We had the good fortune of connecting with Justin Kruger and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Justin, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
I struggled with my mental health for most of my life. During my twenties, I was hospitalized twice. After exploring most of the conventional mental health treatment options, I was frustrated with the fact that I was still struggling. This led me to thoughts of suicide and a feeling of hopelessness. At a point where I was struggling intensely, I was invited to volunteer. Normally, I wouldn’t engage in this type of activity because my social anxiety wouldn’t let me. However, I was invited by someone I just started dating. Naturally, I said yes, mainly to impress her. I had never volunteered and had no real expectations for the experience. The event started with the host organization telling us what we would be doing and how it would help those in need. As we started to work, I remember being really moved by the feeling that was I was doing actually mattered. When you’re struggling with your mental health, often you feel like there’s no reason to stay and that no one would even mind if I were gone. But volunteering reminded me that I could do something that mattered and I could help people. Serving others quickly became my outlet for dealing with my own struggles. The more I volunteered, the better I felt. But I was also frustrated by how difficult it can be to volunteer. This culmination of experiences led to the concept for Project Helping. The idea was to bring people together in small groups to volunteer and amplify the mental wellness benefits of volunteering. The key was to make it ridiculously easy. To position volunteering as a mental health tool, we had to make it an accessible resource. That’s how it started, and now we host 700+ volunteer experiences per year and delivery our boxed volunteer projects to over 20,000 homes and businesses per year.
What should our readers know about your business?
When we created Project Helping is was, and still is, a novel approach to building mental wellness. We create engaging, inclusive volunteer experiences that are designed to help people proactively build their mental wellness. Not only is our approach unique, but so is our business model. We provide services to companies to help them build mental wellness and service into their culture. This allows us to have an earned income stream to pair with our traditional nonprofit fundraising efforts and grow our impact quickly and sustainably.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Obviously, start with a Project Helping volunteer event! Go to Red Rocks. It doesn’t matter the time of year or if there’s a concert. Just be there, in that space. Find a hike, preferably in Rocky Mountain National Park somewhere. Make sure to find time for lunch at S.A.M.E. Cafe and grab some coffee at Dirt Coffee.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
That girl I was dating, the one who invited me to volunteer, she’s now my wife! I wouldn’t have had that experience or had the courage to take the leap into starting my own company without her. She deserves more than a little credit!