Many of us are content with the comforts of an eight-to-five job. It’s hard to imagine quitting it all for a passion or cause. Yet, there’s a subliminal believe that life is more than just trading your hours for dollars. Because of this, I find it so inspiring to learn about individuals who weren’t afraid to put their product or cause out there for the world to see.
Here’s a list of 6 stories which will hopefully motivate you to put yourself out there and be someone:
- Teach for America. Wendy Kopp proposed the idea for Teach For America in her Princeton University undergraduate thesis in 1989. Her program requires a two year commitment (usually from a recent college graduate) to teach in underprivileged areas of the United States. The teacher gets paid a modest salary, but more importantly is trained how to teach effectively and become a leader in the community. After the program is through, the teach is given access to the program’s vast leadership database – providing a great network to pursue careers in other industries. In 1990, a charter corps of 500 committed recent college graduates joined Teach For America and began fueling the movement to eliminate educational inequity. The program is designed to train mainly recent college graduates to be lifetime leaders in their industry and the community. After completing the two year commitment, Teach for America helps alumni build leadership skills, develop networks, and connects them to opportunities where they can make an impact throughout their careers.
Why you should be inspired: Since starting in 1990, nearly 33,000 participants have reached more than 3 million children nationwide during their two-year teaching commitments. They have sustained their commitment as alumni, working within education and across all sectors to help ensure that children growing up in low-income communities get an excellent education.
- Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Nancy Goodman Brinker watched her sister Susan Komen die from breast cancer at the age of 36. Convinced that her sister could have survived if there was more awareness for the disease, she founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Whether or not you agree with their recent stances on abortion and planned parenthood funding, it’s hard to deny the unbelievable amount resources and attention they continue to provide for research and support.
Why you should be inspired: Starting as a promise to a sister, the foundation has donated over $2 billion, working to end breast cancer in the U.S. and throughout the world through ground-breaking research, community health outreach, advocacy and programs in more than 50 countries.
- Toms Shoes. In 2006, American traveler Blake Mycoskie befriended children in Argentina and found they had no shoes to protect their feet. Wanting to help, he created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. One for One. Blake returned to Argentina with a group of family, friends and staff later that year with 10,000 pairs of shoes made possible by TOMS customers. Interestingly enough, the “Buy One – Give One” business model turned out to be extremely profitable and motivated others to do the same thing (funny how that works…). Warby Parker Glasses , Bobs by Sketchers and OneMillionLights are just a few of the successful start-ups utilizing buy one give one – It’s nice when capitalism and philanthropy align.
Why you should be inspired: It’s fascinating to hear about individuals who are so affected by others in need that they start companies focused on being profitable, not to further the founder, but to further (and hopefully eliminate) their cause. Since starting in 2006, Tom’s has given away over 2 Million pairs of shoes. What are you so passionate about that you’d dedicate your life to raising money for it?
- Feed Bag. FEED began in 2006 when acclaimed model and activist Lauren Bush designed a bag to benefit the United Nations World Food Programme’s (WFP) School Feeding program. As a WFP Honorary Student Spokesperson, Lauren visited countries around the world in Asia, Latin America, and Africa where WFP is operating and was inspired by the plight of the people she met on her travels. She took a special interest in WFP’s School Feeding program, which feeds and educates hungry children. She first created the FEED 1 bag, a reversible burlap and organic cotton bag reminiscent of the bags of food distributed by WFP, to help raise funds and awareness around these school feeding operations. It was stamped with “FEED the children of the world” and the number ‘1’ to signify that each bag feeds one child in school for one year. And in 2007, FEED Projects LLC was founded by Lauren Bush and Ellen Gustafson to produce and sell these bags.
- Newman’s Own. Actor Paul Newman and author A.E. Hotchener started a non-profit company in 1982 with the intention of making about $1200 a year (and a loss) off the sale of their homemade salad dressing. The intent was to run the company with humor, as a side business, and help the community by donating any profits it receives. To their amazement, the company took off – eventually branching out into wine, fruit juice, popcorn and other products. As of June 20, 2012, Newman’s Own has donated over $330 Million (all of their after-tax profits) to various charities!
- Pfizer. While you may not be able to start a multi-billion, multi-national powerhouse company this year, you can respect a company who gives back. Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, currently manufactures products including Lipitor, Viagra and Celebrex. While a company this large is engaged in various charities and philanthropic organizations, most impressively they ranked #1 in the Most Charitable Companies of 2011 – giving away $3.06 Billion in cash and products!
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