Roses & Thorns: July Edition

I’m currently writing this as I eagerly wait to board my flight to España with my mom and sister for a much needed two week vacation of bottomless vino and tapas! BUT that’s not the only thing I am excited about.

I have so, so much to update you on. It is fucking unreal. But the best part? IT IS REAL.

The way I like to check in with myself is to play a little game called Roses & Thorns. The rose is what you are loving about life right now/what you are excited about. The thorn is the bummer in your life. Here are my Roses & Thorns: July Edition!

MY THORN

There have ALWAYS been thorns on this journey: order minimums on materials, re-doing the sample making process with another factory, running four avenues in heels for the NJTransit so I wouldn’t be late to my next meeting, crazy flight delays to/from Atlanta and seeing my savings account head closer to zero…

I have come to realize there will always be thorns. It never stops. But now, I trust the process. I trust this path. I know I will get through it, because I know I will not give up.

So do I have any thorns? YOU BET I DO. The process has brought me to hell and back, but you know what? I keep going. And I want to thank all of you for trusting the process with me.

MY MAIN ROSE

I HAVE SO MANY ROSES, YOU GUYS! The development process has been by far the hardest. After three rounds of samples and too many flights back and forth to Atlanta, I decided to find a production partner in the NYC area. A fabric supplier I befriended along this journey recommended I reach out to Leatherworks by Arturo, a factory in New Jersey. At this point, it was May and I had already expected to have my final sample ready by then. I was wayyyy past my *self-imposed* deadline. A new sample from scratch would take months…

I looked on Leatherwork’s website and saw their tagline: Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it was worth the wait!

I e-mailed one of the owners, Christina, telling her I felt really behind with the development process, but I know good things take time, just like Rome! She reassured me and said, “I will make sure it is well worth the wait.”

I knew from that moment on I would LOVE working with her. I came in for a consult, showed her my bag, and she said she could have the next sample ready in a week. And let me just say…she delivered something even BETTER than I imagined. I’d like to introduce you the FINAL sample of The Daniel. HOLLA!

& here’s a peek into the Leatherwork’s By Arturo factory in Union City, New Jersey with a spotlight on Domingo, who created my sample!

 

Is it weird to say I feel like I gave birth? Because I quite literally feel like this backpack is my infant baby child. I never thought in a million years I’d be here.

MORE ROSES

I am currently working on my campaign script, and want to make a special shout out to everyone who has reviewed/edited this with me. It is definitely not easy, and I am eternally grateful.

Because ACE is a women’s empowerment brand, I wanted to find a female videographer to bring the story to life. After a few referrals, I decided to join forces with Firestarter Interactive. It is women-owned AND they are 1% for the planet! I could not be happier.

I am projecting to launch my campaign this Fall 2017, where you will all be able to order pre-sales!!

Thank you a thousand times over for your continued support. It truly means everything. 

I’m officially off to España! My Dad always spoke of the crystal clear waters and pristine beaches of Majorca. I can’t wait to be where he has been, and to soak up all the beauty this island has to offer.

Stay Shiny,

Danielle

BEING PART OF THE SOLUTION: An Interview With Zero Waste Activist Kathryn Kellogg

Whenever I am feeling disconnected (which is a lot of the time- living in a big city can be a riot!), I go to one place and one place only: a place where trees reach for the sky and tower over me. There is something about the fresh air, the feeling of dirt between my fingertips, and the story a tree has to tell that makes me feel a part of something bigger than myself.

There are species of trees as old as 80,000 years. They’ve seen more than I have. I feel so connected to these towering giants because they belong to my home. Our home.

We all have that desire in our hearts to see a healthier, happier earth. But how many of us turn those desires into actions? I decided to have a chat with Kathryn Kellogg, the founder of Going Zero Waste, because her passion radiates through her relentless eco-activism. She dedicated her ENTIRE life to it!

Kathryn shares her thoughts on living with intention, not being afraid of who you are, and being part of the solution, NOT the pollution.

Your journey was a very gradual one in going zero waste. It started with the motivation to take control of your health. Tell me about the moment you knew that your journey had shifted from a personal issue to a world issue? 

