Monday, August 16, 2010

What Can You Do With What You Have?

Image from Makindu News

So I told you I had some exciting news coming and here it is… I have yet another promotion to offer everyone. I got contacted by NOVICA to offer my readers a chance at a certificate to $75 to use on their site! In case you are not familiar with NOVICA they work with National Geographic and are one of the leading fair trade sites. For those that know me, know this was so up my alley. I was blow away by how amazing everything was. I think you will be as well. I saw a million things I wanted, but I also know this is where I will be going to finally find that gift for the person (AKA my dad) who has everything.

So how do you win a chance to win? You can help me promote a wonderful organization. I know you are thinking, “What? What organization? Please, please tell me more? “ So I guess I will.

I had the pleasure to attend a fund raiser to help raise money for Makindu Children’s program. The program’s focus is to help the children orphaned by aids in Kenya, which is estimated to be over 1 million children. The Center helps find the children families to live with and in turn support the child and family with meals, education, aids education and medical care. To support the efforts of this center every other year a group of people get together to raise money by going on “proper walk.” The participants of the walk pay their own expenses (roughly about 4 thousand dollars) to get there, and be there. They are also required to raise 10 thousand dollars that goes directly to the program. Amazingly every other year folks do it, and it seems to grow. One of the things I really like about the program is that it has been turned back over to the village and is now run by the village.

The proper walks themselves are amzing things covering 150 or more miles of uncharted terrain and have been covered by national geographic. The link will take you to the National Geographic article about the walks.

However, what blew me away wasn’t a bunch of crazy folks trekking across uncharted Africa, it was the statistics he gave that night. Frankly, while I sipped my wine and ate my catered food while sitting in a gorgeous home, it made me feel ill. I don’t have most of the statistic from that night but here is what I do know:

• In 2007 worldwide there were 2.5 million people were newly infected, 1.7 million of those were in sub-Saharan Africa

• More than two-thirds (68%) of all people infected with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa

• The majority of people (61%) living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are women

• In 2007 more than three quarters (76%) of all AIDS-related deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa

Nkosi Johnson, Google Images

The thing that has stayed with me most since that night was the story of a young boy, Nkosi Johnson- age 12. He was dying of AIDS. He addressed International AIDS Conference - Durban, South Africa and simply said:

Do all you can

With all you have

In the time you have

At the place you are

How often do we do that? I know I don’t. I do know, however, I should. I do know that I am not here just to take as much as I can and then die. I know that I am meant to do something. So here I am, doing something. It is not much, but is what I can do, with what I have (my blog) with the time I have (not much) and in the place I am. No, truly it isn’t much, it is however a start.

So I am asking you to do the same. Help me get the word out about this organization. Blog about it, link to this post, twitter, facebook, stumble. Dig, buzz. Just do it, do what you can. For each thing you do (just send me a link and/or tell me about it) you will get an entry to win the $75 dollars. Make a donation (I am supporting Joshua) and I will double your total entries (meaning you twitter, facebook, stumble and make a donation you will get a total of 6 entries).

And as for the donation, this I really a matter of every dollar helps. So what can very little money do?

 $35 provides food, elementary schooling and medical care for one child for one month.

 $50 provides school uniforms and shoes for 10 children.

 $100 provides millk for 100 children for 1 month.

 $200 provides bulk food (maize, beans, oil, etc.) for 59 families for four months.

 $350 provides a high school education (tuition, boarding, books and supplies) for one student for one year.

Amazing sometimes, how little something of so much value can cost.

Please go checkk out these amazing links with Novica and dont' forget to let you know what you are doing!

Fair Trade

Green Gifts

Unique Gifts


Friday, August 6, 2010

Sweet Cheeks: The Beginning

Sweet Cheeks: The Beginning: "I started making products long before I started a company. It started, in its most basic form, with me trying to make bath oils that would..."

