In today’s fast paced economy, there is a racing hope to become the next great app developer or CEO of a startup company to put you on the path toward riches and quite possibly even fame. Stories of success and brilliant ideas float around in the business world, and rightly so.
However, in this highly competitive space, there have been a few companies deviating from the standard of inwardly focused advancement, seeking to do good for the community and maintain a profits. Personally, those are exactly the kind of organizations I want to put my money behind—and I’m sure many of you feel the same way.
Steven Dyme & Joseph Dickstein started selling flowers at high school graduations as a college project. The goal was simple, to make a little money and to make a difference. Half of their earnings went toward buying backpacks for low income students in the area. After a few years, their efforts snowballed into a full fledged company, Flowers for Dreams.
Now they have a bustling staff, a well thought out service, and continue to give back to others on a daily basis. One fourth of all their profits go to local charities.
A couple weeks ago, I got to hang out with Angelica Ruiz. She manages the flower truck. That’s right! I said flower truck. Much like a food truck, Angelica drives all over Chicago, selling bouquets at markets and various events. (Follow @F4DTruck on twitter for more info.)
What better way to brighten the world around you than with a bundle of flowers doing a bundle of good in your own neighborhood?
The folks down at The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative see urban farming and gardening as the opportunity to educate and involve the community. Food insecurity is a problem they take to heart. Through learning new skills and forming a connection with nature, the people of Detroit have a new way to access a healthy lifestyle.
Farm manager, Pinky Jones, gave us a tour of the grounds as she went about her daily tasks. She tries to rotate interesting plants like pink banana squash and black flowers into the mix. These oddities capture imaginations and get people interested.
Rain or snow, sleet or shine, Pinky and the crew take strides to form a more sustainable way to enrich the lives around them. It’s an environmentally friendly way of putting vacant lots to good use, a thoughtful means of introducing more nutritious foods into people’s diets, and a fun chance to enjoy the outdoors with a little bit of hard work.
Swing by on a Saturdays at 10am to lend a hand or find other ways you can get involved here.
At a place like Eagle Mount in Bozeman, MT, connections are everything. People with disabilities can escape for therapeutic recreational activities like horseback riding, skiing, swimming, horticulture, iceskating, etc…
Dana Eklund and Katie Jacobson work in the equestrian division at Eagle Mount, teaching the ins and outs of horsemanship. Learning these skills and creating a bond with an animal is an opportunity for tremendous growth and happiness. Dana and Katie have been around horses their entire lives, but the chance to step back and guide someone as they form their own connection takes it to a whole new level.
There is so much to gain from the company of their students and the horses they train with. As Katie says, “Each person is an individual, and that’s awesome. We all are at different points in our lives, but our journeys are equally as important, and we can all stand to learn a thing or two from each other.”
Dana is wearing: Carhartt Women’s Sandstone Berkley Vest, Pondera Shirt, 1889 Slim Double Front Denim Dungaree, & Tri-Grip Gloves.
Katie is wearing: Carhartt Women’s Sandstone Berkley Vest, Jasper Jeans, & Tri-Grip Gloves.
It’s no secret that many houses scattered across the city of Detroit lie in ruin from disuse, vandalism, and fire. Abigail Murray and the folks down at Afterhouse think those lots have a higher calling than eternally falling to pieces.
A few years ago a fire ravaged 3347 Burnside, transforming what was once a home into a pile of smoldering bricks. Rather than leaving the land fallow, the Afterhouse crew finished the demolition and rebuilt a greenhouse in the old foundation. The heat of the earth inside the under-structure of an old house dramatically expands the growing potential of the lot without the use of any additional energy. It also allows for growth in the dead of winter.
Amidst the rubble, artists, construction workers, contractors, and members of the community have banded together to let their greenhouse phoenix rise from the ashes.
Abigail’s workwear: Carhartt Women’s Signature LS T-Shirt, Amoret Vest, Jasper Jean, & Ravenden Sweater
Perhaps one of the greatest attributes of a good leader is not to be daunted by unfulfilled needs. To instead see obstacles as a problem to be solved and not a crippling factor that prevents progress. Just four years ago, Veronika Scott was challenged by a class assignment to create something that solved a social need. After spending time at Detroit homeless shelters, Veronika envisioned a waterproof, heat-trapping jacket that could transform into a sleeping bag.
A good leader is also open to criticism and input. So when one of the women staying at the shelter told Veronica that they needed jobs, not jackets, Veronika listened. The jackets did seem like a temporary fix to a larger issue. How could this project meet an even greater need in the community?
