Waker Founder & General Partner Nafis Azad has aligned his company to integrate with the community by giving back through mentorship, entrepreneur coaching, and donating employees’ time and expertise.
Long before founding a software development company, Nafis Azad was committed to giving back.
“When I was trying to wrap my head around the idea of even starting a business, I always built in an aspect of philanthropy—and that was when I was 17,” he recalls. “I wanted my business to build on every aspect of my life and giving back is an important part of that.”
He adds, “I never had a vision for wanting to be successful and not give back. From the get-go, that was a part of part of my directive.”
True to his vision, Nafis began giving back “the second I had an opportunity” at age 18 by organizing events in his Ohio startup community.
“I wasn’t in a position yet to give back financially, while I was still trying to build my own company. But it was essential for me to give back my time,” he explains.
“Building that network was beneficial to my business. And, I always think doing good should and can benefit your business,” Nafis adds. “Also, I recognized these events had an impact on more people than just me and my business—and probably helped a lot of people in this community.”
Nafis is a big believer in karma and paying it forward. “If you do something positive or something positive is done to you, I almost feel like there’s a balance that needs to exist,” he says.
He notes that helping organize the startup events was probably his first attempt at giving back to the community, which he felt he owed. “This community helped me get my business off the ground when I started,” says Nafis. “Then, once I started feeling like I had more expertise to give back as a skilled entrepreneur, I started teaching and mentoring students.”
Looking back, while he was giving back where he could, Nafis realized he didn’t quite know how to quantify that value.
“That’s one of the reasons I think seedership is so interesting. Because it’s hard to quantify the non-monetary things that a small, growing business gives back, but seedership simplifies the process and brings clarity around the full value of your giving,” he says.
Nafis is quick to praise others for helping him along on his entrepreneurial journey—and passionate about passing the torch.
“I’m a self-made entrepreneur and proud of my accomplishments and drive. But I didn’t succeed in my career or building my network in isolation,” he underscores. “I met so many people who believed in my vision and passion and they uplifted me.”
Nafis continues, “I don’t believe in handouts. I do think people recognize individuals who are excited and willing to take initiative to that next step in their lives. But at the same time, you need that person who can recognize that to uplift and empower you by providing connections, insight, advice, and expertise.”
Now that he’s at the helm of Waker, Nafis is in a better position to focus his give back strategy through a community commitment strategy, which aligns with the business’ mission and helps the business determine who to gives back to, how to give, and why to give.
“As a small company, we really value the kind of expertise and mentorship we can provide, so a lot of what we’ve tried to do is identify opportunities where we can take initiative and do things for the community, whether it’s disadvantaged people in the community or bolstering the startup community we’re part of here in the city,” he explains. “We get involved where we feel like we can drive the most value. Part of my philosophy is finding a fit where the things we can help with or the connections we can drive are what an organization needs.”
As a team, the company is committed to supporting some of its clients with pro-bono digital services. Waker has also invested a lot into giving back by helping provide education to urban students.
“We have a passion for educating kids about software, technology, and entrepreneurship,” says Nafis. “I look at these opportunities as a unique fit where we’re exposing kids, or an organization trying to develop curriculum for those kids, to a different path that could be a make-or-break difference whether those students get the right education, the right connections, and the right exposure,” he emphasizes.
Nafis is also passionate about mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs and startup founders—which ties in with his commitment to paying it forward.
“When I began working with seedership, I already believed that entrepreneurship should be a means of giving back. We’re dedicated to uplifting and empowering our clients through our services and expertise and we realize we can empower young people and aspiring entrepreneurs to grow with that same dedication,” he notes.
“Our hope is for future leaders to pay it forward using this same philosophy. I want to be able to recognize people who are willing and excited to take the initiative to pursue their dreams and their passions and help empower them toward that growth,” says Nafis.
When I began working with seedership, I already believed that entrepreneurship should be a means of giving back. we’re dedicated to uplifting and empowering our clients through our services and expertise and we realize we can empower young people and aspiring entrepreneurs to grow with that same dedication,” he notes.
“I don’t think people can succeed on their own. If I can be one of the people who helps someone along the way—and if I can do that for a lot of people, honestly that is one of my goals in my career, to help as many people as I can move on to the next stage of their vision,” Nafis adds. “It’s a bigger philosophy of: This is what’s been done for me and I’d be doing the world, and maybe myself in terms of building my character, a disservice if I can’t engage in that as well.”
For Waker, it’s about more than simply giving back or donating financially. “I can donate my money somewhere and let it go. I really like to be hands-on,” admits Nafis. “I want to feel like I’m engaged with something that requires our specific input or abilities. A lot of it’s at the leadership level. It’s us as leaders in the company taking initiatives outside of our work to give back to the community.”
Nafis has learned a lot about his approach to both entrepreneurship and giving back.
“If I can give advice to anyone who’s young starting their journey, it’s that you can give back and you can do a lot as a philanthropist in the community before you have a dollar to give back,” he says. “I always thought that was important to the community and was giving back consistently before I ever started donating fiscally. But honestly, the biggest thing I learned was doing something good for the sake of others.”
In terms of building a relationship with seedership, he notes, “For us, the biggest takeaway to working with seedership is the ability to offer a unique experience for businesses and their customers. Now, we can showcase and be transparent about the good we’re doing in our community. We can create awareness for the causes and organizations that matter to us and give our customers a better insight into who we are as a business: One that cares, pays it forward and invests in building our future community-oriented entrepreneurs.”
To learn more and explore how Waker gives back to the community, visit their seedership profile.