Danielle Volman, Founder of iChase the Cure
Danielle Volman’s BIO
Danielle’s passion for entrepreneurship began early on in life, leading her to organize the first Chasing the Cure 5K fundraiser as early as senior year of high school. That year the young daughter of an member in her school community was diagnosed with a rare type of pediatric cancer called neuroblastoma, and Danielle was inspired to organize the 5K walk/run to raise money for the underfunded cause. And she didn’t stop there… Danielle continued the 5K series while studying at Boston University, where the name of the group and its annual event grew to iChase the Cure.
Today, Danielle is approaching her anniversary as an engineer at Microsoft Corp. in Charlotte, NC, and is preparing to bring iChase the Cure to Charlotte as soon as possible. She plans to grow the 5K series into a not-for-profit organization that helps raise funds and awareness for orphan diseases affecting children across the globe. She even made the trip up to Boston University for this year’s 4th annual iChase the Cure 5K on the Boston Esplanade. With her help and direction, a team of extraordinary students at BU continued her legacy and hosted another successful event.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW
1. Please share with us what prompted your creation of iChase the Cure.
Danielle: iChase the Cure is a growing organization that resulted from combining my passion for running and my passion for helping anyone going through a tough time.
My inspiration for starting iChase the Cure came in the form of an adorable, little girl who was the daughter of a member of my community at my high school. When I first heard of the horrible news that she was diagnosed, my heart just sank and I immediately started thinking of a way I could rally our community in support for their family. Having lost my mom to breast cancer and leukemia, I have always been active in the cancer world trying to aid in the fight for a cure so that no one else has to deal with this monster. I couldn’t just stand on the sidelines for this one. Adult cancers had so much presence and research going on, but everyone seemed to be turning a blind eye to pediatric cancers. Having participated in a plethora of races supporting cures through research and having become an avid runner, I knew what I could do. I combined both of my passions to create iChase the Cure. This year marks the 7th iChase the Cure 5K and we are still growing!
2. There is no typical day in the life of an entrepreneur. Please share with us a sample of your day, start to finish.
Danielle: Like many, I am a full time professional by day and an entrepreneur and advocate for my passion, cause, and idea 24/7. I take breaks or use my lunchtime to make or take calls to attend to my growing foundation, iChase the Cure. I’ll do anything and everything that is required in order to provide my E-Board, volunteers, participants, and supporters with first class attention in a timely manner whether it be by posting a quick update to one of our social media channels, taking a call from a sponsor, or even mailing a pair of sunglasses left behind at the race to their rightful owner. Another day I could be surrounded by hundreds of people all brought together to make an impact on the lives of others and everyday my goal is to create more of those.
3. What are your ‘can’t live without’ Smartphone or desktop applications?
Danielle: The best way for our team to share our documents has always been on SkyDrive. We are able to navigate through our folders and photos while keeping a main collection with the most up to date resources. Since we all have access even from our phones, we kept a copy of the permit for race day there in case we ever had to provide it when caught of guard. We are also using HooteSuite more and more for important and time sensitive social media purposes.
4. What are your tricks for time management?
Danielle: Just do it. It comes down to knowing what you need to accomplish, planning the path to get there, and then not procrastinating and just doing it. Making lists helps me a lot. I’ll set a goal for myself based on an idea I’ve had and I’ll brainstorm all the different pieces that I need to account for to make it happen. It helps that I don’t consider any task relating to iChase as grunt work. I love every minute of it, so I don’t waste any time procrastinating – I always make the best of the time I have and that seems to be the best tool for time management for me. If you can automate any tasks, you will also allow yourself to focus on the greater ones – so I try to automate anything repetitive. Best however, is my iChase team. We work together seamlessly to build on each other’s ideas and energy.
5. What was the best advice you received when you started your career?
Danielle: There are two pieces of advice that go hand in hand for me and without them, iChase the Cure may never have come about. Don’t listen to people who tell you that you can’t do something and always fully believe in what you are doing. Even though my idea was one that came about in order to help and support those in need, I did not get the approval and support I had expected. Regardless, I kept pursuing my passion and my goal to the surprise of many and I am so glad I did!
6. Given the current economic climate, what has been your strategy for building awareness of iChase the Cure? (what you do for short term and long term growth)?
Danielle: We are always aiming to have a bunch of smaller events in between races to keep iChase in the forefront of everyone’s mind. Whether we host an event or iChase is the beneficiary of another event, we try to have some fun leading up to the 5K as well. Our overall goal is to keep working in the background while still staying active in an interactive fashion with our supporters throughout the year. Events and social media are our favorite venues for raising more awareness and support in both the short and long term.
7. What is your proudest achievement as an accomplished entrepreneur?
Danielle: Every year blowing the horn to mark the start of the 5K is a greater level of achievement for me. There has been a 5K every single year since our inaugural race for neuroblastoma in 2007. That in itself is my greatest feat. We experience and overcome many different challenges whether they be repetitive or newly presented, but still we persevere and together with our participants, volunteers, and supporters make a greater impact on awareness and gain ground towards cures.
8. How do you achieve balance in your life?
Danielle: If you love what you do then balance is more easily achievable. I aim to set realistic goals and I try to plan ahead to make everything more manageable. Of course as with every start-up or business, there are times when you have to really put in the time and make some sacrifices. However, since you work for yourself as well, you can use the added flexibility to make it up to yourself later – even though reaching your goal or completing a task or event will be entirely worth it anyway!
9. Your top 3 book recommendations?
Danielle: Once again, I find myself reading more articles and following more news websites than reading paperbacks these days. I like to keep up with technology and other leading trends. I also constantly find great apps that can help me automate or just optimize my every day tasks. I would however recommend Flight of the Buffalo: Soaring to Excellence, Learning to Let Employees Lead. A great read to understand the importance of leadership, management, and competition – key aspects no one should ever overlook.
10. What are your most rewarding charitable involvements?
Danielle: Most recently, I participated in the Bark for Life walk. This was your normal run of the mill cancer fundraiser with a huge twist – it’s all about the dogs! You register by registering your pup, you do the walk with them too, and all of the sponsors are focusing on the doggies as well. I was a part of a team with my puppy’s training community and we actually raised the most and had the biggest team too. We were walking in honor of a boxer who was undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia. It was amazing to be able to spread awareness about cancer, but not just in humans…in animals too! I loved being able to share my passion and continue the fight for a cure while doing so with my puppy who has also been of a mascot for iChase the Cure. I am always on the hunt for a new, exiting, and rewarding way to continue the hunt for a cure and to support those who have battled or currently are battling cancer.
11. Who has influenced your career the most?
Danielle: The most influential players when it comes to iChase the Cure are the kids and families we are supporting. They show such strength, courage, and wisdom beyond their years. The children especially give me the energy that inspires and motivates me to constantly think of new ways to grow iChase the Cure to achieve a great impact.
12. What is your advice for someone interested in entrepreneurship?
Danielle: This advice will never change for me. If your heart and passion are really behind an idea and you are willing to devote yourself to it completely, and I mean completely, there is nothing that can get in your way. YOU CAN DO IT. In the beginning, everyone rejected my idea, but it was something I knew I could do and prove everyone wrong. I was persistent and stubborn at times, but I did not let anyone or anything get in my way. As long as you see the challenge as an opportunity (as every entrepreneur inevitably does), there isn’t much more that can stop you. When you go to bed, wake up, and spend the entire day constantly thinking about “your baby,” then you’re golden, just keep it up!