For the Greater Goods

A lifestyle blog for the conscious consumer


1 Comment

Inspiring Individuals: Larissa Gavin

This month’s Inspiring individual started Lola’s Lucky Day, which is a non-profit dog rescue group in Houston. I know I know I know. I’ve already mentioned Lola’s Lucky Day in a couple of posts (here and here), but I just can’t help but be inspired by Larissa and her mission to help dogs. Although I’ve mentioned Lola’s before, I never really explained exactly what they do.

There are approximately 1.2 million homeless animals in Houston. Shelters are full, which means many dogs are put to sleep or left to fend for themselves. So where do you turn when there is nowhere else to go? Wisconsin. At least that’s what Larissa did. Larissa realized that although the shelters in her community were full, that wasn’t the case in other areas. So to Wisconsin she went with a van full of dogs. And just for a reference, it takes 18 hours to get from Houston to Milwaukee. 18 hours. Three women. 18 dogs. And one mission.

I had the opportunity to ask Larissa a few questions about Lola’s Lucky Day. I think you’ll find her pretty inspirational…

What inspired you to start Lola’s Lucky Day? And how did you take your idea and turn it into a non-profit? 

My sister adopted a dog from Corridor Rescue in November of 2013.  In December of that year we wanted to give back and find out where Fiona came from, learn more about the program.  That was a pivotal changing point in my life – to see the problem first hand with my own eyes when we toured the area where she was found.  I did not know just how bad the problem was here in Houston.

There is an area (like many pockets of Houston) 10 minutes from my office downtown where literally hundreds of dogs are homeless and fending for themselves on the streets.  I decided I had to do something about it.  Knowing that the problem in WI was nothing like this; in fact some shelters had very few dogs!!  (mainly due to education, laws being enforced, spay/ neuter programs, their mentality on how they value animals) I teamed up with my good friend Erin Housley from my hometown in Fort Atkinson.

Erin began Paddy’s Paws as a way to help facilitate finding great adoptive families for homeless pets not only in WI; but also to help these poor animals who would otherwise never have a chance in Houston.  Initially it started out as everything being personally funded.  However, we were running it like a rescue program and several people encouraged me to form a non-profit.  Lola’s Lucky Day became a reality and a 501c3 officially on January 8, 2015.

I decided on the name because whenever we are able to bring a dog into our program; it is truly their Lucky Day – it is the day their lives change!  I chose to make it Lola’s because she was one of the first puppies that I rescued and was adopted to an amazing family here in Houston.  She is the perfect example of a rescue pup’s life being dramatically changed for the best by our organization and she just so happens to be very photogenic as well.

Have you always had a passion for helping animals?

Yes I have always loved animals and helping them.  Our parents would never let us get a dog, so I think I might be making up for that now.  They have now also adopted a dog from me too!

I’m sure you’ve seen some heartbreaking situations while rescuing dogs. How do you stay positive and find the courage to keep doing what you do?

It can most definitely be heartbreaking at times; but I try to stay positive!  I recently saw something that said; If not you, who; if not now, when?  Knowing that we are making a difference for these pups, families that adopt them and changing the overpopulation problem in the city of Houston is my motivation to keep on doing it.  Nothing beats rescuing a dog and giving it a chance they never would have gotten.  Dogs know when you save their lives and don’t forget that.

It’s my passion and I will follow it!  Wine also helps 🙂

What has been your favorite moment with Lola’s Lucky Day?

Hearing from adoptive families and seeing pictures of pups we rescued; living amazing lives.  That is the most rewarding part of it all.  Here are some of the “soda pop” puppies who we rescued from underneath a vacant house.  They overcame mange and parvo and have amazing families in WI.

Lola's Lucky Day Rescues

Those faces!!!!!

What’s it like to travel from Houston to Wisconsin with a car full of dogs? What’s the biggest challenge? I’m guessing there are a lot of potty breaks…

Exciting!!  We are really excited for our first trip in our own vehicle.  The dogs actually do really well and sleep most of the way.  The biggest challenge is all the planning that goes into these trips!

What are a few things anyone can do to help the homeless dogs in their community?

Adopt/ foster/ donate/ volunteer/ advocate/ spread the word 🙂 

 _____________________________________________________

Today Larissa has saved 125 dogs! This goes to show how much of a difference one person can make. Will you be the one?


Leave a comment

Giving Back In More Ways Than One: An Interview With Lions in Four Founder Julie Martin

What if I told you there was a globally-minded, socially conscious, affordable luxury brand that sold beautiful and functional accessories? It seems too good to be true, right? Well that is exactly what Lions in Four are doing.

