I am Bad at Volunteering January 07 2013, 0 Comments
I 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!
Anonymous Kindness December 04 2012, 0 Comments
When 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!
Updated: Holiday Shopping that Gives Back November 23 2012, 1 Comment
As 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.
- Good and Fair Clothing: scarves, panties, boxers and t-shirts
- Hill Country Hill Tribers: jewelry, scarves, bags
- Noonday Collection: jewelry and accessories
- OAK Lifestyle: canvas backpacks for men, women & students
- Purse and Clutch: purses, clutches and scarves
- Mitscoots: socks
- Radiant Cosmetics: makeup
- Raven + Lily: jewelry and accessories
- SOCO Hammocks: hammocks
- The Open Arms Shop: skirts and scarves
- Ten Thousand Villages: art and jewelry (and stores are across the U.S.)
- Be the Joy: jewelry (beads)
- One Mango Tree: women's clothing and accessories
- Sari Bari: linens (home and baby), bags and scarves
- No One Without: men and women's clothing
- Krochet Kids: hand-knitted hats, scarves and more
- Hello Somebody and Flex Watches: women's watches
- fashionABLE: scarves
- Project 7: gum, mints, and more (stocking stuffers!)
- Everything Happy: baby and toddler items
- Roma Provisions: rain boots
- Warby Parker: eyeglasses (gift cards)
- Global Girlfriend: women's apparel, accessories and bath/body
- 31 Bits and iSanctuary: jewelry
- Got Your Back Movement and Sevenly: t-shirts (many of the above companies sell t-shirts, but here are a couple who focus solely on them)
- Kammock and Yellow Leaf: hammocks
- LSTN Headphones: headphones
- Slate & Stylus: iPhone and iPad cove
- TOMS: shoes, sunglasses
- FEED projects: bags/purses
Online ethical shopping markets:
When you purchase from socially conscious companies, you are truly taking your dollar further.
Kindness is Spreading September 20 2012, 0 Comments
One 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!
Countdown to Launch July 25 2012, 0 Comments
We 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.