When I moved out to California, there was (and is) plastic and trash everywhere. It’s all over the streets, and we live so close to the bay. It’s only a couple of blocks away. So much pollution is swept in through storm drains and blowing in the water. 

I started doing more research and found out that 80% of all trash and plastic in the ocean is from inland. I knew the problem wasn’t centered solely on coastal towns but in all towns. 

All storm drains lead to the sea. This and a really cheesy poster that said: 

If you’re not a part of the solution you’re a part of the pollution.

Really made me want to spread the word as far and wide as I could. 

I kind of like living on the earth and breathing oxygen… 

What were you doing before GZW?

Pretty much all of the same stuff. I still work at a print shop and perform professionally in the bay area. Before I moved out to California I was doing professional theatre full time. 

I don’t do theatre as much as I’d like, only about 2-3 shows a year. I’d really like to get back to full-time eventually. It’s just hard working so many hours with the blog. 

What has been the most exciting part of GZW?

The best part has been getting to watch the zero waste movement grow. What we’re doing makes sense. It’s easy and it’s super beneficial to your mental and physical health. Plus, you save a lot of money! Who wouldn’t want to lead a healthier lifestyle for themselves and the planet? 

I have also loved getting to meet some amazing people who really care about making a difference.

Everyone is so passionate about creating a better world. It’s a great group of people to run with. Every day you feel inspired and hopeful. 

What has been your greatest challenge?

I don’t really think anything has been challenging when it comes to living zero waste. It’s not like there are levels you have to climb and each one is harder than the last. It’s all a bunch of teeny, tiny habits you alter just slightly. 

Like bringing my own cup to get coffee instead of a takeaway cup. That doesn’t take any more time. It’s just remembering to throw a cup in my bag before I leave. Super simple! It’s just a slightly altered habit.

What is one important lesson you’ve learned running GZW?

I think it’s easy to try and please everyone. No one likes getting nasty comments or emails. When you receive pushback, it can be easy to cave or adjust who you are or the way you write. 

I definitely kept tweaking who I was in the beginning. I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to make sure I appealed to more people.

But, then I realized you can only be real and you can only be you. Honesty is everything. 

I feel very fortunate, being an actor almost my whole life, I have incredibly thick skin. (I think troll comments are hilarious.) It’s really conditioned me to not be afraid of who I am. If you don’t like me or my blog you can leave. I’m not going to change. 

You’re a professional actress, full-time blogger, AND you work a 9-5 job. You are the ultimate lady boss hustler! How do you create a healthy work/life balance? 

Ha, ha. Healthy work/life balance. I’m working on that. I try, kind of…. I always use my work lunch break to get out and take a walk. I want to get away from screens and other distractions. Justin, my husband, and I always make a point to put the phones away during dinner so we can enjoy quality time together. Honestly, it might be the only time we see each other all day or night! 

What are your dreams for GZW?

You know, when I started Going Zero Waste all I wanted was to inform my friends and family about small actionable steps they could take for a healthier them and a healthier planet. 

What I didn’t realize is a lot more people than just my friends and family would be interested. The blog has morphed into a much larger project than I ever expected. And, it’s strangely managed to connect all of my passions from growing up. It’s like everything has clicked. 

More than anything, I want to get more into public speaking especially to schools. I think it’s so important to get younger generations aware of what a landfill is, what does recycling really mean, how to compost, and how to cook whole, real food.  

What are your dreams for yourself?

I really hope to live what I like to call the modern homesteader’s dream. I would love to have a little plot of land where I can run everything as efficiently and sustainably as possible. I also want a goat. Like I really, really want a goat. 

Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, or affirmation you live by?

As I mentioned earlier, when I first started the blog I felt an immense amount of pressure to be perfect. But, the thing is… there’s no perfect. It just doesn’t exist. 

It helped solidify my core message which is:

It’s not about perfection, it’s about making better choices.

Everyone can make better choices. Being an informed consumer is 90% of the battle. 

If you could say one thing to someone who has a dream but is afraid to take the jump, what would it be?

