Updated: Oct 19, 2022
I am a 'little' CEO.
Janti Soeripto is a 'big' CEO - of Save the Children.
And this week I received a personal letter from her, written with detail and grace, thanking me for including Save the Children as part of the mission of my Vivid Cottage business.
Me! A little CEO, being thanked by a big CEO! The letter is below if you just can't wait to read its kind contents - but first, the backstory...
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An in-process photo of 'Sunflower Resilience' - the line art before the colors were added.
Where did I first hear the principle that giving back begins when your business begins?
Was it when Dan Woog interviewed Jack Mitchell, author of Hug Your Customers, in March 2022 at the Westport Library?
Was it the many examples that Oprah set over the years, lifting so many people as her success grew?
Was it from way back in middle school, seeing local business names from Richmond, Kentucky on the backs of Little League t-shirts?
Well, wherever I heard it, it worked.
I listened, and I took action.
I'm at the start of my second year in business. My expenses still exceed my income (scary...) But I'm not letting that stop me from using my talents to help people in need.
Specifically - children in need.
As a retired educator with 34 years of classroom experience, the well-being of children remains front and center in my value system.
So, when I drew a sunflower bouquet on the very same day Russia invaded Ukraine, then learned how sunflowers are a symbol of Ukrainian identity, I knew my drawing had a mission - to help the displaced Ukrainian children and families.
I contacted Save the Children in Fairfield, Connecticut (the next town over from mine) to learn how to set it up properly.
Q: What language could I use?
A: 'Vivid Cottage is a proud supporter of Save the Children.'
Q: How should I set up the donations?
A: By making the donations as an individual.
Q: Can I use the Save the Children logo on my greeting cards and website?
A: Respectfully, no.
Q: What does Save the Children's boots-on-the-ground work look like in Ukraine right now?
A: At a recent event at the Pequot Library, Save the Children specialists spoke of the long-standing relationships built over years in the places they aid. Within days they had services and supplies reaching displaced Ukrainian families.
With each sale of any item with my sunflower image - individual cards, boxed cards, and tea towels - I kept track and calculated 10% of my profits to donate. At the end of Q2 (April to June for non-business folks) I sent a check for $300, along with this hand-written card (of course it's a hand-written card... stationery and connection is at the heart of my business!) explaining the story of my sunflowers-on-a-mission.
The front of my Sunflower Resilience card, shown with traditional Ukrainian costumes borrowed from a Westport neighbor.
Kerstin's hand-written letter with $300 donation to Save the Children.
I felt good putting that card and check in the mail.
My customers can trust me because I follow up on my promises.
I've always admired visionary company CEOs who lead with heart, so I knew I wanted to be one of them. Even as a 'little' CEO.
I never expected to hear back from the 'big' CEO!
Just this week I opened my email and received this remarkably warm, personal, and encouraging letter...
Dear Kerstin –
First, apologies for my delayed response to your note of August 2 including the contribution representing a portion of the profits from your artwork sales. We are very grateful that you’ve selected Save the Children as the beneficiary of your blooming business and I’m particularly impressed with your saying you have a vision of healthy growth and that ‘supporting Save the Children’s work is part of your value system.’ How can a company with helping children as part of its business philosophy not be successful?!
I wish you all the best in your young venture. Your inviting website is very creative and I have no doubt that through it and the many places your work has exposure around the region, your enterprise will grow like the lovely flowers portrayed in your products.
Again, on behalf of the children who Save the Children is able to help thanks to supporters like you, thank you.
What an incredibly uplifting message! My heart is full!
I have faith in my business mission to spread joy, creativity, and connection.
I have faith that soon my revenue will exceed my expenses.
And I have faith that aiding people in need is a mission we can do - 'little' and 'big' together!