OAK Blog

The Ups and Downs of Our First Year as a Social Business and Why We Need Your Help September 05 2013, 1 Comment

Give Back Backpack Austin OAKIt's been a little over a year since we launched OAK and it's been such an adventure...sprinkled with many ups and downs. Here are a few of our lessons and milestones this year, and why we continue to move forward:

  • We reflected and focused...We started out with a broader mission where each product gave back to different causes, but we had to step back and ask ourselves why we were doing this. The answer was that we truly feel passionate about supporting education for homeless and at-risk youth. (Read more about our adoption.) Because of this, we have streamlined all of our products to be buy one, give a backpack.
  • We lost a founder...We started with 4, but don't worry, there wasn't a fall out - she was just about to have her 3rd baby in 3 years and it wasn't realistic for her to put in time with OAK anymore. Then there were 3.
  • We switched factories...Although the factory we initially worked with was sufficient, we wanted to identify companies that had worked with our own personal connections. We are now partnering with two new factories - one with a wonderful operation in Mexico, and another that employs women that have been rescued from human trafficking in India! We are thrilled with our new suppliers! Look for several products in the next month or so!
  • We have been humbled...We feel encouraged one day, and are knocked down the next. It's the nature of business, and we've learned that this project is a marathon, not a sprint. We want this company to develop organically, and that takes patience and tenacity.
  • We are not alone...There are so many other amazing businesses out there trying to make an impact on various needs in our community and beyond. What an inspiration! These people really drive me to press on!
  • We need help...This project is a labor of love, and because we are raising kids, working other jobs, and bootstrapping this company, we RELY on our network of people to pass along our information, spread the word, volunteer their skills and time, and become champions for OAK. We want to thank all of you who have helped along the way, and welcome all future offers of talent and time!

As we approach our fall/winter launch, we are regrouping with a new business plan, and we would love any suggestions for the future of OAK. I hope that this company never becomes "groupthink" and that we are always open to new ideas and fresh products. Thank you for helping OAK Lifestyle, "the little company that could"...I think we can...I think we can...I know we can help support at-risk and homeless youth in their educational endeavors!

Let us know if you would like to see a list of some of the ways you can help (of course we are open to other ideas as well)!


Backpack Giveaway 2013: This Makes Our Year! August 24 2013, 0 Comments

We had such a wonderful time today with our partner The Neighborhood as they gave away backpacks and school supplies to thousands of homeless and at-risk youth. So many volunteers came out to the annual "Back-to-School Bash" to support the Austin community.

All year, your purchases have resulted in donations to our charity partners, and it was so much fun to see the funds in action. Our goal for the future is to meet all of The Neighborhood's needs for this event, and someday to meet the needs of additional communities. There was nothing like the smiles on the faces of the kids receiving their backpack. What a perfect way to kick off the school year!

Thank you for all of your backpack and t-shirt purchases!

buy one give one backpack The Neighborhood giveaway

Learn about our giving partners | Buy a backpack | Buy a t-shirt


5 Acts of Kindness To Do With Your Kids May 20 2013, 0 Comments

Today's guest blog is written by Sheila Sjolseth, author of Pennies of Time, a blog that focuses on teaching children to serve. She has such great ideas, and I hope we can continue to hear from her from time to time!



In September, when my boys were 5 and 3 years old, we began completing a service act together each day.  And, I don't mean "the boys watch their mom do something nice" kind of thing.  I mean that we do something together to help someone else.

When we do this, we call it a "Penny of Time" . . . the goal is to do something good for someone else that takes around 15-20 minutes. (Often times, we get caught up in the experience and spend over an hour helping someone.)  Planning for a something that will take only 15-20 minutes of our afternoon makes it doable in a busy schedule.  We have helped in many ways:  volunteering at the SPCA, cleaning out a creek by the elementary school, putting together chemo care packages, and helping out a homeless shelter.  There is not much that we won't try to do!

Frankly, out of all the experiences that I have had with my boys since they were born, I am quickly finding that it is the moments when I serve with them that I treasure the most.  I predict that it is those same moments of helping others that will be my most favorite memories when they are grown men.  Serving with your children is doable and will benefit your family and the people you help.