It’s really easy to run to worst case scenarios to talk yourself out of doing something. Don’t forget to look at the best case scenarios too. You can’t predict the future. Don’t waste time trying to figure out what may or may not happen. Work on what you can control and the rest will come later. 🙂 

Check out Kathryn’s blog Going Zero Waste for tips to get you started on waste reduction!

Lemonade for Women Entrepreneurs

Has anyone every told you when life gives you lemons, make lemonade? Well, when someone said that to me, I wanted to punch them in the face and say, “No. I will NOT make any f*cking lemonade.”

As entrepreneurs, we are quite literally making something out of nothing. That is miracle work! It can be draining.

Women entrepreneurs have their own battles to warrior through. We as women are under pressure to keep it together in a male dominated world, in fear that our “femininity” is a sign of weakness.

But women are constantly shattering the glass ceiling, despite the odds.

The universe isn’t always on our side. But that doesn’t mean we have to stop being the badasses we know and love. Here are five steps to help our fellow women warriors, so the next time life gives you lemons you can give them the hand and say, “uh, no thanks. I GOT THIS!”

Have a f*cking meltdown!

Um, what? I thought being a badass is keeping it together, even through the bad? Not exactly. Sometimes the best way to get through those tough times is to CRY. Scream into your pillow. Mope in bed all day. Eat your feelings. Whatever it is, just have your melt down already!

Real talk, you earned it. My meltdowns usually consist of crying obnoxiously while eating popcorn and vegan ice cream, then hitting my Dammit Doll over and over again until I am out of breathe. What do I do after my meltdown? I feel released and ready to put myself back together. Now, it’s time for some self care. 

Make decisions that serve you

Sorry, but binge drinking because you’re sad is not going to serve you. In fact, it is just going to give you a headache the next morning. Do you know what else doesn’t serve you? Not making time for yourself.

You do not have to go straight back to the hustle after you have your meltdown. Ease into it.

Hydrate. Make time to cook yourself a healthy vegan meal. Do some yoga. Yoga With Adriene has some great yoga quickies. Meditate. Take a hot bath and infuse yourself in organic essential oils. Read a book. Set your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier to do some morning stretches. Make time for yourself. Make time to LOVE yourself. You will be more productive and less high strung. It really makes all the difference.

Set Boundaries

This is a big one. SET SOME F*CKING BOUNDARIES. I have met so many entrepreneurs that say, “I forgot to eat and sleep because I was so warped into my work.” It is truly amazing that you can be SO inspired and dedicated to your hustle, but if it comes at the cost of your health, you WILL burn out. What good will that do for yourself AND your business? You may be able to create for 24 hours straight but how sustainable is that? Set boundaries to be a normal human that eats, sleeps, and breathes. Then, set boundaries to be the badass female hustler you are.

For example: From 8 AM until 12 PM I am dedicating this time to work on my business. Then from 12 PM-2 PM I will take a break and eat lunch. From 2 PM until 6 PM I’m back in the hustle. Then, take the evening off for dinner and spending time with your loved ones. (Oh, and checking your e-mail every 5 minutes counts as working. Be present.)   

Detox, hard!

Take a break. An actual break where you don’t do work. Whether it be a two-week vacation or a one-week breather where you just need a little detox from the entrepreneur lifestyle. Even one day of distance can be enough. Some of us (like me) need a little more time. I take Thanksgiving until January off to be present with my family during the holidays. I need a long detox in order to feel a complete and total reset. Then, once the new year rolls in I’m back on my a-game, recharged and ready as ever.

Sometimes creating a little distance from your work is necessary.

Your heart and mind are still on the prize. You are just a human being trying to live your human life. Can I get an amen?!

Another thing that is important is knowing when to walk away. We have all had those moments where we spend hours and hours on a project but it seems to be going nowhere. We get frustrated, the self-doubt creeps in, and the worst part is that our work isn’t fun anymore. Know when to hit the pause button.

Allow yourself to be your worst self

Fear and suffering are all part of the journey. Don’t shut it down. Embrace the fear. Embrace the discomfort. Suffer. We are not always able to be our best selves, my sisters. But sometimes we need to be our worst selves, to be our best selves.

