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Meet Rob Lawless of Robs10kFriends in Long Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rob Lawless.

Rob, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
In November of 2015, I set out on a mission to spend 1 hour, 1:1, with 10,000 different people. Inspired by my time as a student at Penn State, I wanted to regain the sense of familiarity I felt after meeting so many new friends through clubs and activities on campus. I had recently moved from the suburbs of Philadelphia into the city for a sales job at a tech startup and decided it was time to start working an entrepreneurial endeavor of my own.

I met the very first person of my project on November 11, 2015, and over the next eight months met over 100 more people until I was laid off at the end of June of 2016 due to my company being acquired. Having just started getting press as well as incoming requests to meet, I chose to take my project full-time with the goal of creating a career out of meeting people and informally sharing their stories.

Since then, I’ve met a total of 2,228 people (as of 11/27/2018), have driven across the country four times in order to spread my project from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, have been covered by media figures like Ryan Seacrest, and have inspired others to start their own journeys of meeting new people everywhere from the U.S. to Scotland to Germany!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My journey has been a relatively smooth road, but it has definitely come with its own set of challenges as well. When I decided to take my project full-time, I committed to using my savings from my three years of working professionally to carry me through until I could build an audience large enough to warrant partnerships & sponsorships.

Fortunately, I began taking on sponsors in March of 2017; however, the early sponsorships were simply allowing me to lose money at a slower pace as my expenses of healthcare and rent outweighed my income from the project. When my lease in Philadelphia ended in May of 2017, my college roommate, TJ, invited me to come to live with him in Long Beach so I could share my project with the west coast, so I moved to CA June-September of 2017.

Adjusting to a new city brought obstacles of understanding the culture as well as traffic patterns and parking as I was meeting people all over the LA area. As many people do, I had hoped that I’d receive some type of “big break” upon moving to LA, but I came to realize that the key to my success would come from me meeting people day in and day out for my project rather than through some type of massive tipping point.

As a result, I returned to Philadelphia from September of 2017 through February of 2018 and moved back to LA this past February to once again grow the project out here. This time, I committed to seeing my project through to the point of either 1) running out of money entirely, at which point I planned to take a part-time job, or 2) consistently growing until I felt confident enough to approach brands about more formal partnerships.

As I was about to run out of my entire life savings back in June, I received an email from an agency in Santa Monica asking if I’d partner up with a company called Peace Tea to do random acts of kindness with strangers. I took the offer, bought myself time to grow even more, and in that time secured my biggest partnership to date with the networking app, Shapr.

While most of my challenges revolved (and continue to revolve) around confidence and doubt in myself and my project, I’m now feeling like things are on the up-and-up and am excited to see what the future holds!

Robs10kFriends – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Robs10kFriends is my mission to spend 1 hour, 1:1, with 10,000 different people to learn about their lives and see what comes of opening doors for no particular reason. With the increasing presence of technology in our lives, we seem to be losing the art of face-to-face conversation without agendas, but I plan to bring it back through my meetings.

I’m most proud of the ripple effects my project has had in encouraging others to be more open to the people around them and giving them the confidence to make their own connections. I’ve inspired a woman in Scotland to meet 100 new people as well as a young man in Germany to make 30 new friends throughout 30 weeks and hope to continue inspiring others to make the human connection a more accepted part of our culture.

Looking towards 2019, I plan to do this by challenging those who follow me to meet 12 new people throughout the upcoming year – one each month – through a #12friendchallenge and am excited to see how that movement begins to take shape!

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I recently heard about the young man in Germany conducting his own form of my project after he direct messaged me on Instagram to share an article that his home city had written on him. Happy to see him taking his own initiative, I shared his project to my own Instagram and encouraged people to reach out to him if they lived near his hometown.

Within hours of me sharing his project, I received another message that he had been contacted by another young man who saw his goal through my Instagram and that the two of them had actually met up to hang – they lived two houses down from each other for years and didn’t know until they met through my project!

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