Besides planning for something that will take 15-20 minutes, there are four other elements that help us have a great time while helping others:
1.  Find an act that interests my children
2.  Plan the act with them
3.  Have fun during the act (we don't force it!)
4.  Take the time to reflect on how we helped after the act is over

Here are 5 activities that we have done and have really enjoyed!  (The title of each idea links back to a Pennies of Time Adventure to show how we did it.)  Take a look and try one with your kids . . . (or do them all!).  Let us know how how it goes!

5 Acts of Kindness with Your Kids

 



Burying Treasure at a Playground
The boys love to do this!  We first started doing this when my husband completed A Guy's 42 Acts of Kindness on His 42nd Birthday!  It was an immediate hit with the givers and receivers.  Find a playground (sand pits work great) where you can hide "treasure" in the dirt.  We use jewels, dinosaurs, and plastic treasure coins.  My boys GIGGLE to themselves when they are burying the treasure.  And, you should see the amazement on the faces of other kids when they accidentally find treasure.  The Best!



Happy Sidewalk Chalk Message
Grab that forgotten sidewalk chalk and go leave a nice note on a driveway to lift a friend's spirits!  We like to do it in secret and leave it as an anonymous message of love (and it is always fun to see if we get caught!).  Or, like Sidewalk Revolution leave uplifting messages on sidewalks for any walker or runner to see.  A favorite with the boys!



Busy Books for the ER
You've been there . . . an unexpected trip to the emergency with a small child, maybe even with a sibling or two?  Help out a parent in that exact situation by making Busy Books.  You can inexpensively buy coloring books, crayons, and Ziploc bags (dollar stores are great for this) . . .  add in a bunch of young hand to assemble the busy books, and you are ready to donate a much needed resource to your local emergency room! 



Travel Sized Care Kits for the Homeless
With your children, talk about what it would be like to be homeless.  My kids were floored when they realized that they wouldn't have a bathroom space to brush their teeth!  Brainstorm items that someone who is homeless might need, purchase the supplies (you can see our list here), then put together the basic elements for a care kit into a sock to help out someone that is homeless (make sure you put the other sock in there, too). This is a meaningful activity for the kids, full of things that individuals who are homeless can use, and it fits nicely in your car, ready to be handed out whenever needed.



A Note for the Mail Carrier
We have a friend who is a mail carrier.  She has taught us about the difficulties of that come with her job.  After learning from her, we started leaving treats and messages for our own mail carrier.  We are now friends with our own mail carrier!  (And, he has left notes back for us!)  We really like to do this act when it is raining outside (that is when the boys think that the mail carrier's job is most difficult!).

Want more ideas?  We've got our Fun Summer Service Ideas list going!  Or, check out the Pennies of Time Pinterest Boards.

See more of our "Pennies of Time" Adventures or connect with Pennies of Time on Twitter.


Meet Isabel May 08 2013, 0 Comments

Isabl COur intern Isabel has been such a wonderful addition to OAK Lifestyle since she started with us in January. She is less than a year away from completing her degree in Public Relations and Advertising from St. Edward’s University, and we are so happy that she is staying on with us beyond her formal internship! Here are some words from Isabel:

"I believe that if you have a passion for something, you should invest time in fulfilling that desire. For me, that passion lies in making others, specifically children, happy. At about age eight, I discovered this passion and since then, I’ve attempted to get active and work with children hands-on.I love that OAK gives backpacks to children in need, because it makes children more invested in their education.

When I was given the opportunity to intern for OAK, I immediately took interest. I believe in the company’s mission and their belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. This small but powerful message has motivated me to make each day important by attempting one act of kindness a day.

I’m excited for what is to come and I hope that OAK’s mission can shine a little bit of happiness into everyone’s days. Dream big, help others, and get active!"


Buy One Give One Companies March 25 2013, 0 Comments

 A friend of mine recently purchased a pair of TOMS wedges and called it the most guilt free purchase she'd ever made. She said that even though she spent a little more than usual (on a pair of shoes she really liked), she drove away knowing a child would get a pair of shoes.

Since TOMS pioneered the buy one, give one industry (they even trademarked the phrase One for One), many other companies have launched with the specific intention to give back with each purchase. The next time you make a purchase for yourself or as a gift, be sure to check these social enterprises so that your purchases are leveraged even further!