Show yourself some compassion if you are burnt out. Be kind and gentle. Life can be really shitty sometimes, and it is completely okay to be thrown off. Let go of self-judgement. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that this is where we are today.

Honor that shit.

7 Ways Anyone Can Produce Less Waste

This post was originally published on Darling Magazine.

When you live in New York City, trash is everywhere. Mountains of black garbage bags pile up on the sidewalk, plastic bottles and food scraps are tossed on subway tracks, and household junk overflow into the streets. According to the NYC Department of Environmental Conservation, New York City produces 11,000 tons of household trash on a daily basis. On a global level, nations collectively generate 1.3 billion tons of waste. That number is expected to climb to 4 billion tons by 2100.

But let’s not freak out just yet. There are heroes out there fighting the evils of mass consumption and waste! Cities are banning plastic bags. Farmer’s markets and food cooperatives are eliminating all packaged foods. Eco villages are popping up all over the world. Fashion designers are finding innovative ways to turn waste into apparel. Millennials are finding ways to fit a year’s worth of trash in a mason jar. People are waking up and taking action. It’s awesome.

So how can YOU contribute to this global revolution? The best way to fight the global waste epidemic is to go zero waste. It is nearly impossible to be 100% zero waste, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. We should strive for progress, not perfection!

Here are a few tips to kickstart your zero waste journey:

1. Look at your trash.

In college, we did a zero waste challenge where we were asked to bring a week’s worth of our own personal trash. We had to examine our trash, take notes, and then find alternatives for the following week. This was super helpful as we got face-to-face with our trash. We consume and waste so unconsciously because it is such a societal norm. Most of us did not realize half of the trash we were making until we had to examine it. The following week, we cut down our trash by half. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty here, you will be grateful you did!

We consume and waste so unconsciously because it is such a societal norm.

2. Do your research.

Find blogs or books that will inspire your zero waste journey. Trash Is For Tossers is a great place to start. There are also eco-conscious bloggers on Instagram that share their personal zero waste hacks. Here is a list of bloggers, documentaries and other resources you can check out:

 Eco Warrior Princess
 Going Zero Waste
 Be Zero
– Zero Waste Home
 The True Cost
– Zero Waste Vegans

Image via Monica Friese

3. Get rid of disposables.

This should be the easiest transition. All you are doing is replacing what was used previously with a sustainable option! Here is a starter list to make the process even easier:

Mable Toothbrush, a bamboo self-standing toothbrush that supports kids education across the United States.

– Tote bags for grocery shopping (you can find them almost anywhere!).

– Bye bye, plastic water bottles. Get a Klean Kanteen! This one has a bamboo cap instead of the usual silicone caps.

– Instead of paper towels or sponges, use Wet It!, a Swedish based company that makes biodegradable cloths or, try this biodegradable bamboo dishwasher.

– Who needs a Swiffer when you’re new best friend could be the Norwex mop? You won’t have to buy another mop OR cleaning solution again. All it needs is a little water and you are good to go.

– Calling all coffee addicts! Ditch the automatic coffee maker (so terrible for the environment) and use an Aeropress with this reusable stainless steel filter. A non-plastic french press works great, too!

– For soap, I buy naturally made, unpackaged bar soap from Soaps of 7 Flowers. You can also buy unpackaged bar soap at your local health food store.

– Female Hygiene is a big one. The DivaCup is praised in reviews, as it can last up to 12 years if properly taken care of. However, if you have an IUD, a reusable menstrual cup is NOT for you. They’ve been known to accidentally remove IUD’s! Some women are not comfortable with the idea of sticking something up there, so here is a solution: THINX undies. You will never have to buy a tampon or pad again with these period-proof panties.

4. Shop in bulk.

If you have a Food Co-op in your neighborhood, then you are in luck. They make grocery shopping easy because everything is in bulk! Mason jars will be your new best friend. You can fill up your mason jars with granola, quinoa, nuts, liquid dish soap, the list can go on!

Whole Foods has bulk options too, but like most grocery stores, everything is packaged. To avoid packaged produce, hit up your local farmer’s market and buy directly from the farmer. It can cut your costs in half, and you get to see exactly where your food comes from and connect with local farms in the area.

