Joe Freedman, yr Organization of Entrepreneurs (EO) Member of Nashville is the founder and CEO of Rental of event works. Joe saw the need for entrepreneurs to help the Ukrainian people fight their war and used his entrepreneurial skills and resources to do just that. Here’s what he shared about the experience:
During a recent trip to Ukraine to deliver donated drones, I visited Auschwitz on the Polish border. On a wall of this place where so many innocent people died is a plaque: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
As a Jew, this warning is especially present for me, which is why I have a deep, lifelong contempt for bullies. When Russia invaded Ukraine, I saw another potential slaughter of innocents. History repeats itself. I will never understand why so many people ignore the atrocities, then or now.
But what can I do? I have no military, medical or other skills to help Ukrainians. I have no political strings to pull. I am just an ordinary man, a businessman, frustrated and deeply affected to see another tyrant quench his thirst with innocent blood.
Then I realized there was something I could do. I am a member of EO Nashville, the largest US chapter of the Entrepreneurs Organization, which has chapters all over the world. Therefore, I sent an email to each of the 23 employers of EO Russia and the 48 members of EO Poland. Russian businessmen wanted to help their friends and family in Ukraine. Several Polish members of the EO are dedicated to supporting and helping Ukrainians. I had found good people who wanted to help, so that was a start. I started reaching out to my network about how someone in Nashville could help the victims of a war on another continent.
And then a drone company I’m on the board of, Red Cat Holdings, started getting emails from Ukrainian drone pilots who were helping the war effort: civilians, not professional soldiers. They were calling on American-made drones to help establish safe zone exits for refugees, detect and detonate landmines, inspect damaged buildings for rescue operations and other humanitarian efforts.
I knew it was time to act. I gathered a dozen agile and durable racing drones and hopped on a plane with fellow EO Nashville Steve Curnutte. Together with a drone expert, we flew to Warsaw, drove to the border, crossed into Ukraine and hand-delivered the drones to professional drone pilots at their hidden headquarters where the drones are equipped for various tasks: some humanitarian, other military. Either way, they are saving innocent lives.
This delivery was the first delivery of what I hope will be a steady flow of drones to Ukraine through a non-profit organization, Drones for Good Worldwide. We’re raising money to buy and deliver drones to over 400 drone pilots in Ukraine for humanitarian use, helping to save lives and keep people safe.
While in Ukraine, I also met with the non-profit organization on the ground, Aid Legion, who will help with the logistics of getting the drones to the right people. Also, my new friends at EO Poland, who themselves have been raising funds and providing aid to tens of thousands of refugees fleeing Ukraine, helped me explore warehouse space near the border to store the drones before delivering them.
It was Easter when I boarded the plane to deliver drones to Ukraine, a celebration of another time when the oppressed successfully freed themselves from tyranny, even though many died in the process. And while millions died from the horrors of World War II, both on the battlefield and in the gas chambers of the extermination camps, ultimately good prevailed over evil. My wish, and my belief, is that the same will happen in Ukraine, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Here are my business takeaways from this company about how to use your network and skills to try to solve problems outside of running a business:
- A global network is a superpower that can help you solve almost any problem. Connecting with entrepreneurs in Poland gave me the huge advantage of having people on the ground, in a place I’d never been, who I knew I could trust, literally, with my life. I could trust that they were who they said they were, which wasn’t always possible in a war zone, and I trusted that they had the business sense and local knowledge to make both the trip and the subsequent nonprofit we to create. .
- I confirmed what all entrepreneurs know: the market and the entrepreneurial energy that drives us are very effective at quickly identifying problems and doing something about them. The war in Ukraine is unique in being the first international conflict in which private companies, unprompted or organized by the government, came forward directly to help. The early use of drones in this war is a good example. This company started when non-military professional drone pilots in Ukraine started using their own drones to help Ukrainians. Its entrepreneurs became involved in, and then internationalized, an all-volunteer business effort, not to fight war, of course, but to provide the humanitarian support that people need, especially in times of war.
My endeavor in Ukraine with the drone company I sit on the board of is one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others being pursued by quick-acting entrepreneurs and other thoughtful people like you. Maybe ordinary people can prevent history from repeating itself.
For more information and inspiration from today’s top entrepreneurs, take a look EO to Inc. and more articles from the EO blog.