Outreach: Bill Paul
Outreach showcases members of Central Austin Toastmasters who apply their skills in communication and leadership to help communities in Austin. It also gives them a moment to reflect on how far along they have journeyed through Toastmasters.
Say hello to Bill Paul, who created the nonprofit ToyPrints with his wife Jenny. Together, they run a team of volunteers.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Where would you like me to start? (gives thought) I'm married to Jenny and a father of two—a boy and a girl. We also have a small dog that is a golden retriever mix.
I have been in tech industry (in particular, SaaS, or software as a service) as an accounting executive for the last 7 years. I've been in Austin for about 7 years as well.
In my free time, I run a nonprofit called ToyPrints. I'm very passionate about extreme sports, such as mountain biking and scuba diving. I also love to cook barbecue.
2. Tell us a bit about your organization. What made you decide to help them?
About a year ago, I started to gain interest in giving back to the Austin community. I was in a startup called BigCommerce that did quarterly nonprofit work. After I left the company, I found myself without a means to get back into giving.
While doing research, I found out that it wasn't as easy as I had expected to start a nonprofit. It required a lot more time and investment. Through this experience, however, I realized that I had something to give.
I created the concept of presenting the technology of 3D toy printing to children from disadvantaged background. I thought many of these kids wouldn't have been exposed to this technology, and I wanted to make a difference in their lives.
A lot of children who come from disadvantaged background have a high likelihood of being frustrated early in their lives about their own capabilities. They don't really have someone to support them consistently. When that happens, children lose confidence, lose trust in others. They stop developing creativity and don't become as strong as they can be in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics).
Our unique approach is, instead of presenting to children that they would be doing work, we take what that they already love—a toy—and allow them to design their own. Essentially, we help them turn off that thought that I'm not smart enough to complete this, or I'm not good enough. Instead, we help them appeal to their desire to have a toy of their dreams. We found this approach to be incredibly effective at getting all kids to participate in our program.
3. How do you use communication and leadership skills? How has Toastmasters helped?
When building an organization, you have to communicate in a way that can paint the picture of what the world will lack without your organization. From there, you want to paint the picture of what the world will look like through its impact. When people can see these pictures, they want to participate in something really big that is happening for their community.
My take on leadership is, you can't do everything. To be really effective, you have to be a fantastic communicator. You need to communicate to others their worth in the organization and tie their skills and interests into the needs of the organization. If that's done effectively, you have an organization where everyone is bought in and takes ownership of their role. You have fostered a space with incredible creativity.
Toastmasters has helped me have confidence—to know that I can get in front of a group of people and run an effective meeting. Toastmasters also helps people become comfortable in their own skin. I think that level of comfort is also how people connect.
4. Tell me about a person who has surprised you the most.
It's tough to single out an individual. A lot of people surprised me a lot.
For instance, a close friend of mine, who worked with me at BigCommerce, was able to take ownership and practice a large amount of leadership skills. It didn't surprise me that he was able to do that. What surprised me was his effective messaging and very clear communication. ToyPrints fostered a space in which he felt comfortable doing so.
Another colleague took on the lead of engineering and development. My wife took on the role of executive director and oversees project management. We have someone else who is in charge of education and builds our curriculum.
In short, I was surprised by how ToyPrints fostered a space where many individuals are contributing at a high level, where everyone feels free to make a big impact to the organization and suggest new ideas confidently.
5. Fill in the blanks!
Helping people brings joy to my life, because relationships with people are the most important asset that we have.
In one year, I want to be someone who has gotten ToyPrints fully off the ground, who has made a tremendous impact in the lives of over 1,000 kids in Austin, who has built a sustainable nonprofit, and who has helped the lives of over 50 volunteers who get more young people involved in their community and the nonprofit world.
6. What are some good ways for a person to help your organization? How can they reach you?
There are various levels of involvement. One is to get fully involved, to join the board to some capacity.
We also need help with sharing messages on social media, providing donations, and connecting us with people who can help or may be affected.
Lastly, you can commit to day-to-day operations of helping the kids: presenting the 3D printing technology to the kids and helping them build the toy of their dreams.
Today, the best way to reach us is via my email. Very soon, we expect our website toyprints.org to be live (it is now!). You can also reach us through the Contact Us page.
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