It was well after midnight, and Nathan W. Gwilliam, eyelids begging to close, finally surrendered. He turned off his computer and lowered his exhausted body to the floor. A few hours later, his coworkers arrived to begin another workday. Amused to find Gwilliam asleep under his desk, they turned on vacuums to startle him awake.
The year was 1997. Gwilliam (BGS ’07, MBA ’14), a BYU student and entrepreneur, was sacrificing sleep trying to establish Adoption.com. Eighteen years later, with more than 650,000 visits each month and more than 800,000 registered members, Adoption.com is the world’s most-used adoption website.
The site’s most recent expansions include a partnership with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To increase adoption opportunities for LDS families, the Church will pay the tab for LDS parents to create profiles on Adoption.com—usually $199 a month—through February 2016, after which a substantial discount will be offered. “It will open doors that were not previously accessible to many hopeful adoptive parents,” said David McConkie, LDS Family Services adoption group manager, in a March video announcement.
As a missionary in Brazil, Gwilliam was anxious to find a way to help orphan children he saw living on the streets. Back at BYU, he wrote a paper about the potential power of the Internet to help facilitate adoption. He created a business plan, and soon he and a handful of fellow students were launching Adoption.com from a BYU computer lab.
Gwilliam met his wife, Crystal Ullery Gwilliam (’11), soon after, and from the beginning of their relationship, she says, “I could tell that that was part of his calling here on earth— to help kids.” While on a trip to visit Brazillian orphanages early in their marriage, the two bought food and clothing for a child prostitute. Upon returning the girl home, they bargained with her mom to keep her off the streets and instead enroll her in school. “I have hundreds of stories like this, where Nathan sees a need and steps in to help,” Crystal says.
And he still sacrifices sleep. “We often say that Nathan never shuts off,” says Mindy Jensen, director of social work for Adoption.com’s parent company.
Beginning in 2006, Gwilliam took six years off from Adoption.com to collaborate with other business leaders he admired. He worked with Deseret Digital Media, helping to increase its online following from less than 100,000 to 40 million within an 18-month period. He also helped launch FamilyShare.com, which reached 22 million monthly page views before he left.
But nothing on Gwilliam’s résumé brings him as much joy as his adoption work. “My greatest success is when I hear the individual stories”—like that of the first child he helped connect with an adoptive family. The child “was raised in a phenomenal home” and just graduated from seminary.
“I feel so blessed . . . [that] I’m able to be part in a small way of helping children find loving permanent homes and helping hopeful parents make their dreams of adoption come true,” he says. “It’s kind of like working in a Hallmark movie.”
Create an Adoption Profile That Shines
Lindsey Wheatley Redfern (BS ’04), Adoption.com’s editor and an adoptive mother to four children, shares four tips for making a standout adoption profile:
Be authentic. When you represent your real self, you make it easier for expectant parents who are looking to connect with a family like yours.
Include pictures that pop. Using both professional and personal photos, showcase your personality and give a glimpse into your life. Make sure your family members’ faces can be seen. And use captions to tell stories about your family.
Use video. Letting expectant parents see the sparkle in your eye while you describe your dream of a family is powerful. Tell a story about your favorite vacation or tradition that you cannot wait to share with a child. Hire a professional videographer to help. If you can’t do that, shoot a simple video on your phone, making sure you are in a well-lit place where your voice can easily be recorded.
Rely on the Spirit. You never know what story or photo will spark a connection with expectant parents, but our Heavenly Father does. Let Him guide you.