Lions in Four 1

They sell fashionable clutches and scarves that give back in more ways than one.

First of all, they partner with WE CARE of India, which is a organization empowering women and educating children of rural villages in (you guessed it!) India. Right now Lions in Four are also working to create their own artisan studio and training facility, which will allow them to provide sustainable employment for women and girls in rural South India.

WE CARE

On top of all that goodness, Lions in Four use eco friendly materials such as high quality recycled leather and Italian eco-suede, which is actually used on some Porsche and Maserati seats. So cool! Also, all of the silk they use is hand woven and hand dyed in all natural vegetable dyes. No chemicals here!

I had the opportunity to ask Julie Martin, the founder of Lions in Four, some questions about her company, inspiration, and her experiences with nonprofits and social entrepreneurship.

First off, how did you come up with the company name Lions in Four?

Lions in Four was named as an inspiration from India’s national monument…it has four lions looking North, South, East, and West….Looking out for each other. Each lion stands for a virtue. Power. Pride. Confidence. Courage. We felt like they were all things we stand for so we drew inspiration from them.

I love that you’re combining social consciousness and eco friendly aspects into your products. How did you come up with the idea to combine these into a luxury line?

The socially conscious aspect came first.  In fact, it’s the entire reason we decided to start the company… because we saw a need in India with orphaned girls aging out of the home we worked with and needing employment.

The eco-friendly aspect came about as a natural response.  We wanted our workers to be working with natural dyes so that it was safe for them and the environment…so we searched on all the other components of our product…especially the leathers to ensure the entire product was “clean” so to speak.

We chose to do contemporary luxury because we are personally drawn to fine things and felt there was a gap in socially conscious items which are also refined and luxurious.

What inspired you to work with WE CARE India?

WE CARE of India is a non-profit I started after studying at Paris Fashion Institute.  While in school I met a lady on a train who was doing amazing work on behalf of abandoned girls in South India.  It has now been 12 years since that chance meeting and we have been working together all this time.  We have been dreaming about ways to employ these girls as they age-out of the home and need employment….and Lions in Four is serving as the economic engine to create demand for the silks they create.

What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve come across while creating your conscious business and how did you work through it?

Our biggest obstacle, I would say, is finding the right people to work with.  Everything from our website, manufacturing, PR, branding…you name it…requires us to find the right people to work with.  We haven’t nailed it every time and we are learning to really take our time and do our research before partnering with anyone.  This is our baby after all….  The greatest success so far, however, has been my two business partners.  We work together seamlessly and are all passionate about the company.

How would you describe Lions in Four’s style? Where do you get your fashion inspiration?

This is a fun question! I am inspired by so many things but if I had to narrow it down to two I would say

1. The fabrics…. Our Suede back came about after seeing this Italian brand at a textile show. The suedes were so yummy I wanted to work with them. It took two months to get them to work with us because we a new company.

2. Our woman…what would add beauty AND function to her life….How can we make her life easier and more beautiful.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to budding social entrepreneurs?

Read…. Read any book you can get your hands on that is written by someone who 1. Has what you want to have…and 2. IS where you want to be.
We can learn so much and avoid so many mistakes by learning from others. Sheila (my business partner) and I are constantly reading and when we feel like it’s an amazing book we both read it together.

You’ve already created some beautiful clutches and scarves, but do you plan to expand into other products? What are some of your plans for the future?

This Spring we are adding two new silhouettes of handbags.  We are also bringing in more exotic skins because our python is going over so well.  We will be introducing more color of course this spring which is fun.  On the scarves we have the SOFTEST hand-woven mulberry silk scarves coming out and we partnered with a young Indian designer to do a print he created.

______________________________________________________

It sounds like there are some awesome things coming out in the spring, but check out what they have available now. I’m obsessed with these scarves. Could they be any cozier?Lions in Four 2

And their clutches are the perfect size to carry all the necessities without weighing you down.

Lions in Four 3

You can check out the other color scarves and clutches at their website. And be sure to keep an eye on Lions in Four because I see great things coming from this company in the future.


1 Comment

The Most Fashionable Of Foundations

Everyone comes to crossroads throughout their lives. Crossroads are inevitable. Whether it’s choosing what to have for dinner or what career you want to pursue. You can play it safe and order pizza or go wild and try a new, complicated recipe. You can choose a career in fashion or decide to start a nonprofit.

