While interning at a corporate lobbying firm in Richmond last year, Heidi Drauschak, GB’18 and L'18, and two of her fellow interns realized while they witnessed the power of lobbying firsthand, they wanted to do more for the community.

“Our clients were typically big businesses,” Drauschak said. “We were looking for a way to open up the powerful lobbying process to everyday citizens and crowdfunding seemed like a perfect fit. 

Crowdfunding, an online form of fundraising with small amounts of money from a large number of people, can give more people the ability to fight for what they believe in, Drauschak says.

“We realized that if we could harness the people’s power through small contributions, we could aggregate those contributions to hire top-notch lobbyists in the same way that big business would,” Drauschak said.

She and her fellow interns then formed CrowdLobby, a crowdfunding lobbying site, where individuals could donate to causes that they are passionate about, then Drauschak and her co-founders would hire lobbyists to fight for the cause.

“People have a say in who they vote for, but big business typically steps in after elections to direct legislation through lobbyists. We want to give people the power to direct legislation even after election day,” Drauschak says.

As a JD/MBA candidate, Drauschak already has a full plate, but she says founding CrowdLobby has allowed her to combine her passions for law and business, and bring them into the classroom.

“CrowdLobby and my JD/MBA have had a wonderfully symbiotic relationship,” Drauschak says. “The company has given me real-life examples that I can take into the classroom. Conversely, the lessons I am learning in the classroom can be applied to my company on a daily basis.”

Dr. Randy Raggio, director of The Richmond MBA, says finding new ways to combine skills and apply them is what the program aims to provide students.

“It’s great to see when passion meets education,” Dr. Raggio said. “As long as Heidi continues to apply the lessons of the MBA program to meet a very specific need, then CrowdLobby should be successful.”

Drauschak plans to graduate in 2018, and work fulltime at CrowdLobby.

“Although there is some risk with any new business venture, we believe strongly in this idea and plan to continue with our efforts after graduation,” Drauschak says.

She hopes CrowdLobby will continue to inspire individuals not only to contribute to causes they are passionate about through the site, but also to get more involved in their communities as a whole.

You can find out more about Drauschak and CrowdLobby here.