5. Buy second hand or borrow.

We have been told by the fast fashion industry to consume all of these things that we really do not need. Fast fashion is the second biggest polluter in the world, next to oil. No shade to sustainable businesses that are creating eco-friendly, locally-made clothing. But if you can find what you need in a thrift store, why buy new? The less we consume, the less waste we make.

Borrowing seems outdated, but it might just be the solution to our shopping woes. For example, take Berlin’s Leila, a borrowing shop that has brought it back to modern times. We already share cars thanks to apps like as Lyft, and homes with AirBnB. We can share much more. Maybe you’ll make a new friend in the process!

Image via Monica Friese

6. DIY

This is where it gets FUN! There are loads of DIY recipes for almond milk, makeup remover (literally, just use coconut oil), cleaning sprays, and toothpaste on eco blogs. Start with those basic recipes, then you can take it up a notch. Make your own soap and/or coffee body scrub. Learn how to knit your own scarf. Grow your own herbs! Whatever your DIY heart desires.

7. Strive for progress, not perfection.

This is a big one. When I started my zero waste journey, I would get so frustrated when I accidentally made trash. I would forget to tell the bartender to not give me a straw, or I’d forget my reusable shopping bag. I used to beat myself up for it, but I realized it’s a work in progress.

It’s completely ok to forget to bring your own bag. If you forgot your Klean Kanteen and you’re thirsty, get a bottle of water! This is not a competition to see who has the least waste. As long as you are being mindful of your waste, and you’re trying, that’s truly what matters.

Do you strive to be zero waste? 

backpacks for adventure seekers

When Your Biggest Fears Come True

This post was originally published on Belong Magazine.

There comes a time in life where your biggest fears come true. Mine happened unexpectedly while I was kayaking on a beautiful blue lagoon nestled in a quaint fishing village in Vietnam. I had been backpacking in Africa for two months and reminisced on the fond memories I had in Uganda and Zambia while I looked at the vibrant green mountains and clouds painted around me. I had met the most incredible people and had a calling to pursue my dream business: creating backpacks that symbolize and support girls education. I never once thought for a second my biggest fear would come true. I was on the last leg of my backpacking trip excited to start the next chapter of my life in South East Asia. I was finally living in the moment. I felt a calmness in me that I can’t quite explain.

I breathed in this stillness and thought, “My life is perfect.”

That stillness was soon interrupted by the buzzing of my phone- it was my mom. My first reaction was, “I’ll just call her later when I’m back on land.” But my phone did not stop ringing. I had this bad feeling inside of me I could not shake off.  I paddled frantically back to shore and ran to my room. I had five missed calls. I called her back. She said in between sobs, “ I need you to come home. Daddy died.”

I was hit by a wave of pain, shock, and sadness. I immediately crashed to the floor. The room was spinning. Gravity took hold of me. “ No. Please. No. No. No. He can’t be dead. Why? He’s alive. He’s fine. He can’t be dead. He was healthy. He’s only 66. This is all a dream. A joke.” He’s alive. I’m going to wake up. WAKE UP, Danielle.

I didn’t wake up. Fast forward to the day I planned my father’s funeral. I was consumed by self-pity and anger. My life was perfect and the universe decided to take that away from me, and give me the biggest fear of my life. Losing my father.

I had the weight of my family, funeral, and the loss of my father on my shoulders. I could not fathom living in a world without him. He was supposed to be there for my wedding, the birth of my children, and when all my dreams came true. He will never walk me down the aisle, and he will never get to hold his grandchild. I will never hear him talk again about one of his greatest loves in life: music. The thought killed me.

But I had two options.

  1. I could go back to my self-destructive coping mechanisms and numb the pain.

  2. Or I could do something even crazier. I could persevere.

I looked up at the Funeral Home Director as he handed me all his paperwork to sign. “Take all the time you need,” he said. I didn’t need time. I knew what I had to do.

This was the day I decided to pursue my calling. ACE.

My heart hurt. But my idea was still flickering a tiny light in my head, and now in my heart. I know that this is exactly what my father would have wanted. This time, I was all in.