The Beginning

I started making products long before I started a company. It started, in its most basic form, with me trying to make bath oils that wouldn’t irritate my skin. Then I had babies. My son had terrible eczema on his legs. None of the lotions that the doctor recommended were working great and I didn’t want to start him on steroid cream. So I started to do some research. Several attempts later and many friends volunteering to be Guiney pigs, I had a cream that really really worked for him.

Fast forward 3 years and another baby later and it is Christmas. A friend gave me some ginger bath salts she had made. I smelled them and they were heavenly. I asked her to give me the recipe. She said, “It is so easy.” So several days later when I was laying in my bath luxuriating I thought, “isn’t it amazing that something this simple and pure is so wonderful.” That was the moment, the birth of Sweet Cheeks and I haven’t looked back.

When starting a business though, my primary drive was not to make money. I was a stay at home mom that felt a little disconnected from the world. I wanted an “in” back into that world that would allow me also to stay focused on my family. So, for me, I wasn’t just about producing a widget, I could sell. It was about producing a product that had value, and even more so, building a company that had social value. So I looked at everything with a critical eye. How would I package my product in a way that had the least amount of impact to the earth? Were my ingredients sustainable? Was it not only a good product but and excellent one? Did the product mirror my core beliefs?

Then there was the question of what to do with the money. I wanted a company that invested in life, in humanity. I wanted my company to add value to the world in ways other than just the products it made. I knew that my company would eventually set up a fund to focus on giving a part of the profits back to the community. This fund is a long term goal however, once Sweet Cheeks is operating in the positive, it is my first order of business. I know I don’t want to be part of a world in which we don’t reach back, each one of us, and offer a hand to the person that needs it. That said, I felt that was not only my responsibility as a person but as a business owner. Plus, it feels to me like an opportunity to make a real difference. And who can’t get excited about that?

So there I was, I had my business, I had my products and I had a mission. Now I just had to figure out how to find my market. When I started my company I was extraordinarily lucky that I had women in almost every area to help me realize my dream of having a business instead of just making products for friends and family out of my kitchen. Each time I felt unsure of how to move forward another woman would jump in and offer their expertise from Jeanne Wilson with Markbeech Marketing who helped with my logo and marketing ideas to Patience Salgado who took my product photos and started getting Sweet Cheeks noticed.

Everyone donated their time because they believed in what I was doing. They kept assuring me that my love for good all natural products had a place in the Richmond market. Despite being surrounded by a bevy of amazing business women to call on, I was having a hard time getting a foothold in the Richmond market, except for a faithful, but small, following. I knew my products were among the best around; I just needed a way to reach people that valued all natural products and cared about how they were packaged. Then out of the blue, Franklin Goose approached me. It was the answer to all my problems. They were a nationally recognized brand. They had huge presence the market place I was trying to establish myself in and their company values mirrored mine. I loved also that Franklin Goose is a woman owned business. The president lives in Richmond and their first store will be opening soon in Carytown. I sent samples in for them to review and now am carried on their site. It has been amazing. I can’t wait to see what will happen once the store goes live, but I know it will be amazing.

I didn’t know it when I started selling with them, but Franklin Goose really makes it their mission to give little start ups like me a chance in the market place. They try to find people, and in particular work at home moms (WAHM) that are making amazing products, but need a national site with traffic like theirs to be able to make a living at our craft. I guess in short, they were a company that reached back. I was glad for the hand.

I believe it is my passion for what I am doing and for being a good steward to the earth which has allowed me to attract a company like Franklin Goose. That passion, and a whole lot of amazing help. It is nice that small little companies, like me, have an opportunity to affect change in the marketplace because of companies like Franklin Goose that share a common goal. Together we are able to start offering Richmond natural & organic alternatives.

It is funny, I sometimes wonder if, when Franklin Goose started if they felt a bit like I do now. They knew that there was another way to be in corporate America. There was another way we can define what it means to be an American company. We can be good corporate citizens. We can add more than we take. I hope they did, I like the thought that we started off the same concepts, and hopefully one day Sweet Cheeks will be opening their first shop… just around the corner.