One of the most devastating blows a society can thrust upon itself is an environment where women don’t realize how valuable they are. Veronika stepped up to the plate to knock down those misconceptions. She is now the founder and CEO of The Empowerment Plan, a non-profit that employs women in homeless shelters to make jackets for the homeless of Detroit. It’s an atmosphere where women who once had little hope can learn and change their way of thinking. They have the opportunity to realize that they hold the power to change their future. They are strong, independent, and capable.
Meet Teia. She’s been a seamstress at The Empowerment Plan for over a year. Teia recognized this job as a once in lifetime opportunity and she has used it as a step in the right direction for herself and her two children. Way to go, Teia. Your efforts are an inspiration to us all.
Teia’s outfit: Carhartt Women’s Force Performance Tank, Clarksburg Zip-Front Sweatshirt, & Slim Fit Nyona Jean
Are you familiar with the Broken Windows Theory? It’s the idea that when a neighborhood begins to fall into disrepair, it jumpstarts a downward spiral for the entire community. That negativity spreads and leads to more decay and even crime. The good thing is that the opposite action of investing in your home and stomping grounds leads to further beautification in that area. That’s the driving force behind Urban Farm Collective in Portland. They transform unused land into neighborhood food gardens. This fosters community development, promotes education, and food security.
I got to follow garden manager, Chelsea Updegrove, around as she tended some of her daily tasks. It’s hard work, but it’s every bit fulfilling as it is demanding. Hours spent kneeling over rows of carefully planted seedlings, covered in dirt, call for clothing that wears mud well. Take a look at Chelsea’s work wear: Carhartt Women’s Minot Shirt, Sibley Denim Cropped Pant, Force Equator Jacket, Plaid Military Cap, and Rapid City Utility Work Apron.
I’ll leave you with a parting quote from Chelsea, “Peace, love, and carrots.”
A leader is someone who steps up when they see a need that hasn’t been met. Andrea Eckert, Detroit artist who taught us about solar screen printing, is doing just that. She bought an old building on Motor City’s well-known Michigan Avenue and is in the process of gutting and refurbishing it into a studio and exhibition center for the surrounding area. Not too far from a few popular digs like Slows and Astro Coffee, this much needed community space will continue to add to the movement to revitalize downtown Detroit. Holding House will be an environment for all creative faculties, a place where multigenerational participants will engage, design, produce, and learn.
Andrea wears many hats. She’s an artist, a mother, a wife, a leader in her community, a groundbreaker who seizes opportunities to better the quality of life, and she’s a blast to be around. I think women often feel the need to multitask and fill as many roles as life demands. What’s cool is when those roles overlap in a beneficial way to urge creativity, bring people together, and breath a new life into the makers’ spirit. Stay tuned as Andrea continues to make progress on Holding House. We’ll keep you updated.
Check out what Andrea’s work gear. The last thing you want to worry about is stains or hurting your clothes when you’re on a nitty gritty job site. Get something sturdy, like the Canvas Dungaree. It’s mostly cotton with a bit of spandex, so it’s built tough and you can still move around easily. If you’re really going to be doing some heavy lifting, Carhartt Force is exactly what you need. It’s fabric is sweat wicking, stain repellent, and fights odors. When you need to keep warm, try the Clarksburg Sweatshirt. It’s comfy, durable, and slightly fitted. You may be working, but you’ll still look good. And don’t forget the gloves. We can all use an extra pair of gloves lying around.
You’ve hit the sweet spot when you find a way to merge your passion and your job. Minneapolis graphic designer, Kelsey Dusenka, has found a way to do just that. Kelsey has three cats of her own, but after finding an abandoned, malnourished kitten beside a dumpster in the dead of winter, she found herself on a mission. She cared for the kitten until she found a good home for it. Kelsey realized how difficult it is to part with an animal and how much more difficult it is to take any pets to the shelter, which may be why so many are abandoned. With all of that weighing heavy on her heart, Kelsey wanted to create an educational resource for first time pet owners to learn what it takes to raise a cat or a dog before they adopt so the animal wouldn’t be returned to a shelter or abandoned. Kelsey is now working on starting a Kickstarter to fund My Pet 101. Ultimately, she’d like to combine forces with shelters and have a presence at their adoption events. Keep an eye out for updates on Kelsey’s website.
Tips for first time pet owners from Kelsey Dusenka:
“Do your research. You’re not buying an animal, you’re adopting one. The biggest reason newly adopted animals are returned to shelters is because of owners’ lack of knowledge, which is also the easiest problem to fix. Know how much it’s going to cost, how to set up your home, and how to raise it. As simple as it sounds, the more you know going into owning an animal, the less surprises there’ll be, and the easier it’ll be on you and your new pet.”