University alumni Benjamin Firn ’14 and Mark Bennett ’13 are looking for the unknown creators among us through their new crowdfunding campaign, Passion Over Pay.

Aiming to uncover stories of independent creators who make their work available to anyone for free, Bennett and Firn plan to interview artists, programmers, makers of any sort, and other contributors, following each person’s motivation behind their work, how they got started, and how they balance passion projects with other commitments.

“These people are so passionate about what they do for free, and are so compassionate for others that they deserve some recognition,” said Firn. “What they’ve learned and their lessons could really benefit a lot of people, and inspire a lot of people.”

The motivation of the project is to shift the spotlight of the sharing economy, which largely focuses on large companies. According to Firn, there’s a whole different side to the sharing economy–with people interacting and peer to peer services–that receives minimal attention. It’s those people, such as artists, bloggers, and creators, who contribute resources or work for free, that Bennett and Firn want to highlight.

Bennet and Firn were active members in the University community. Bennett is a 2015 Venture for America fellow and Software Developer at Waymark. Firn played on the University’s golf team, participated in the Wesleyan Investment Group, and sat as Chair of the Honor Board. He studied math and economics as a “MECO” major, a program no longer offered by the University. After he graduated, Firn took a job in Washington D.C. as a consultant for Ernst & Young, but recently moved to New York City to work at InviteManager as a Growth Marketing Associate.

“In my four years at Wes, one of the things that impressed me most was the intersection of creativity and compassion of other people and supporting other people,” Firn said.

While Bennett and Firn haven’t decided who is going to be featured in the book yet, they do have an idea of the types of people they want to be featured.

“Mark and I are currently compiling a list of people to reach out to and feature,” Firn said. “These people are artists, programmers, musicians, and other makers. That being said, our initiative is a community-backed project, so we are looking to crowdfund ideas for creators as well.”

Through the Venture for America campaign, Bennett and Firm look to aim $3,000 in March to produce 100 books at 30 dollars per book. They’ve also chosen to make it a coffee-table book.

“A coffee table book is authentic and sturdy, the same character that reflects the creative people we are featuring,” Firn said. “Mark and I felt it was an artsy and fitting platform to feature these creators.”

However, Bennett and Firn have run into some obstacles throughout the course of this project, such as highlighting people that aren’t well known. Naturally, more famous people get more attention, so finding lesser-known individuals with the same quality work is tough. But the most prevalent problem, as Firn describes, is just their lack of time.

“Working on any side project or outside business hours can be a big constraint,” Firn said. “When you get home from work, if you have other commitments like working out or cooking or hanging out with friends, it’s always hard to find time in the day when you’re collaborating with someone who doesn’t live in the same city as you. I think time is definitely the biggest obstacle.”

Regardless, the payoff is worth it to both Bennett and Firn.

“A big part of this project is reminding people—and reminding ourselves—to focus on the good in the world: the brain, the helping out in the world, the enhancing of communities,” Firn said. “And doing it without an expectation for anything in return.”

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