Biz Kid of the Month: Brittany Bergquist
Brittany and her brother Robbie founded Cell Phones for Soldiers (http://www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com) in 2004. They were 12 and 13 years old. They started with $14 from their piggy banks. Today, the organization has raised over $2 million!
Tell me what your organization does.
We collect unwanted cell phones, sell them to a recycler, and use the money to buy phone cards for soldiers stationed overseas.
How did you get started?
We saw a story about a soldier with an $8,000 cell phone bill from calling home from the Middle East. We wanted to help him and others like him to call home without having to pay for it. We started with our own money. Things kind of took off from there with car washes and bake sales, then bigger donors and partners.
What was one of your biggest challenges?
When we first started, we thought we could send phones directly to soldiers. The Pentagon called us and told us that was a no-no! We were pretty much left with nothing.
How did you overcome that situation?
Through research and talking to our contacts, we came up with the idea of cell phone recycling. The recycler pays us for each phone we send them–enough to buy about one 60-minute phone card for each phone donated.
How does negotiation play a role in your success?
Negotiation is really important in our relationships with partners, particularly large partners like AT&T. They agreed to have drop-off centers at many of their retail stores.
What are some of the things that help you be a successful negotiator?
The first thing is not being afraid to hear “no.” It’s also important to know your facts. If the other person knows more than you do, you’re at a disadvantage. If they see my knowledge and passion for what you are doing, they will see it and want to participate.
What’s the best thing about being a Biz Kid?
It’s way more interesting than anything else I could be doing as an 18 year old! I’ve met dignitaries and celebrities, along with soldiers who have been helped by the program. Plus, it helped me get into college!