Simple ideas have a life of their own
Shark Tank celebrated its tenth season on television this year. Even with a marketing degree, I’ve learned plenty about leveraging equity, difficulties getting “shelf space” and a host of other issues that could make or break a deal between an interested investor and a hopeful entrepreneur. What I enjoy most, though, are the back stories—what prompted the idea and what’s been done getting it to market. Often when a deal is struck, the business owner is overcome with emotion—feeling that all the effort finally paid off.
On the flip side are folks who do something out of the goodness of their hearts and the action turns into an unexpected project that takes on a life of its own. Case in point. It was May 2017, when Amy Wolff of Newburg, Oregon, was motivated by a heartbreaking conversation she had with friends about suicide statistics in their community. She responded with inspirational yard signs displaying messages such as “Don’t Give Up” and “Your Mistakes Don’t Define You.”
Wolff knocked on neighbors’ doors and soon people were contacting her who wanted to buy the signs. After selling 150 at cost, her husband quickly set up a website. Major news outlets picked up the story as folks spread the word to friends and family throughout the country. A year later, Wolff launched a nonprofit, Don’t Give Up which to date has shipped signs to all 50 states and 26 countries in 6 languages.
Wolff had no idea when she the first sign in her front yard that it would make such a worldwide impact. She just wanted to remind children and adults that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and everyone deserves happiness. The organization’s website validates that with stories of people knocking on doors with tears in their eyes to say thank you. The most popular sign with children is “You Matter.”
Locally, in Laguna Woods, a story similar to Wolff’s is emerging. Concerned about children in hardship situations, Dottie Jeffries started making Healing Buddies—simple stuffed dolls for children to color in the faces. Three years later, with the help of the Village Kiwanis Club chapter, she has 30-plus active volunteers who cut, sew, stuff or deliver dolls to organizations for distribution. More than three thousand have been given to children in Orange County, nationwide, as well as international locales.
Making a difference comes in many forms. Some become businesses while others make a difference in someone’s day. What matters is taking action on ideas. What’s your latest helpful idea?
Originally published OC Register, Globe edition, June 13, 2019