Globalization and the power of social media have changed how we do business in a single generation. Getting—and keeping—our customer’s attention can seem tougher than ever. So how can you and your business be seen and remembered among the digital noise? You become a trusted brand when you earn your customer’s respect.

The Values Institute has studied the most trusted brands to see what they are doing well to earn the trustworthy label. Across a variety of brands, they found that the five C’s are key—Competence, Consistency, Candor, Concern and Connection. Successful businesses demonstrate become pillars of a community by providing jobs, stimulating the economy, and lifting others up by supporting charitable organizations. They earn their community’s respect by being an active, generous part of it.

Even though the boundaries of community have expanded, there are more opportunities than ever before to connect and get involved. I’ve put together this list of six ways you can use your business to give back to your community—whether that’s in a small town, a booming metropolis, or the global marketplace. For each, I’ve included examples of how three amazing female leaders have used their own creativity to connect and give back in an authentic, personal way.

Practice philantrophy through professional organisations

Professional organizations exist for almost any vocation and group you can imagine. Find the best fit for your profession or interests. Many companies will cover the annual dues for their employees so check with Human Resources to see if that’s a benefit at your office.

Once you’re in, get involved. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Many groups have established charity programs and committees or support students or young professionals with mentoring programs. They will usually welcome your involvement.

For example, Nancy Leavitt of American Family Insurance has served as the Charity Committee Chair with Whatcom Women in Business (WWIB). That group awards more than $20,000 in academic scholarships to local high school students each year.

Award-winning floral designer, Natalie Ransom of Pozie by Natalie, mentors fellow business owners in the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce and WWIB. “There are so many incredible things we can learn from each other,” Ransom says. “My parents instilled in me that I can do almost anything. But I know that not everyone grew up with that or has that confidence, so it’s important to me to share that message. If you work hard, anything is possible.”

Donate your skills

There are probably a number of events, galas and fundraisers you’ve already attended or heard about because you care about an organization’s mission. Offering your skills to support their existing events saves them money and allows your work—and concern for community—to shine. Not only will you expand your network, they may also recognize you and your business during the event, on social media, and in program materials, meetings and more.

Sarah Rorvig of Vivaluxx School of Makeup Art donates her makeup skills and those of her students to an annual fundraising runway show, Handbags for Housing. The event benefits Lydia Place, whose mission is to disrupt the cycle of homelessness and promote sustained independence. “I love giving back as much as I can as an artist. It feels good that our team helped them raise more than $90,000 at their most recent event,” Rorvig says. “And my students expanded their experience and built new professional connections too.”

Get on board

Once you’ve spent some time getting to know a charity or professional organization, you can make a bigger impact by joining their Board of Directors or Trustees. Positions may be elected or appointed and usually come with a one or two-year commitment. At regular board meetings, you can get in deeper behind the scenes and help make decisions that guide and improve the future of the organization. Most of the world’s nonprofits wouldn’t exist without the donated time and genius of their Board.

Leavitt has held board positions with a number of charities, including Boys and Girls Clubs of Whatcom County and Women Sharing Hope. Ransom has been on the Board of Blue Skies for Children and WWIB.

“Supporting local charity is near and dear to my heart. It’s just part of who I am so I am honored to have served these organizations and the local charities they support,” explains Leavitt.

Cultivate business partnerships

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” –Helen Keller

Partnering with other businesses means you can tackle bigger projects and reach a larger audience than you might alone by spreading out the workload and sharing your customer base. Choose businesses with appropriate, established customers that you are not yet accessing. But be sure to vet any new partners in advance to protect the competence and consistency of your brand. Then brainstorm events or promotions that are mutually beneficial, creative and fun for you and your customers.

Ransom rewards and connects with her devoted social media followers while introducing them to new local businesses with floral Treasure Hunts. “I put left over flowers and plants to use in an arrangement or terrarium then take it to a local business. We snap a photo and post it to Facebook and Instagram,” explains Ransom. “The first follower to guess the business and pick up the item gets to take it home for free. It’s a generous way to introduce people to my favourite businesses (and their owners) while also making someone so happy!”

