For Scottsdale native Evan Wolfson, the fear of wasted potential is a great motivator. It started when he was performing magic shows for senior citizens for his bar mitzvah project at Temple Chai. During his shows, he discovered that many of his audience members wished they had taken certain risks when they were younger. That made a deep impression on the young Wolfson.
Since then, the 27-year-old entrepreneur has wasted no time in trying to achieve the goals he sets for himself. Whether it’s in the field of video editing, sales or even starting his own business, DraftHire, Wolfson pushes himself to not only learn new skills, but also to master them.
His drive eventually sent him into the nonprofit sector. As he dealt with the death of his brother, Blake, Wolfson wanted to find a way to create something positive. The result was Collective Change, which he started in 2017 to honor his brother’s memory.
Collective Change drives crowdfunding campaigns to benefit a variety of charitable causes in the Valley. For each month, Collective Change has a category, such as health care, and chooses a nonprofit in that sector to support. The company does this so it can assist as many organizations as possible.
What did you first do after college?
I started waiting tables while I tried to figure out what I was doing, and after a year or two, I realized that I needed some type of skill.
I settled on sales, because if you can sell, you have a lot of opportunity in a lot of different areas.
My first choice was Yelp and I actually applied without submitting a resume. I just made my own Yelp page featuring me, because I figured it was creative. I got a callback 20 minutes after that, and then I had my interview the next day.
You started as an account executive at Yelp but became part of the company’s national sales department after just a year. That’s a pretty speedy promotion.
I was in it for a different reason than a lot of other people who were on my team. A lot of them were just out of college and they needed a job and that’s kind of what they landed on.
I was there for a much deeper purpose — to master sales — so as I was going through training, I would work on my approach at home and that allowed me to move up faster than other people I studied with.
How have your sales skills helped you in other parts of your life?
It’s a lot easier for me to ask very directly for things that I want, for example, if I want an upgrade at a hotel, I know how to ask — little things that I’ve noticed I didn’t have the confidence to ask for before. If you don’t ask, the answer is automatically no.
And being able to negotiate has been helpful. At my job I’m negotiating base salaries with CEOs, COOs, private equity guys, so there’s a lot of negotiation in that, and if you’re not well-equipped, they’ll walk all over you.
Collective Change was created for your brother. What’s the story behind that?
One day my mother saw my brother, Blake, watching TV with one hand over one of his eyes. He said that the TV looked clearer when he did that.
My mom set up an appointment with our optometrist and they discovered that his optic nerves were swollen significantly. When I got to the emergency room, Blake had just gone in to surgery. And during the middle of it, the doctor came out and said that he thought it was melanoma.
The surgery was as successful as it could’ve been, and then after a couple weeks he got out of the ICU.
Six months after the day he was diagnosed, he passed away. I took my last semester off from college so I could be with him.
How did that inspire Collective Change?
Something Blake and I would do pretty frequently was talk about business ideas and inventions we could create.
One time, I remember him saying that he wanted to get 250,000 people to give him a dollar each, so he could buy a Lamborghini. He always wanted one, and I said, “That’s a great idea, but good luck finding people to support your car. Nobody’s going do that.”
But I started playing around with the idea, because I thought it was a unique approach to funding and I wanted to do something for my brother.
So I took that one-dollar idea and transitioned it back into the community. It was something I was playing around with for a while, but it wasn’t until Blake’s best friend, Marc, came back from the Marines that it became a reality. He loved the idea and we got started the next day.
You and Marc also work together on DraftHire. What’s the idea behind that company?
The best way I can describe it is that it’s kind of like Uber. Except instead of drivers and passengers, we have recruiters and companies looking for employees.
How do you keep motivated?
You get one shot at life, so my whole ideology encompasses the idea that we’re going to die. So I’m not going to do anything that I’m bored with or hate.
I love building something out of nothing, so that’s how I get fulfilled. Time is so valuable and I just don’t want to waste any of it. JN
Know someone who'd make a great subject for this column? Contact Managing Editor Janet Perez at email@example.com.