People to Watch 2012: Big thinker Matthew Goldstein

  • Photo by Tessa Berg
From the August 9, 2012 edition

Upon graduating from Ohio State in 2000, Matthew Goldstein thought he had his life figured out: Snag killer job, make lots of money, live luxuriously. Half a decade later, he was well on his way with a position in research and marketing at Abercrombie & Fitch.

There was only one problem.

“I was making good money, but I was miserable,” Goldstein said.

So he started volunteering with charities and nonprofits, causes that made him feel like a part of something bigger. He organized events to get Abercrombie employees involved. Eventually he hit a tipping point: This was what he wanted to do with his life.

In 2010, Goldstein left Abercrombie to begin work on a website called Besa. Named for an Albanian word that means overcoming our differences to work together, it’s designed to explain how various social issues affect Columbus and what organizations around Columbus are doing to address those problems.

Each participating nonprofit will have a profile with user ratings so volunteers and beneficiaries can give feedback. Starting Monday, Aug. 13, people can register and peruse charity profiles. Full functionality launches Sept. 11, the National Day of Service.

The idea is to connect busy people who want to serve their community but find it hard to wade through all the information out there.

“I wanted to make it easy,” Goldstein said.

To make a living while getting Besa off the ground, Goldstein started Woof! Downtown Pet Care. He figured he would need about 12 clients to make ends meet, but his business ballooned to 80 animals.

Pets have become another passion, but as Goldstein hustles to get 1,600 charities to fill out profiles and to launch Besa’s website bug-free, community service remains his driving force.

“That’s where my passion is,” Goldstein said. “I couldn’t get that passion about jeans and flip-flops like I could about helping people that deserve help — that deserve our help.”

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