That is exactly the crossroads Amanda Munz ran into (the career one, not dinner). After spending years interning with various fashion designers, one day Amanda realized she needed to do more. She wanted to inspire people, help those in need, and make a difference. Combining her knowledge of fashion and her desire to make an impact, she created the Fashion Foundation and started her mission to help students in need.

The Fashion Foundation is an online store that sells donated new and gently used clothes, shoes, and accessories. The money that is raised through sales helps purchase various school supplies for students and schools that can’t afford them.

I had the opportunity to ask Amanda some questions about her nonprofit, how she got started, and what inspires her. Her story is inspiring and she gives great advice.

How did you come up with the idea for the Fashion Foundation? What inspired you?

I was interning at one of the top designers in the world, and one day I had to throw out boxes of shoes, right into the dumpster.  I thought “there has to be something we can do with all these shoes instead of throwing them out”.  Months before graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology, I decided to turn down the job offers I received and start a nonprofit that could eliminate fashion waste and enhance education.

One problem with my new found idea… what if I can’t get designers to donate their samples they don’t want?  So I thought, everyone always has an item in their closet they don’t wear.  What if I can get individuals to clean out their closets and donate their unwanted clothing to us.  After months of brainstorming, the vision of The Fashion Foundation started to come together to have designers, individuals and people who don’t even care about fashion, come together and support education.

We had a ton of individuals clean out their closets for us, and now designers are starting to get involved.  We had jewelry designer, Jacqueline Rose, donate 11 pieces from one of her collections, which was really exciting for us.

Has education always been a cause you’ve been passionate about?

Yes, I personally loved school when I got older, not so much as a kid though.  I don’t think kids realize how important education is.

When we were partnering with our first school I asked their Assistant Principal “What do your students need?”. I was expecting them to say ipads, computers, or new technology systems.  She responded, “Art supplies”.  Their students didn’t have access to basic art supplies like glue, markers, paint, paper and more, because their budget was so tight.  It’s crazy to think that some students don’t have basic education necessities that some of us take for granted.

What has been the hardest part of starting your own nonprofit?

Spreading the word about The Fashion Foundation.  When people hear about us, they love the concept.  What’s better than shopping for a new outfit that actually provides school supplies to students?  It’s hard to reach a broad audience that isn’t connected to our friends, family, friends of friends, coworkers, etc.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give other aspiring nonprofit starters that you wish you knew when you started?

Honestly, don’t be afraid to google a question you don’t know the answer to.  Everyone does it, but no one admits it.  There were times I didn’t know the answer to a question, and I spent time researching on google. 99% of the time, you’ll find the answer you were looking for, and if you don’t, there’s always someone you can find that knows the answer.

And don’t underestimate the power of networking. Making strong connections with people is essential to growing.  People are always saying “You should talk to my … “, people really want to help connect you to others.

What has been your favorite moment since starting The Fashion Foundation?

At our first school partnership, we donated $1,500 worth of art supplies to PS 325 in Harlem, NY. We got to spend a day with their students to see all the artwork they created with our donation.  A few weeks later I went back to PS 325 for their Field Day, and a handful of students ran up to me and hugged me because they remembered me from my last visit.  In that moment, I knew I made the right decision to start The Fashion Foundation, because our donation brightened these student’s school days.

________________________________________________________________

On top of the interview, Amanda has put together some snazzy outfits using clothes that are currently available on the Fashion Foundation website.

Outfit 2

Armani Exchange Jeans ($118.00) $10.00 / H&M Sweater ($24.95) $10.00 / Aldo Black Suede Boots ($129.99) $8.00 / J*V Black Leather Bracelet ($75.00) $7.00

Outfit 1

Dolce & Gabbana Top ($975.00) $98.00Forever 21 Faux Leather Skirt ($15.00) $5.00Unknown Black Booties ($25.00) $6.00 / Jacqueline Rose Earrings ($18.00) $12.00 / Unknown Black Clutch ($20.00) $10.00

See anything you like? Get it quickly because there’s only one of each item and once it’s gone, its gone for good.


Leave a comment

Trend Tribe: Doing Good While Looking Good

Today I am excited to introduce you to Samantha Cooper. She is a former Babson classmate of mine and is currently a trendsetting entrepreneur. She started her own company called Trend Tribe, which aims to sell the trendiest jewelry at affordable prices.

Believe it or not, at one point Sam struggled to get a job. The summer after her freshman year in college she attempted to get an internship without any luck. But rather than giving up and taking any old summer job, she took the entrepreneurial approach and decided to design and sell her own jewelry. Now Samantha is on a mission to help other women going through the same struggle she did.

