At Project Ava, we consider ourselves storytellers; yet writing this particular story is weird for me. It’s weird because just a year and a half ago, Project Ava didn’t exist. The dream that I’m chasing now was exactly that, a dream, and now I’m sharing with you our real story. People ask us all the time, “how did Project Ava start?” It’s a simple question with an answer that requires an amount of reflection.

Charlie and I were roommates all throughout college (and now). Not only were we best friends, we also shared two traits: a dislike for college work and a desire to do something meaningful with our lives. I studied business in school, and while the concepts were helpful, there were not many chances to apply them. For me, this was frustrating. It was frustrating because I knew that just beyond the dorm walls there existed a world filled with problems to solve. I was young, naïve, and too eager for my own good. During our sophomore year, Charlie nonchalantly mentioned that he wanted to start a business. I can’t remember if he was fully serious, but I jumped on that–“Yes! Let’s start a business.”

So for the next year, we played around with various entrepreneurial ideas in what we called our search for “The Million Dollar Idea.” Things that were considered included 1) square-bottom taco shells, 2) bottled oxygen, and 3) an American-made goods store. None of them made the cut. To be fair, I thought the taco shell idea was gold, but General Mills beat me to it. Dang.

That year, Charlie and I were also working on a social campaign about LGBT youth homelessness in Colorado. During one of our initial meetings, I naïvely suggested that we produce a documentary for the campaign. We all agreed. We had no idea what we were doing. We literally went around with flip-cams, thinking we were about to create the next Food Inc. or Waiting for Superman. Needless to say, it was a humbling experience. However, this was my first exposure to filmmaking, and I was intrigued.

The following year, I studied abroad in London, so I explored the film industry there. I bought my first camera, the Sony NEX 5N, and started learning as much as I could. I sat in on classes, bought numerous cinematography books, attended seminars, and even started doing some freelance work. My first gig was a burlesque show. Fun stuff. I quickly realized how much I loved filmmaking and telling stories through video. Then one day… it hit me. There are incredible stories everyone; stories about discovering love, overcoming tragedy, fostering talent, etc. Stories like my grandpa’s about how he built an entire farmhouse with his bare hands in rural China. What if these stories were shared with everyone? Could they inspire change? I decided, yes.

I quickly Skyped Charlie. We talked. We talked. He asked a lot of questions because that’s what he does. Blah blah blah. Eventually, the business model for Project Ava emerged. We would share meaningful stories in hopes of inspiring meaningful change. We would give visibility to voices normally unheard. We would finally do something meaningful with our lives. I invited Vanessa to found the company with us because I knew she shared a passion for what we were about to do. And throughout the first year, she really was the one driving our stories. Project Ava was born.

Project Ava’s first year was tough. We really had no idea what we were doing. Our clients were happy, but we were all over the place. Charlie, Vanessa, and I were still students at the time, and being student entrepreneurs is no joke. It sucked. To be honest, I was about to give-up on Project Ava after a year, but after I graduated, I had a life-changing experience. I had the opportunity to produce a film with the Jubilee Project in LA about LGBT bullying. Hanging with the JP guys was brilliant, and the most incredible part of the experience was meeting people with similar passions. After watching the short film I made, Alstroemeria, I realized just how far I had come compared to flip-cam, documentary guy. I couldn’t give up.

We expanded our team at Project Ava. We are launching our website. We have clients lined up. It’s all surreal and happening so fast. I tell stories at Project Ava full-time for little salary (and probably little for a while) because this is my passion. If there was ever a in my life to be chasing dreams, it is now. I am young, crazy, and too blinded to realize if this is a stupid idea–and most importantly, I have a brilliant team that also believes in the power of storytelling. We are in this because we truly believe in our mission: to share and celebrate meaningful stories that move the advocates of today and tomorrow. I have this wonderful vision in my mind that one day Project Ava will be a platform for those who care to share what they care about. We aren’t the best entrepreneurs, filmmakers, photographers, or artists in the world. We are simply people who care.

Another question we get is “What does ‘Ava’ stand for?” I came up with “Project Ava” because “Ava” was the most popular baby girl’s name in England at the time. For me, it sounded youthful and fun. When I told people that, they were confused and gave me weird looks. It still doesn’t stand for anything, but we call our brand of advocacy “Avalove.” For us, we believe choosing to celebrate and share the people, moments, and events around us is a lifestyle. It is a life filled with love, and that is what drives this company. #avalove #chasingdreams

For us, we believe choosing to celebrate and share the people, moments, and events around us is a lifestyle. It is a life filled with love, and that is what drives this company.

Over the next couple months, we have amazing stories and campaigns in store for you, and to be honest, our whole entire movement depends on you. It depends on you watching, reading, sharing and celebrating the content we produce, so we thank you for your support. Now you know the Project Ava story.

Avalove,

Joseph

Written by Joseph Zhang

Joseph is the co-founder and Board President of Project Ava. He believes a well-told story can foster understanding, promote awareness, and inspire people to action. He has a love for writing and film making, both of which has led him to various parts of the world in search of meaningful stories.

Express Solidarity

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s