Please continue to let us know of additional buy one, give one companies to add to the list! We will also be adding photos of the products to our Buy One, Give One pinterest board.

 


I'm Not Always Kind March 08 2013, 0 Comments

Since we started OAK, a company that promotes kindness, I think I feel an extra pressure to make sure I'm nice, giving and inspiring all of the time. I feel like instead of a bumper sticker that says "How's My driving?" like professional services and truckers have, I am wearing a sign that says "How's My Kindness?"

Guess what? It isn't always great! Not only do people show me up all the time (my sister-in-law for instance - oh my gosh, does that gal serve! http://penniesoftime.blogspot.com/), but sometimes (wait for it...) I'm even kind of a jerk (gasp!).

But, the great thing about life is that we have the ability to regroup after an act - or a day - or even a season in life - that we aren't proud of, and try to make things better. We can start being kinder to those around us...starting now. We can smile at people, write a note, volunteer, bake someone cookies, help a friend with a project, visit someone who is lonely, etcetera, etcetera. There are endless ways to meet the needs of others.

The point is, I don't want to convey that anyone can be shining examples of kindness, and we don't have to beat ourselves up over what we've done. We just have to dust ourselves off and try again to act with kindness. We're all just ordinary, after all.


The Need for Community and Support February 20 2013, 0 Comments

Helping Hand Community SupportAt any given time, there is a cycle of need around us. Sometimes it's a friend who is going through a personal crisis, sometimes it's a neighbor who has a medical issue, sometimes it's a stranger or acquaintance that has a need, and sometimes it's us facing a hardship. With each year that passes, I see that the players may change, but the need is consistent.

All of this highlights the fact that community is SO important! Most of the time, we like to be independent and self-sufficient, but the truth is that we need each other. I have recently seen an outpouring of support for several friends going through some very difficult times. People showed up emotionally, physically, and financially. I love my village and am inspired by the kindness!

So, what happens when we don't have community? I'm reminded of the Pearl Jam lyrics "I'm a lucky man to count on both hands the ones I love...Some folks just have one, others they have none."

At OAK, we choose to work with charities who support those that are abandoned or marginalized. We believe that these non-profits are investing in, and caring for, people that may fall through the cracks.

I encourage you to not only support those around you, but to reach out to find ways to extend a hand to people that don't have a community - either directly, or through a non-profit or other service organization.


Who Received A Rose? February 01 2013, 1 Comment

Valentine's KindnessWhen I was in junior high and high school, I remember a fundraiser held each Valentine's Day. Each year it was a little different, but the idea was that for about $1 each, people could send a Valentine to one another at school - whether it be a balloon, a flower (roses and carnations were the favorite), a card, or the like. Inevitably, this meant that some kids wound up with a bunch of them, some with a couple, and some people had none. What a crummy, isolated feeling for those without a delivery.

As we get older, Valentine's Day still provokes a variety of emotions - some people celebrate love, some are indifferent about the holiday, while for others it can bring up the pain of lost love or loneliness. This year, a surprise ordinary act of kindness might be just what a hurting person needs. Here are some ideas you can use for both friends and strangers:

  • Buy flowers: you can send an anonymous bouquet or buy a couple of bouquets and distribute the flowers to friends or strangers
  • Write a card: send (near or far) or drop off a hand-written note, or you can identify a nursing home, a hospital, a shelter, or even a jail where you might want to send cards
  • Bake cookies or a favorite treat: this gesture shows that you took care and thought into making their day special
  • Treat someone to dinner: deliver a surprise dinner or take a friend or acquaintance out to let them know you care about them

Of course all of these acts can be done any time of year, but the holidays - especially one revolving specifically around caring and love - are a really great time to practice kindness.


Your Kindness Can Meet an Emotional Need January 11 2013, 0 Comments

Emotional Needs Met with Acts of KindnessBelow is a wonderful guest post from Deena Perkins, one of our loyal OAK customers, about the power of your ordinary acts.

"How many times during the day are you asked 'how are you?' And how many times do you say 'fine,' because you don’t want to burden people with your 'ordinary' problems? I think most of us have these days and while they may not be headline-making problems, they still make us have a less than perfect day.