It’s Times Like These

Think of your biggest fear. Has it come true? Has fear ruled the path of your life? Or has fear empowered you? I remember the anger I felt holding my father’s death certificate. My hands were trembling as I read the word “deceased.” I walked around the mortuary at my father’s funeral with a blank face wondering, “What next?” I felt that anger again. I was so, so angry. I wasn’t just angry that he died. I was angry with myself. Why didn’t I call him when I got to Vietnam? Why did I move to New York to just be farther away from him? Why did I travel when I could have been home spending the last few months that he had on this earth? I wish I could have held him for one last time, tell him how much I love him, and make sure he knew that he is the most amazing father. But I didn’t have that chance.

When I got back to New York a few months after his death, I became overwhelmed with anxiety and self-doubt about ACE. I wanted to pursue ACE. I had that fire inside of me, but those thoughts always crippled me and that fire became a dim light.

“I want ACE to happen so bad and to honor my father but what if I fail? I have $10,000 from him- what if I use it to make ACE happen and it fails? What “honor” would I be bringing him?” There were so many times I wish he had given me answers.

I went back to working at the coffee shop and decided to completely open up to my coworker and friend, Garrett, about everything that’s happened in my life. “I have been trying so hard to figure out how to honor my father after all of this. But I am terrified of disappointing him. Failing him.”

Garrett said the best thing that I have carried with me till this day. “Honor yourself. If you honor yourself, you are already honoring your father. Because your father would’ve wanted you to be happy. Go after your dreams. Live your life according to you- even if you do fail. That’s how you honor him. Through honoring yourself.”

He was right.

My father never wanted to change me. All he wanted was for me to be happy and healthy. He never pressured me to be anything but myself. But who am I and who do I want to be? I wanted to be someone who lived like an ace.

An ace is someone who has struggles, but despite the struggles, despite the fears, an ace decides to keep going and be the best version of themselves. An ace is someone who perseveres, lives boldly and courageously. Someone who spearheads their dreams with fear, but achieves them with courage.

That is who an ace is. THAT is who I want to be.

We all share struggles, every single day. Most of the time, my struggle is grief. Some days, it’s self-doubt. Other days, it’s depression. Every day is a different struggle. What’s your struggle? Whatever it is, we can all choose to be aces.

You make the choice. Making that decision is scary. Terrifying, actually. It requires you to take risks. Taking risks means being vulnerable. It means the possibility of failing and then deciding to rise up again, and again, and again. When you rise up, there’s only the process, because there are no guarantees when you take a risk. Just you and the beautiful unknown.

The Moment

Everyone has that moment. The moment that they decide to put on the battle armor and fight with all their heart. I sure as hell wasn’t ready to fight.

My story may be the same as yours, or it could be different. The point is, we all go through this moment. The moment where it feels the universe is stacked against you while you wear your silly little wooden armor suit with your silly wooden sword and you go out there to take on the world. “Is that all you got universe?!” I still find myself saying.

But that’s it. That’s the moment. Whether that moment comes after losing someone you love, or losing the house you grew up in, or after going through a traumatic experience. OR, that moment could just come! Out of nowhere. That moment is everything. That moment is where you decide.

Are you going to rise up from the ashes? Dust yourself off? Or are you doing to stay down? This moment…this is where I want to encourage you to rise up.

When you rise up, that’s when the magic happens.

I’ve come so far since that moment. I finished the design of my backpack, created a spec sheet, sourced a bajillion fabrics, published three articles, attended textile conferences and met with fabric suppliers from all over the world, created a website, made business cards, launched social media accounts, hired a sample maker, and I went to an amazing conference specifically for women who live like aces. I’ve made new friends, met the most inspiring people, and the most important thing? Every time I wanted to give up, I didn’t. I never surrendered.  

When Life Happens

Life is full of trial and adversity, but it is at those pivotal moments that we can shape the success we have tomorrow.

When faced with the unknown, most people prefer to stay within the comfort of security. But what if next time you were faced with life’s oppositions, you stood your ground and forged a new path?

