collect the books and ship them to Sweden.
Buy a shirt
Proceeds from the sale of LeapTee limited edition shirts will offset the costs of shipping. Any additional funds will be used to purchase and deliver more books to refugees in Sweden. Encourage others to buy t-shirts by sharing this link: http://leaptee.com/bookdrive