I have more than my share of those days because I suffer from chronic depression. It isn’t the depression that you normally think of; I can function most of the time and can usually manage the depression with exercise. I still have days, though, when I just can’t get out of my funk. That is when an ordinary act of kindness can have a major impact. It doesn’t take much – it can be a smile from a stranger, a call or text from a friend, an unsolicited hug from my kids or any other number of ordinary acts of kindness that can make me feel better.

I was having one of those days recently when out of the blue I got an email from an old friend telling me he enjoyed my posts and other very nice things. I replied that he really made my day, but I don’t think he will ever know the full effect he had on me. I still smile when I think about the email and it made me think about others who are dealing with something that is affecting their day - a fight with a spouse, an issue with their kid, something going on at work, or an illness. I think of how I feel when I perform an ordinary act of kindness or when I am the beneficiary of someone’s kindness and I realize that everyone could benefit from someone reaching out to others in the most ordinary way.

What if we all vowed to pay more attention to people and really meant it when we ask 'how are you today?' What if we all did something nice for at least one person every day? It may seem ordinary, but it could make the difference to someone who is struggling with something or just having a bad day. Now that would be extraordinary."


I am Bad at Volunteering January 07 2013, 0 Comments

Volunteering at Angel HouseI have a confession to make...I am a really bad volunteer. I promise it's not for a lack of trying! Over the years, I've attempted a lot:

  • I have done manual labor like pulling weeds, sweeping sidewalks, painting, cleaning houses, or cooking meals. Let's start with the fact that I might be the world's worst homemaker, so I'm pretty bad at those things to begin with. But at least I am occupied when I take on these projects, and I feel like I accomplish something!
  • I have fed the homeless, handed out clothes and toiletry bags, and sat and talked with people, trying to spread kindness. Some people are amazing at this, forming relationships, talking easily and comfortably, and making people laugh. I am SO awkward. I'm bad at small talk, terrible at remembering people's names, and again, I just prefer to be the one doing something - handing things out, cooking, cleaning up, etc.
  • I have volunteered at a nursing home. We did this once per month for a while, and I never got used to it. I should be good at this! My grandmother taught art in nursing homes and my sister is in charge of activities at a senior home - they have a heart for the elderly! In my case, the other volunteers always seemed to walk out talking about how they met the neatest woman or man, who had the best stories, and they can't wait to come back and see them. Meanwhile, I seemed to only talk to people who couldn't understand me, and I couldn't understand them (making me feel like a big jerk), and was lucky if I found someone who would talk to me for more than a few words. None of it seemed natural or beneficial for either of us.
  • I have volunteered with children. Whether it be in a kid's classroom helping with a class party or teaching Sunday school, I am so-so at this task. It's sort of like going to the gym for me - I usually dread it (I'm pretty sure that's not a good sign), while I'm in it, I'm trying to get through it, and afterwards, I'm glad I did it. This can't be the best possible outcome!
  • Often times, I sign up for something that has too many people. So, we end up standing around or finding little things to do so that we feel like we showed up for a reason. This photo above shows most of the volunteers that came out for a recent clothing distribution. It was so neat to have so many people come out with great intentions, but you hope it won't discourage people from showing up in the future.

After years and years of these less than perfect experiences, I knew there had to be a better way for me personally to make a difference. I have seen friends of mine use their talents to give back. Some photographer friends of mine taught a photography class and donated all of the money towards building a house in Haiti for victims of human trafficking. Another friend used her skills to launch a "beauty academy" to teach cosmetology trade skills in Rwanda to underprivileged students. These stories made sense and inspire me!

That's why starting OAK, a social entrepreneurship, was the perfect fit for our team. We can use the skills we are naturally good at and enjoy - marketing, sales, finance, operations, etc. - for a greater purpose. It's been a more fulfilling role for us than we could have ever imagined! At the end of the day, we don't judge our success by how much we sell, we set goals and get excited about what we are able to give! We knew going into this company that if at the end of it all, all we did is give a bunch of backpacks and school supplies away, we will feel great about starting OAK. Thankfully, it's more than exceeded our expectations!

I'm not saying I'm going to stop trying to volunteer the old fashioned way, but I am proud to say that working for OAK Lifestyle has been my favorite "volunteering" gig so far!

