Regret. Success. Heartbreak. Calf braces. These are the topics that are served up every week on The Wish Dish, a new website where college students across the country share personal stories.
And if it sounds therapeutic, it is.
According to site founder Bryan Wish, a marketing major from Fairfax, Va., writing has not only helped him understand and overcome the hardships in his own life, but sharing stories, he believes, naturally brings people together.
“There’s this sense of vulnerability, a sense of authenticity – this is who I am and what I want to bring out in other people,” he said.
That sense of community and purpose is especially important to college students, he says.
“We have stories of people overcoming obstacles, stories of successes and failures. One kid wrote about an attempted suicide. It’s the most moving piece of writing I’ve ever read,” Wish said. “We have stories about weight loss and disease. The kind of content I’m getting is very diverse because it’s from all kinds of students. I love it, and I think it’s helping them develop as well, so that’s really rewarding.”
Of course, there are lots of websites that feature amateur writing. What makes this one different is its organization.
The Wish Dish, which boasts a six-member staff of students and professionals, organizes its stories by feeling or mood. Using five broad categories corresponding with meals (a Breakfast Dish, a Lunch Dish, a Dinner Dish, a Dessert Dish and something called Mom’s Surprise), the site aims to be useful instead of informative.
“A Breakfast Dish (story) is meant to get you energized. So these are stories where a dedicated to the doers who get stuff done and overcome obstacles,” Wish said.
One example of a Breakfast Dish is a story by UGA student Carden Wyckoff, who writes about living with Facioscapulo humeral muscular dystrophy and her need for calf braces.
“And nobody gets to lunch and thinks ‘My day is going amazing!’ because it’s the middle of the day and the coffee is wearing off. So a Lunch Dish is another pick-me-up for the middle of the day.”
This site grew out of a personal blog that Wish after his experience working with a life coach. As the blog developed, Terry student Michael Gargiulo advised him to expand the idea and start a website while involving others.
Luckily for Wish, he had experience with that sort of thing.
Since he started at UGA, Wish has regularly worked in internships for sports marketing. He’s interned at American University Athletic Department, Georgia IMG College and the Atlanta Hawks, always helping to enhance the sports experience for young people.
The skills he gained from those environments proved to be invaluable in starting his own business, Wish said.
“I had this platform idea in my head – then I thought, how do I take my experience in sports and apply it to this?” Wish said. “Well, from IMG I learned about sponsorship, so I called the VP of Marketing at Comfort Colors (clothing company), and I told him how they have a large presence in the southeast with Greek Life and asked if they would give us shirts for our writers. Then, I thought about the brand ambassador experience with the Hawks. This experience taught me how to build a team of students to buy into a vision and create a successful program to generate ticket sales. The Hawks organization gave me an incredible learning opportunity, so I figured I could build a Wish Dish brand ambassador program at different colleges throughout the country. In my internship at American University, my big summer project was building a database of all the high schools that could help with ticket sales, but little did I know that doing that sort of work as a freshman would help later, both in my work with the Hawks’ database and with this website.”
The site is still a work in progress, but it’s growing by the day. Wish hopes to extend its reach to more campuses soon. And while he already has a job lined up after graduation, he says that his writing project will always be a priority.
“Doing this full-time would be the dream,” he said. “I would love to go to different college towns, make an impact, and share this with them, just go for it. But, of course, it doesn’t make money. Not yet.”