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Give to get by volunteering your biz

By Roger Pierce

Supporting a good cause makes good sense for your new small business. "Everybody wins when you donate some of your time," says entrepreneur John Paul Luisi.
Graphic Designer John Paul Luisi donates his time and talents to build websites for charities. He calls it a win-win situation.

Luisi owns Lulu Digital Design (, a graphic design firm based in Vaughan. His company specializes in designing websites for small business clients seeking to stand out in the over-crowded online world.

"Every client job has a unique look because I don't do cookie-cutter designs," he says.

In business for five years, Luisi donates his design skills to a number of good causes. He has created websites for the Gift of Life Walk for Leukemia, an annual walk-a-thon to raise money for Princess Margaret Hospital. He has also designed the website for "Friends of Ferrari," an initiative that uses the enthusiasm of Formula 1 and Ferrari fans to assist organizations such as the Alzheimer Society of Peel Region, Hospice Vaughan and the Shining Through Centre for Children with Autism.

"I feel good helping out these charities," Luisi says. "I'm contributing something more valuable than just money -- a website is something they can use to advance their efforts."

Luisi says he approached the Friends of Ferrari to volunteer his expertise because he liked what they were doing. Other charities have found him through business networks. "When you pick a cause and donate your services, the charity is so appreciative," he says.

There's no harm in admitting it's a win-win situation for both parties.

"The charity acknowledges me as a major sponsor and they'll often place my logo and link on their website," Luisi says. "It raises my business profile. Several paying customers have found me that way."

He recommends that new entrepreneurs proactively decide which charities they want to support with a skills donation.

"If you help every organization that asks, you'll end up spending all of your time doing unpaid work," he says. "Your business needs paying customers so it's important to set limits to your volunteering efforts."

-- Entrepreneurship expert Roger Pierce trains people on how to start a small business in the Up & Running Biz Launch Program.

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