--Jessica


An Education Only Starts with Supplies January 02 2013, 2 Comments

Education Starts with Backpack and School SuppliesNearly 4 years ago, we adopted two kids (domestically) that were heading into 2nd and 3rd grade. We had been to all of the classes preparing us for what to expect behaviorally and emotionally, so when these sweet kids joined our family, we were as prepared as we thought we could be. What came out of left field was how much of a struggle school would be for them. The kids were smart as heck - articulate, sharp - but doing well in school is a whole different set of skills. It made us realize that the basic things we did with our two biological kids as they were growing up (they were going into 3rd and 5th grade) were more important than we realized.

When we were reading books before bedtime, counting Cheerios, spelling out words on a sign, having them write thank you notes to their relatives, or send them to their rooms for quiet time, we were teaching. When kids are moving from place to place, worrying about their next meal, distracted by chaotic events around them, or just not receiving help and attention they need from their parents, they have a disadvantage. Even now, with tutoring and our help, our kids struggle every school year.

One of the things we love about our giving partners is how much they understand the big picture. They aren't simply handing out backpacks and supplies to kids and walking away.

  • CapCityKids is serving the homeless population with tutoring in area shelters provided by certified teachers, counseling provided by supervised graduate social worker students, and more.
  • AfricaNewLife educates orphaned children, and houses the children in a family setting. Each home of 16 children has a dedicated "Auntie" who nurtures the children's emotional needs.

We can't pretend we are solving the problems of the many children in need. We can't do it all. But we believe that when we hand a backpack and school supplies to a child who is struggling, it says "We believe in you. You can be successful." It's an item that is all their own, and receiving it brings enthusiasm for a new year of learning. Additionally, the more we take care of the backpacks and school supplies for our partners, the more money they can redirect to helping more children with more resources. With your help, we are truly making a difference!

--Jessica


I'm Resolved to Pay Attention December 28 2012, 0 Comments

Every decision we make has an effect on another person. Regardless of how selfless or selfish, important or seemingly trivial, ordinary of extraordinary, what we choose matters.

For me, it can be easy to forget, or even overlook, as I go through my day, chasing after my children, checking email on my phone, fiddling with the radio as I drive. Today, when I ran into the father of a friend that my husband went to junior high with, I was reminded of the impact of my choices. Mike is a very tall man with a loud voice, and although I have only had a few brief encounters with him, I feel confident saying that he has a strong personality. I waved when I saw him and I knew he returned the gesture only out of courtesy, not recognizing me until he noticed the toddler in my arms. As he came over to speak with us, he told me about his poor health, his upcoming surgery, and with sadness in his voice, his son and daughter in law's struggle with fertility. Knowing that my son was adopted as a newborn, Mike told me that he is encouraging his son to follow the same path, using my family as an example of how awesome adoption truly is. He is not the first person that has told me this, and I am sure he will not be the last.

We did not adopt to inspire others, or even thinking of the impression it would make on those around us. I doubt that the birth mother of my child realized that her decision to place him with us would reach as far as it has. This woman that I have never met changed my life, though, and it has opened doors to change many more lives for the better. This is the way humanity works, and the things we do make a difference.

I decided that my New Year's resolution is going to be to pay attention. That way I won't miss the opportunity to thank the woman that holds the door as my son bolts into the store. I won't cut off someone trying to merge into my lane, or fail to notice an acquaintance that just needs someone to listen to help them through the day. Today I saw that I can touch lives. What will you do to change the world in 2013?

--Lindsey, OAK Co-Founder


Do Something Ordinary December 14 2012, 0 Comments

Do Something Ordinary DecalOur mantra has become "Do Something Ordinary" because OAK was started by an ordinary group of people who believe it's the little acts of kindness that add up to epic changes. If you have recently purchased one of our buy one, give one+ backpacks or t-shirts, you have probably received one of our decals. This guest blog from one of our close friends and supporters demonstrates what it means to make Ordinary Acts of Kindness a lifestyle.

"I have delusions of grandeur. I know I could have been a Michele-Pfeiffer-Dangerous-Minds teacher. I could have been The Cake Boss; I’m sure of it. Project Runway would have never seen me coming. There have been points in my life where I lean my head back, stick out my chin, and say in my best hoarse voice, 'I coulda been a contender.'