I’m not promising it will be easy. In fact, it will be one of the hardest things in your life you’ve ever done. I’ve cried and screamed into my pillow many times. I’ve told myself over and over again, “I can’t do it.” But every single time, I always ask myself, “But what if I can?”

It is only when you’re tested that you can truly discover who you are and who you can be.

Every woman goes through the battlefield to succeed. But what you don’t know is that these ups and downs of daily wins and losses lead the successful women we are today. Success is a movement, not a destination. And in order to create that movement, you have to take action.

I believe that an ace is for truth living individuals who own their story. Through being vulnerable, we find the courage to empower ourselves to reach our full potential. Through that act of bravery, we are able to create an impact greater than ourselves that can send ripples through the universe. I’ve owned my story. Now it’s your turn to own yours.

Every day you have a choice, to live like an ace or not too. That choice we make in the moment can define the rest of our lives. Find your inner ace, she’s in there somewhere. When you do, let her thrive in this magical, chaotic battlefield I call success.

ACE Backpacks origin story

ACE’s Origin Story

Let me just start with the fact that I never, ever, thought that I would be designing backpacks. All I knew was that I wanted to dedicate my life doing something that made the world a better place.

I wanted to be a truth seeker. Find the truth. Tell that truth. Then share it with the world. Where does a truth-seeking 18-year-old go? Journalism school! I pursued a degree in Journalism at the University of San Francisco. Storytelling immediately became my biggest passion. It wasn’t until October 9th, 2012 while I sat in my Journalism Ethics class, I knew how important that would be to me.

That day, Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for going to school. My professor came in that morning and put on the news. She looked at us with tears streaming down her face and said, “The truth matters.”

To say that Malala’s story impacted me is a downplay. Her story inspired me to dedicate my entire life to storytelling and girls education.

After I graduated college I landed a job at a media company, packed my bags in San Francisco and moved across the country to New York City. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, my big career move wasn’t for me. I was miserable working at a desk 9-5 feeling as if my passions and creativity were drifting away. All I knew was that I was never going to find my dream at a desk job. So I quit.

I spent two years trying to figure out my career path. Was it graduate school for Journalism? A writing job at a reputable news outlet? A freelancing gig? I knew my passions but not what I wanted to do with them.

I needed to do some serious soul searching. How you might ask? I left my office job and became a barista at the coolest coffee shop in the city (s/o Pushcart Coffee) and nanny for the coolest kid I know in the Upper West Side. I saved enough money after a year of work to put my entire life in a backpack and headed to Uganda.

Still unsure of what my career path may be I still knew I wanted to dedicate my life to girls education.

Here I was in a special little town called Mbale. I always dreamed of the red dirt roads and the beautiful green mountains in Uganda. The sound of boda boda drivers and the smell of rolex’s brought me so much excitement to get out of bed and explore.

One morning I walked out of my apartment and saw hundreds of students in uniforms walking proudly to the local primary school, balancing books on their heads.

Of course, my immediate reaction was, “These kids should have backpacks – just like students in America do!”

It was at that moment the idea hit me. I need to make backpacks for these kids! I will sell a backpack in the United States and give a backpack to a child in need.

Excited about my idea, I ran home to tell my housemate who appreciated my enthusiasm but told me the harsh reality:

Roughly 80% of these students will not make it to secondary school.

That was unacceptable to me. These students didn’t need backpacks. What good is a backpack if kids don’t have access to education? The struggle wasn’t carrying books. It is a plethora of issues: child labor, early marriages, lack of sanitary pads, transportation, disability…the list goes on. However, the universal challenge is poverty.

This changed my original idea to give free backpacks to kids to using the backpack as a symbol of education.

Something that will advocate for education, create jobs that lift people out of poverty and empower children across the globe.

A backpack isn’t just a thing to carry stuff in. It means so much more.

Coming back to New York in 2016, I returned to my coffee shop job and continued nannying. Starting ACE has been a constant work in progress, but I’m doing exactly what I’ve felt destined to do. A seed was planted in my heart that day I saw those kids walking to school in Uganda. It’s been a wild journey watering that seed every day. This is where the story of ACE began.