The Bullying Business
Bullying used to conjure images of kids shaking down awkward classmates for lunch money or teasing them for not “fitting in,” but the truth is, bullying has always been a serious topic, with dire (and fatal) results in the past few years. According to recent statistics, over 50,000 children in the United States have taken their lives over the last seven years as a result of bullying. That may seem like a small number, given the total population, but that breaks down to over 20 suicides per day.
To counter this, a number of community groups, national organizations, and entrepreneurs are working to not only give counseling to kids who are suffering from bullying, but to prevent bullying from occurring in the first place.
Bullying has always been about singling people out and excluding them for their differences. Bullying used to be about popularity, or economic status, wearing the wrong clothes, etc. However, we are now in an age of social media, where bullying doesn’t stop when kids leave the classroom. In a society that encourages young people to be whatever they want, and to be free to express who they are – culturally, sexually, philosophically, artistically – bullying is more pervasive (and invasive) than ever.
Targets of bullying suffer psychological, verbal, physical, and (in decreasing rarity) sexual abuse at the hands of their tormentors – both in person and online. Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and various internet forums are used by students every day, and those venues are not free from bullies, who have no qualms about stalking their targets well after the school day is over. It would be unwise and futile to abolish access to those things, because the Internet is where kids find the latest and most accurate information for school projects. It’s also how they socialize with friends and find out about the things that interest them. Bullies will threaten and harass kids for race, sexuality, or any perceived difference. Combine all of this with the mindset of adolescents – an age when they are testing boundaries and have no real concepts of consequences and compassion – and many of the targets of bullying are so paralyzed by fear and demoralized by hate that they avoid going to school and let their futures suffer, simply in order to feel safe. What’s worse is that many see no way to avoid bullying, so they end up taking their own lives.
As a society, we have moved beyond simply telling kids to “toughen up.” That doesn’t work. You cannot expect children to enjoy their teenage years, juggle extracurricular activities, get good grades, and prepare for college when they feel threatened every waking moment of their lives. Combating hate and violence with equal hate and violence doesn’t solve anything.
What many community organizations, school groups, and businesses are doing to counter bullying is to make themselves available to those people who are being made targets by bullies, while simultaneously making parents, educators, and students aware of it, so that bullying shrinks back into the darkness like turning on a light to make the monsters in the darkness disappear.
While community organizations and social awareness are great steps in countering bullying, there are appropriate methods and resources that many times cannot be sourced from volunteers. Likewise, counseling, hotlines, and support chat rooms risk doing much more harm than good if the people trying to help the victims of bullying are not properly trained in confidentiality, offering advice, or how to properly listen during a crisis.
Anti-bullying companies offer services ranging from public assembly presentations, to training courses for parents and teachers, confidential hotline and texting services, all the way on up to full counseling certifications using proven and tested methods, as well as partnering with local businesses, school districts, and regional education departments to make everyone aware of bullying and to take steps to prevent it.
Former educators, personal coaches, crisis center managers, team builders, psychologists, and many more who value the education and safety of children go into business to combat bullying, and they utilize their respective areas of expertise to lend help and information about bullying at all levels of the situation.
Organizations such as The Bully Project not only provide resources to schools, but they have created a safe community where kids, parents, and educators can talk about their experiences, and discuss what can be done to counter and prevent bullying. While bullying might not magically become a “thing of the past” in a year, or even a decade, The Bully Project went from reaching a seemingly impossible goal of saving 1 million kids to already setting their sights on saving 10 million. Along the way, The Bully Project has taken their vision and partnered with Harvard University, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, and a host of other companies and investors who see the value of the anti-bullying movement, educating people on bullying, and (most importantly) helping those kids who are the targets of bullying and abuse.
Starting An Anti-Bullying Business
The anti-bullying industry carries with it a long-term mission, and as such is not going away any time soon. In fact, bullying is not just a problems endemic to the United States – there are some business that are looking to take the methods and practices we use here and adapt them to eliminate bullying on an international scale. Because of the severe consequences of bullying that have made the news over recent years, anti-bullying businesses are eagerly sought by others to remedy existing problems, and to prevent new tragedies from occurring.
Starting an anti-bullying business requires a passion and the vision to make schools a safe and nurturing place where kids can follow their dreams without fear, and without hatred. With that in mind, emerging entrepreneurs need to focus on their own backgrounds and skills to figure out how to adapt them to the vision of the anti-bullying movement. Business owners also need to focus on their target audience – be it teachers, students, parents, community centers, school districts, or all of the above.
Funding For Anti-Bullying Businesses
Most entrepreneurs getting into the anti-bullying field are very passionate, and those in need are eager for their services. Unfortunately, even the best intentions do not get start up funding from most banks. The truth is that less than 40% of all start up loan applications are approved by banks and major lending institutions.
The good news is that there are alternative financing methods available to launch an anti-bullying business. The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers loans for entrepreneurs who need to cover start up costs such as office space, equipment, staff, and other costs. The SBA requires a very detailed business plan, projected costs and profits, short and long term goals, and a very stringent payment structure. The upside is that the SBA has loans that fit almost any type of business.
In addition to the SBA, commercial financiers and private lenders can usually provide working capital to entrepreneurs where banks cannot. Since most commercial finance professionals and private lenders are often times business owners themselves, they can respect and appreciate the scope of an anti-bullying company.
Commercial finance professionals act as facilitators – drawing from a pool of private lenders and investors to meet the financing needs of emerging entrepreneurs to provide the funding they need to launch an anti-bullying business, while also structuring payment and interest rates that are typically more flexible than what a bank could offer. The added bonus in starting an anti-bullying business is that many times these lenders will want to partner with the company down the road in order to contribute to the community in a positive way. With the anti-bullying movement creating a whole new niche market, and with alternative lenders willing to see entrepreneurs become success stories, there is no limit to the positive change that a passionate entrepreneur can make in this world.
The Future of Bullying
Bullying – like racism, sexism, health care, or any of the myriad causes in which there are great strides yet to be made before they become issues for the history books – is only now coming to the forefront of our social awareness. As we become more connected as a society, and as we realize how interconnected every aspect of society is, we can bring families, friends, educators, and businesses together to raise our consciousness and enact practices to bring about a positive change in making life for kids safer. Bullying (sadly) has only recently become a “hot button” issue, and no child should feel threatened, especially when they are trying to learn and express themselves. The best thing you can do is to get involved. See what anti-bullying organizations are in your area, and what strides your local schools are taking to counter bullying. Apathy is what allows bullying to continue. If there is nothing being done to make people aware of bullying in your area, then consider being the voice of change.