But I’m not. I’m so ordinary. I have three kids and a police officer for a husband. We do Cub Scouts with our son and guitar lessons with our daughter. We eat dinner together every night. We take family bike rides, for Pete’s sake. But here's the deal. I envy people like Katie Davis who is raising 13 Ugandan kids as her own. Or Blake Mycoskie of TOMS shoes. Or the amazing Jamie Oliver and his quest for healthy school lunches. (Bless you, Jamie Oliver. Don’t give up the fight!) It seems like there are all of these socially responsible heroes rising up in our lifetime, and I wonder if I’m missing my next chance to do something great.

Then I start to think about the little things I’m already doing. I made the switch to fair-trade-only chocolate a year and a half ago. (This is a big deal to a Cake Boss like me.) I just heard too many horrible stories of child trafficking and forced labor in the trade. So I switched. Pretty easy, really. And I think about how I always smile and say hi to Rocky and Carrie, two homeless folks who I pass on the way to work everyday, and who have been living under the same overpass. I know their names because I asked them when my kids gave them blankets and presents last Christmas. I babysit my single friend’s child all the time. For free. And when I start to add up all the ordinary things that I do, it begins to weave a tapestry of difference. Don’t submit my name to the Pope, or anything. But it’s something.

There’s a whole culture out there of people who want to tell you what to eat, what not to eat, what 5K to run for what cause, and how horrible you are for shopping at Wal-Mart. Let it go. Then pick something. Do something ordinary, like pick up a box of granola bars to keep in your car for folks asking for food or money. Have your child hand make a gift for their teacher, instead of the store bought card and coffee mug that you threw in your basket last minute. Visit a nursing home and make a friend. Make meaningful every day purchases. It’s not extraordinary. It’s ordinary. And I hope that what you do inspires others around you. Then someday you might step back and realize that your life has been woven together with ordinary positive actions, that when combined, equal extraordinary change."  --Susana Fletcher

Tweet, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or email us your ordinary acts of kindness so that your actions can inspire others!


Anonymous Kindness December 04 2012, 0 Comments

Anonymous KindnessWhen my husband and I first had a baby, we were struggling to make ends meet. He had just started a new career, making entry level pay, when we decided I should stay home with our daughter. We went down to one car, and cut back on all of our expenses to make things work. After being a two income, no child household, this was a humbling experience. We had rough times, and I took on odd jobs to make a littlle bit of money here and there. I barely remember what those days were like, but what stands out the most is the anonymous generosity we received on several occasions.

Once I opened the mail and found an unmarked envelope with a $100 gift card to the grocery store. No return address, no name attached to it. It was a time where we really strapped, and it was such a gift!

Another time I arrived home to find an envelope taped to my door with $200 in it. Bills were due, my daughter needed diapers, etc. This couldn't have come at a better time!

Since I don't know who to thank, those people will never know what those kind gestures meant to me. They brought sunshine when things seemed dark. Obviously, everyone can't afford to spend $100 or $200 at a time, but many of us can afford a little here or there. It might seem unnatural to give anonymously, but what an exercise in humility if you can give without needing the recognition. It is a true act of kindness.

OAK backpacks have a little pouch specifically designed to keep items to give to those in need. Consider keeping a gift card or some money in it for when the time arises to give anonymously. Selfless kindness is wonderful, and rest assured that they appreciate it!

--Jessica


Updated: Holiday Shopping that Gives Back November 23 2012, 1 Comment

Give Back Gift GuideAs you shop for the holidays, we highly recommend you look for buy one, give one companies, fair trade, and other companies whose mission is to give back through their products, while not causing harm to anyone in the process. Below is a list of a number of socially conscious brands that are spreading kindness through their businesses. Please share this with your contacts, and show your support for fashionable brands that are giving back.

Austin favorites:

Additional companies:

Online ethical shopping markets:

When you purchase from socially conscious companies, you are truly taking your dollar further.

--Jessica


Give Back Companies Take Your Dollar Further November 12 2012, 0 Comments

OAK Lifestyle Backpacks give back to Africa New Life SchoolEach year as the holidays approach, many of us start thinking about how fortunate we are. We look for ways to give back like:

  • "Adopting" a child or family
  • Participating in a coat, bike or toy drive
  • Volunteering at a donation center or soup kitchen
  • Donating to a charity on someone's behalf

All of that is great, and there are many other ideas for ordinary acts of kindness this season (and throughout the year!). This year, however, I encourage you to consider supporting cause-brands and/or fair trade when you shop. Granted, I realize this sounds self-serving, but I say this as a consumer myself!

