Maddi is the 20-year-old founder of a fundraiser that’s raised over $15,000 for cancer research.
She’s the type of person who gets out of her seat at Starbucks, mid-conversation, to pick up someone’s scarf that fell.
The fundraiser is called On Board, running for the 4th straight year this July (2nd, if you happen to be in the Welland, Ontario region). She’s won sponsorships for this thing, hundreds of people participate, and she’s absolutely fearless about it.
This 100 Cups of Coffee interview is about:
+ How Maddi grew the lady-balls to put her idea out there
+ Maddi’s thoughts on rejection, confidence, and co-op hunting (they’re golden)
+ How she pulled off getting the sponsors she did in on this event
If you don’t have time to read the interview, listen to the podcast! In the audio version of the chat you’ll:
+ Get extra bits of Maddi’s tips on getting sponsors/partners to jump on your idea (edited out of the blog for length)
+ Hear what made me stress—to the point of physical tremors—in first year, and what stressed Maddi out. Spoiler alert: it’s got to do with finding a summer job
+ Get an honest look at how this blog and On Board have helped me and Maddi get opportunities out of life (personal and professional) that we wouldn’t otherwise have gotten, even though we aren’t nearly world-class status
What are you waiting for?
Dana Iskoldski: What’s success to you?
Maddi Leblanc: Achieving your personal goals and dreams, even if they’re super small in eyes of other people. If it means a lot to you, and you got it/there, that’s what success is.
Milestones? What have you raised?
We average about 100 people who come and go go throughout the day.
It’s raised about $15,000 total. Thats huge for me.
Also, the connections—paddlers, people I’ve met, other people affected by cancer—it’s really rewarding hearing all their stories.
About sponsors, the first year there were 3. And that doesn’t sound like a whole heck of a lot, but to me it was a big deal. It meant having 3 more people behind me.
On Board—what started it?
In 2011, two friends of mine passed away from cancer. Lynn Lambert—she was 37, a local high school teacher. She passed away in March, and later on that same year, Julia Turner (one of my classmates) passed away.
Those two deaths were very overwhelming. Welland is about 50,000 people, so it has a small-town atmosphere. The community didn’t know how to handle them passing away.
Once I finally got a paddle board and went out on the Welland Canal, I knew that was how I wanted to give back.
Is it easier to get sponsors or your friends On Board with the fundraiser? (hah)
Sponsors, as funny as that sounds.
My first was Ausmosis—a locally-owned SUP company located in St Catharines. And they were the first that I called about sponsorship.
What did you say?
I didn’t know how to say “hey, can you give me money to go and do this thing?”
I was so nervous.
I call the shop, get on the phone with the owner, Darryl, and I’m like “hey…”
And it took me a couple minutes to process, but I explained what I was doing with On Board, told him I don’t have any sponsors, and asked if he would like to be one.
Said “I love SUP, and I see that you’re a new company, and I’m from the region.”
And Darryl just said “Yup. Yup. I’ll do it.”
Right away. No hesitation.
He’s been helping me host the free SUP demos these past years—they take place at the starting point of the 10K.
How many brands do you have On Board now? (hah)
Surf The Greats / Ausmosis Surf SUP / Surf Dreams Canada / Miss Dar’s School of Dance / Paddle Niagara / Wappa Paddle Boards / Impact Promotions Niagara / Jakes Landscaping / Sport Chek / Serianni Construction / Vesuvius Canada
How did you get them… On… Board?
Once I reached out to Darryl, he helped me get others because of how they’re all connected in the SUP/surf community. I’d be talking to Darryl in his shop, and he’d tell me about a new board he just sold to Surf the Greats, for example, and I’d be like “who are they?”
The takeaway: listen to peoples’ stories and passions.
If I didn’t go into the shop that day, and if Darryl didn’t tell me about that new board he sold, I wouldn’t have even heard about Surf the Greats.
Keep an open mind and pay attention to what people are saying.
How many brands did you actually reach out to, to get those 10 to partner with you?
At least 50. I get a lot of rejections. What I’ve learned is stay local. Reach out to people who are closest in your community.
With SportChek, I used to work at the location in town, and even though I hadn’t seen my old manager in years, he was so on board with getting involved.
Is it scary putting yourself out there like that?
Every rejection, I would think, “that company doesn’t like me, ok, move on to someone else”.
It’s that simple?
What things are too silly to worry about?
If you’re in a co-op program, and you’re trying to find a job. I look back now at myself and think: you need to be confident in the skills you have.
And, like I said before, if someone doesn’t hire you, thats ok, move on. Apply somewhere else.
Two cents on confidence/insecurity?
I hit puberty in my first year of university. It was super late.
And I remember thinking “do people think I’m not attractive?” It was always in the back of the my mind.
But then, every time I stepped on my board, I felt so strong and confident, that I could move my body across water the way I did. And everything else faded.
So when I went back to school in second year I tried to take that feeling and apply it to school. That feeling of forgetting about the world around you (but still being aware of your surroundings, of course). That way, I don’t feel like anybody’s judging me, and I can do what I love and have fun doing it.
Stop thinking about what other people are thinking of you.
Reminder: On Board happens Sunday, July 2, at the PenFinancial Credit Union Flatwater Community Centre in Welland, ON. Yes, it’ll be awesome.
Another coffee down, ton more to go. See you guys soon!