Few people in the world think of others before thinking of themselves. One of those people sat in a University of Georgia classroom thinking of ways to help his community.
Andrew Wilkin, founder and president of Homeless Help Card, graduated from UGA in December 2012. In just three years, Wilkin has turned a class project into a successful nonprofit.
Homeless Help Card, a mobile app that helps local charities raise money, started in an entrepreneurship and new venture class in the College of Terry. Students had to create a profitable business by the end of the semester without spending any money.
Wilkin, an accounting major at the time, knew that a nonprofit was a business. The difference was the profits went to a cause instead of the owner.
Because Athens-Clarke County is the fourth poorest county in the U.S., he thought to counteract the significant problem in his own community.
The new business was not the beginning of the Homeless Help Card. This was the start to Puzzle Fanz, a weekly crossword puzzle in the Red and Black.
Due to multiple factors such as the season and printing costs, Wilkin and his classmates only made $100 with Puzzle Fanz. However, Wilkin’s attention was caught by another group’s idea, a card that allowed students on the meal plan to eat cheaply on Sunday nights, when the dining halls were closed. Wilkin knew that he could take that concept and make it into something even better.
Among trial and error, Puzzle Fanz became the Homeless Help Card, opening up the following summer with 31 businesses on board this new idea. Businesses agreed to give a percentage of their money to the Homeless Help Card.
Today, Homeless Help Card is no longer a card but a mobile app with over 150 restaurants and businesses in Athens and Metro Atlanta helping local charities.
The Homeless Help Card not only helps charities that aid homeless people, but it helps charities that exist to help people who are left behind such as Extra Special People and Prevent Child Abuse America. Among many partnerships with charities, Homeless Help Card also has paired with Greek organizations around campus that raise money for similar causes.
Through the journey to what is now the Homeless Help Card app, Wilkin and his partner Nick Murphy had a lot of ups and downs. However, Wilkin believes failure isn’t such a bad thing.
“If you fail and learn from your failures, there’s only a finite number of failures that you can commit before there’s nothing left but success,” Wilkin said. “Failure is a step on a staircase that you have to step on in order to get to the top. If you skip that step, you miss something of value.”
Wilkin’s attitude about failure is just as positive as his attitude about life. Wilkin makes zero profit for himself from Homeless Help Card; yet, he dedicates his entire life to the organization.
Wilkin spends about $3,500 in gas every year due to Homeless Help Card and has received a total of about $3,000 in income over the past 3 years. Despite Homeless Help Card being his only source of income, Wilkin is completely content. He said the key is smart buying decisions and careful budgeting.
However, Wilkin could not do it alone. With the support of his wife and “teammate”, Shey WIlkin, they live a happy life together.
“It’s not about getting ahead in the world. It’s about making a difference,” Wilkin said. “By being smart, you can live on so much less.”
Wilkin said he’s just one piece of the puzzle that makes Homeless Help Card work. Wilkin mentioned his business partner, Murphy, his wife, the people that buy the app, and the charities that he helps fund.
“It’s amazing to work with such a humble man,” Murphy said. “You can tell Andrew truly cares about making a difference for so many people.”
Wilkin said he is lucky to have such an amazing support system. Mrs. Wilkin is always impressed by his passion and dedication and looks forward to seeing him and the Homeless Help Card grow and flourish in the future.
“It’s not difficult to support a man who works hard, cares deeply and wants to make the world a better place,” Mrs. Wilkin said.
She loves the fact that he took his accounting degree, that is mostly used for a big, corporate job, and instead, used it to help his community.
Wilkin continues to look for new businesses to join the Homeless Help Card every day. Giving people as many options and categories will lead to the success of Homeless Help Card and the success of helping the local community.
For more information about Homeless Help Card, visit homelesshelpcard.org.