The rise of companies that give back is no accident. 83% of Americans want brands to support causes!1 That's one of the reasons we started this company. We all want our money to go further than just into the hands of company owners/shareholders - we want it to have a positive impact on the world. We want kindnesss and generosity to be at the heart of our motives.

Several years ago, this was difficult. We may have had to settle for lower quality products, or choose from just a handful of companies. But, companies have come a long way! From head to toe, and into your hobbies, home, and more, you can buy from socially conscious companies.

I love incorporating this new way to "give" into my conversation with my children. It certainly doesn't replace the other holiday serving/giving opportunities -- it simply serves as an extension of the conversation. They love hearing the stories of how each gift that we are giving impacts people in our community and beyond.

If you find a great company that gives back, share it with your friends, and be sure to share it with us. We'd love to promote social enterprises that are making high quality products, and spreading kindness through their giving. Here's another tip - if you register your credit card with Pure Charity, you can also give a portion to your favorite cause simply by shopping with their partners - many of which are your favorite big box brands.

See our Guide for Holiday Shopping that Gives Back. | Start your giving on #GivingTuesday

--Jessica


OAK Doubles Donations as #GivingTuesday Makes it's Debut October 30 2012, 0 Comments

#GivingTuesday partnership with OAK LifestyleWe've all heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but have you heard about the latest addition to the holiday kick-off? #GivingTuesday is a national day of giving back, and its "opening day" is on November 27th.

#GivingTuesday serves as a call to action for individuals and companies to come together to support non-profit organizations. This is done through volunteering, donating (to non-profits, educational institutions, religious organizations), or purchasing products from for-purpose organizations (like OAK, whose products directly benefit non-profits). #GivingTuesday has over 500 registered Partners across the nation.

What does this mean for OAK? We are so excited to be a #GivingTuesday partner! For all backpacks that we sell on our website that day, OAK will be donating two backpacks + school supplies to our partners!

  • Cap City Kids, an organization that provides resources to Austin’s homeless children
  • Africa New Life, a non-profit that provides education and vocational training to impoverished youths in Rwanda

Check out the #GivingTuesday website for more details on this national day of giving.

--Jessica


Kindness Comes in all Shapes, Sizes and Ages October 18 2012, 1 Comment

Zoey Ordinary Act of KindnessRecently, a friend of mine emailed me to tell me a story that a friend of a friend shared with her. A sweet girl named Zoey G had decided to forfeit presents on her 10th birthday, and instead asked for donations to her local humane society. Her proud mom (as she should be!) casually posted about this on Facebook. Some friends of her mom decided to surprise Zoey with a donation of their own, and they also told a few friends. Before she knew it, Zoey had received $195, and a wagon-load of donations! Since "gifts" continued to arrive, she had to make a second trip to drop off all that had been donated!

OAK sent out a shirt and donation to Zoey to thank her for her Ordinary Act of Kindness. Her selfless act inspired the kindness of others - exactly what we try to encourage on a daily basis!

Her lovely mom was sweet enough to email us and share some photos, and she said she teared up when she learned that someone had pointed out Zoey's efforts to us. She also shared a little more info on this special girl. Apparently, this was only one of many kind acts that Zoey has already done in her young life.

When Zoey was in kindergarten, she saw the Haiti earthquake on the news. She went straight to her room, made a logo and called it "Hearts for Haiti". She wrote and illustrate little books and sold them to people (grandparents and teachers), earning $50 that she donated to the Red Cross for their Haiti efforts.

Humane Society Donations Trip 2In first grade, she learned about Locks of Love and has since donated her hair twice and plans to continue to grow it and donate it because "it's just that easy"!

After learning about the cruelty of animals, Zoey was brought to tears, and has been donating her own money and holding lemonade stands (with her little brother) for the SPCA. When she decided to do her birthday donations, she said "I have everything I will ever need, those animals need things more than I do."

Michelle, her mom, was very humble, and wouldn't take any credit for Zoey's efforts, but she must be doing something right! When we demonstrate kindness to our children, we are creating a ripple effect for future generations. As her mom said, "Kids like Zoey will truly change this world and make it a better place." We wholeheartedly agree!