Her group of college campus ambassadors, also knows as Trendsetters, sell jewelry on their campuses at trunk shows they organize and host. The goal is to provide these lucky ladies with hands on entrepreneurial experience.

Trend Tribe also believes in giving back! Portions of trunk show sales are donated to a philanthropic cause chosen by the Trendsetters. And along with that, Trend Tribe is honoring Breast Cancer Awareness Month by donating $5 for every purchase of these hot, hot, hot, pink studs.

Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Trend Tribe is donating $5 for every sale of these hot pink studs.

So I reached out to Samantha for an interview and here is her inside scoop on fashion, starting your own business, and giving back.

What is a typical day like in the shoes of Samantha Cooper? Walk me through a typical day in the life…

As they always say, no day is a typical day. I have a joke that I hardly sleep in the same bed for more than 3 nights in a row because I’m always traveling. 

On days I’m not traveling, I start my day by checking in with our Trendsetters and providing one-on-one mentorship, training, and support. I make sure not to schedule any meetings from 9-11 so that I can focus on the Trendsetters 100%. 

After that, it’s all up in the air! I’m usually on the phone with our team of interns and freelancers – mostly everyone works remotely. At night, you can find me at networking events or grabbing dinner with other entrepreneurs. Building relationships is essential when you’re starting a business.

What have been your most and least favorite parts of starting your company?

My favorite part is seeing Trendsetters succeed on campus. One of our Trendsetters did over $1,000 in sales at her very first event and we were able to raise $300+ to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. 

On top of all that, she now has a killer resume with tangible results that not just shows, but prove her skills in fashion and business. It’s a huge confidence boost and at the end of the day our mission is to empower young women while giving back. 

It’s a win-win and nothing is more exciting than seeing your vision come to life.

My least favorite part is dealing with the legal and accounting side of the business. Boring, but so essential. Having enough discipline to deal with the things you don’t love is not easy! 

What’s one piece of advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs?

“It may not all happen today, but it’s all going to happen” is a quote I came up with when I realized I was beating myself up for not having everything “perfect.” 

When you have so many ideas, but limited time and resources it can feel like you’re chasing your tail. No matter how many hours a day you work, it’s impossible for everything to be perfect. Beating yourself up about it isn’t going to help either. It sucks the fun out of living your life’s dream. 

Now, I focus on putting one foot in front of the other and taking everything one step at a time. Have faith that it will all happen, even if it doesn’t all happen today.

Why did you choose to make giving back to philanthropic causes a part of your business plan?

It actually wasn’t in the original business plan, but once I started bringing on Trendsetters and working with them to plan their monthly events, it was clear that philanthropy was something that was near and dear to all of their hearts. Of course, I’m all about giving back and I was inspired to see that Trendsetters were more passionate about donating their commission than keeping it for themselves. 

Now, we donate 10-20% of all product sales to the different philanthropies that Trendsetters choose to work with. I’m so proud to say that it was our Trendsetters who sparked this crucial element of our business. No matter what everyone says, millennials are passionate about giving back and they’re going to change the world. I believe that 100%

How would you describe Trend Tribe’s style?

As the name says, our style is trendy! We’re all about bringing the latest fashions to the mass consumer at a super affordable price. Everything in the collection is $50 and under. Oftentimes people say our jewelry reminds them of Kate Spade or J.Crew which is a huge compliment!

Finally, what is your favorite accessory?

Is this a real question? I can’t pick! Hmmm, I guess I would have to go with statement necklaces. They’ve become my signature. When I traveled to Boston for a big trip I had so much jewelry with me that I couldn’t bring clothes. I wore an outfit and brought an outfit and just rotated the statement necklace. It does the trick! Statement necklaces are also great for networking – people are always complimenting my jewelry which gives me an opportunity to talk about the company and spark up a conversation. 

And there you have it! Great advice, great prices, great deeds, and great jewelry! Does it get any better? Why yes it does.  My lucky readers can use the code forthegreatergoods25 to receive free shipping on orders over $25. So head over to trend-tribe.com and pick out some stylish pieces. You know you want to. I’ve already got a few on my wish list…

Trend Tribe Wish List

Black Cord Layering Bracelet / Deco Blush Statement Earrings / Tortoise Statement Necklace

If you’re a college student and interested in becoming a Trendsetter, you can apply here. And if you still haven’t gotten enough fashion and entrepreneurship inspiration, you can head over to the Trend Tribe blog to get more career, life, and fashion advice.