Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Alex Cywes. I am the acting Co-President and Co-Founder of Project 4293, Inc. I will be turning 17 in October. Project 4293 is the second nonprofit I have had a leadership role in. When I was 13, I formed a nonprofit that focused on protecting endangered species. I have worked on multiple political campaigns and in a law office. Both of these former jobs have given me valuable connections and experience that I have put towards Project 4293. I am a strong advocate for social change and equality. I am committed to making this mission my life’s work, no matter what sector of work this requires me to preserve through. I strongly believe in creating a future for America that makes our country both a prosperous and tolerant haven for all.
What exactly is Project 4293?
Project 4293 is not a charity; it is a movement. 4293 is a quantitative sum of every religion, race and sexuality/gender. That means that every person identifies with some aspect of our organization. Our long term goal is to revolutionize the American youth to be more tolerant, understanding and knowledgeable about other cultures and minorities within our country. We are fundamentally bipartisan, but do reserve the right to advocate against specific pieces of legislation that rudimentarily attack our core values.
Your main areas of focus are education, protection and advocacy, can you further explain these to us?
To educate, we host programs that seek to use hands – on activities to exhibit the value diversity has on our society. We are partnered with numerous LGBTQ+ Resource Centers in colleges across the country that provide local experts on the topics we discuss in our programs. This enables our attendees to truly feel what life is like for a minority. To protect, Project 4293 raises funds to help pay for the fees victims of hate crimes or sexual assault may need to return to a stable livelihood. This includes medical and relocation fees. To raise revenue for this aspect of our organization, besides through donations, Project 4293 will be launching an online store filled with products with partner for profit companies who share our mission of helping to spread tolerance and diversity. To advocate, Project 4293 will be launching an ongoing campaign filled with the testimonies of minorities and immigrants to share their stories and perspective in our society. Furthermore, we will be working with a photography company based in California to launch our “Portraits of Diversity” campaign. This campaign will focus on displaying the beauty of diversity in America.
What inspired you to start Project 4293?
This is actually a really funny story. So Bri, the other Co-President and Co-Founder, and I had discussed doing something to help promote diversity in our community. In early December, we were working in a Starbucks at our local mall, just brain balling ideas, when we noticed that we were receiving an unsettling amount of “dirty” looks, primarily from the elder generation. The two of us couldn’t understand what it was that was causing people to have such derision towards us. Then, I realized that on both of our computers, clearly on display, were stickers filled with diverse slogans and progressive sayings. We looked at each and just knew that we had to do something more than just a simple project or one time act of charity; we both realized that this was going to be our life’s work.
Can you tell us about your educational programs?
Our educational programs are based upon a Swedish model that uses hands-on activities to really ingrain the lessons we are teaching through experience rather than simple fact statements. Our programs are constantly evolving and expanding. We rely on the wealth of knowledge from expert speakers to make our programs personal so that attendees truly gain the perspective of those who have experienced discrimination in the past and persevered. Furthermore, a foremost objective of our programs is to make attendees comfortable with their own identities. If every attendee leaves our program with a positive outlook towards their own personal identity, then we consider the day a success.
How do you spread the word about your company?
We have an amazing Director of Social Media and Marketing, Jacqueline Emas. She has been with us from the formation of our organization and is instrumental in promoting our mission across social media. Furthermore, we have a few artists who work as graphic designers and create stunning images that truly embody our organization and connect with the public in a really positive manner. We also partner with other nonprofits across the country and the world. Besides working together to further our respective missions, we promote each other across social media. In fact, Project 4293 and De Manos Con Amor, a New York based nonprofit, will be launching a promotional giveaway in August. It will be the first time that our own apparel will be made available to the public. To further spread our message, we also partner with significant figures who share our values. These people are instrumental in spreading our mission and gaining public attention. Magazines and news publications such as this have been essential to our cause as well. We truly would not be able to do this without publications like this helping to promote our organization.
If someone wanted to get involved how would they do that?
We are always looking for new talent. Whether someone is interested in volunteering or working with us long term, there is always space available in our company for someone who is looking to further our mission. We truly encourage any student who is looking to get involved, regardless of geographic location, to contact us. Because we are almost completely paperless, we are able to accommodate anyone interested in working with us.
What is on the rise for Project 4293?
We are truly excited to announce the launch of our ongoing campaign with V-Cups, a company heavily invested in revolutionizing the menstrual health industry. This campaign seeks to aid individuals who need menstruation related products. Every time a product is purchased from V-Cups using the promo code, PROJECT4293, V-Cups will donate a product to Project 4293 for distribution to individuals in need. Furthermore, Project 4293 and V-Cups, as part of this ongoing campaign, will be endeavoring to empower women across the country in an effort to end female inequality, educate women about serious health issues and work to encourage LGBTQ+ acceptance.
Project 4293’s online store will also be launching on August 30th. We hope this new facet of our organization will provide an avenue for us to expand further and help for profit businesses to both give back to the community and focus their marketing to be more inclusive and tolerant.
Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?
This may seem cliché, but do not be afraid to fail. There are times where something would happen and I would get so down on myself that I would question if what we were doing, trying to build a corporation as teenagers, is even possible. But it is essential to remember that for the thousands of dead ends or failed avenues that pop up along the way, there is an equal if not greater number of opportunities that are ready to help you find success. I think another extremely important skill for young entrepreneurs is being able to turn youth, which can be viewed as a hindrance, into an advantage. Furthermore, do not be disheartened when people underestimate you because of your youth. Let it fuel rather than depress you. With a powerful will to succeed and the ability to learn from your mistakes, nothing will be able to stop you. If you would like further or more specific advice, do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be more than happy to help in any way possible.
Can you share a success story with us?
Due to our strict confidentially contract, there are certain details I am prohibited from sharing, but I think our greatest success story involves the women we once provided our services to who now works as a senior official for us. She often tells us that we helped her to see the beauty in the world again and I think that is the greatest form of satisfaction anybody in our organization needs. We were able to help someone regain the ability to live in this world. That is what this charity is all about.