Thank you Zoey for your continued Ordinary Acts of Kindness!

--Jessica


Guide for Holiday Shopping That Gives Back October 04 2012, 0 Comments

This year, I'm hearing many people starting to think about the holidays already. I used to hate thinking about it before Halloween or Thanksgiving, but for budgeting purposes, it does help to start now, so I've started my planning. Last year, I tried to switch all of my shopping to socially conscious brands, because I was tired of buying gifts from big box stores that do little to impact the world around us. It took a little research, and I had to plan extra time for shipping, etc., but I felt so much better about my unique and positive purchases.

Since I know so many people would prefer to shop with meaning, I wanted to share a list of brands that we have come across that are all trying to spread kindness through their businesses. Please share this with your contacts, demonstrating that customers would prefer to support fashionable brands that are giving back. I've tried to highlight the products that they sell to save you a little clicking time, but I invite you to look at their website to read about each company's specific mission and offerings.

Austin favorites:

Additional companies:

The more people support brands such as these, the more we can send a message to retailers, suppliers and manufacturers that there is a demand for socially conscious products.

I know for a fact that this list isn't comprehensive, so please let me know what great companies I'm missing! (And, this doesn't even touch the eco-friendly companies!)

--Jessica


Kindness is Spreading September 20 2012, 0 Comments

Kindness is SpreadingOne of the greatest things about OAK is the conversations it gets started about kindness. Over the past couple of months, I have had many friends and acquaintances (those who have and haven't bought any products) talking to me about "OAKs". They share Ordinary Acts of Kindness that they've seen, give me ideas about OAKs that they thought of, and tell me about kind acts that they (and their children) have done, or plan to do.

Recently I was at a party and someone was standing alone, and a friend of mine pulled me over to talk to her, "C'mon! Ordinary acts of kindness!" This is when it all comes together for me, and I get so excited! We didn't start this business to sell backpacks (don't get me wrong, I love our backpacks!). We all came together because we knew that by performing ordinary acts of kindness, it would inspire others to do the same. Keep those ideas coming, because we want to share them!

--Jessica


Backpacks are being delivered! August 03 2012, 0 Comments

What an exciting couple of days for OAK! Our backpacks arrived ahead of schedule, and we received so much support from friends, colleagues and the community! People have embraced our mantra to Do Something Ordinary, by simply incorporating acts of kindness into their everyday lives.

"One of the most difficult things to give away is kindness, for it is usually returned." -Mark Ortman

This quote reminds us of a video posted by a non-profit in New York called Life Vest Inside. Their entire mission is to spread kindness, building people up, helping them realize their potential, and making the world a better place for all of us. Enjoy watching the Kindness Boomerang:

Those of you who have asked what you can do to help spread the word, we'd love for you to follow and share our various communication outlets, including subscribing to our Newsletter (located at the bottom of our website home page).

Like us on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter | Pin us on Pinterest | Recommend us on LinkedIn

--Jessica


Countdown to Launch July 25 2012, 0 Comments

Green Leaf Backpack gives backWe are counting down the days until OAK Lifestyle officially launches!

Austin is such a hotbed of socially conscious citizens. In addition to being tied for the highest nonprofits per capita in the southwestern U.S., many entrepreneurs in our community are putting the needs of the world ahead of their profits. We have been inspired by those seeking to:

  • Improve and maintain our environment through sustainable and conscientous products
  • Create jobs for the disadvantaged across the world to reduce poverty
  • Eliminate slavery through fair trade products
  • Give back by donating portions of their profits to the community and abroad

As we sought to form a company, we wanted kindness and giving to be central to our focus. We believe that the world can be changed through small, ordinary actions, and we didn't want to make this an add-on to what we do, we wanted it to be the reason our company exists!

It seems like forever ago when we spent countless hours designing our first backpack and specifying the features we wanted, We were so excited the day we got our first backpack prototype, even though it was far from perfect. After a number of revisions and tweaks, we are thrilled to present our first product line - the Ordinary Backpack.

When you purchase this backpack, you will be giving a backpack + school supplies to a child in need. What an easy way to give back in your ordinary life!

Look for more updates from our founders as OAK Lifestyle gets underway.

--Jessica