Rorvig and Ransom have also partnered with local photographers to make their own passion project styled shoots come to life. Photos from these shoots have appeared in some of the most influential publications in their industry.

Don’t forget the match

Larger companies will often encourage their employee’s charitable giving by offering to match a donation up to a maximum dollar amount. Some paperwork may be required, but it will be well worth it to double or even triple your donation. Don’t be afraid to ask your Human Resources rep. Your inquiry may just spark a new company policy.

Leavitt discovered that the corporate offices of American Family Insurance would match the charitable donations she raised in her annual June and December ‘Quotes for Community’ campaigns where she donates $1 to a local charity for every insurance quote requested throughout the month.

Go slow – every little bit helps!

Life and work probably feel pretty full already so how are you supposed to add something new? The answer is by starting slow and being selective. In order to be candid and feel generous, we must be coming from a place of abundance. Sometimes that means taking a look at what you’re already doing to see if change is needed.

My favourite mantra is by Professional Coach Cheryl Richardson: “If it’s not an absolute YES, it’s a NO.” Take time to learn how to say no gracefully—with candor—then let the guilt go, and only give your YES to what’s really important.

 

Though leaders like Ransom, Rorvig and Leavitt only raised modest amounts or donated just a few hours of their time, their efforts have introduced and endeared them to their communities. That’s real connection. They have made a tangible, memorable difference to those they’ve touched and laid the foundation for others to follow in their path. By earning the respect of their communities, they’ve given back and made many new, life-long customers and friends. You can take that first step today, too!


Founder of the public relations company Wilde World Communications, Lorraine Wilde has published more than 200 articles, blog posts and essays since 1998. She writes about what inspires her. That includes the arts, music, film, science, motherhood and the amazing female business owners in her corner of the beautiful Pacific Northwest United States. Like other Leaders in Heels, she uses her business to support local charities and fellow business owners in her community and beyond.


Nicole Snow

When Nicole Snow, a former US Air Force veteran and an American entrepreneur, established Darn Good Yarn back in 2008, nobody could predict that she would change face of modern female entrepreneurship scene. While combining her passion for art and the will to help those who are in need, she managed to turn traditional skills into economically viable, sustainable entrepreneurial idea.

We’ve managed to get the hold of Nicole for a brief interview and she has told us a little bit more about her road to success and the way she affected the lives of many women and their families on the other side of the globe.

When was the first time you realized you wanted to join the US Air Force and was it difficult for you to handle all the challenges that were set upon you?

I dreamt of joining the US Air Force since I was in the 7th grade. Actually, my biggest wish was to fly KC10’s, so I started taking flying lessons when I was 13. Needless to say I was thrilled when, years later, I was granted full US Air Force Scholarship at Clarkson University. I was so proud of myself – only about 30% of the US Air Force officers were female and I managed to become one of them.

And yes, it was hard at the beginning, however, not once did I regret my decision to join the US Air Force. At times, the training was exhausting and getting used to the severe schedule was quite difficult, but I was quick to adapt. After such strict regime, every other challenge I encountered in life was much easier to deal with.

Still, after two years of loyal service, you left the US Air Force. What was the real reason behind this decision?

The US Air Force is actually where I met my spouse, and we’ve been inseparable ever since. But due to the nature of his job, he had to move quite a lot, so I made a decision to stay by his side and follow him. And even though his job was the initial reason for leaving the US Air Force, I too felt like it was the time for me to move on. That career offered me job security, but I was not quite happy, so I felt like I should take a different road in my life. Yes, it was my childhood dream, but after serving two years of active duty I realized it did not fit who I was at that time and who I was starting to become as a woman.

What is it that you appreciate the most from your time spent in the US Air Force?

When I look back in the end, I am grateful to have been a part of such great organisation. It was truly an unforgettable experience. Since I was a resident advisor, I had the opportunity to gain some valuable leadership skills, learn how to organize my time better, and most importantly, I learned to trust my gut. I can say with absolute certainty that the US Air Force has made me a better CEO. If I hadn’t been so confident in myself, I wouldn’t be where I am today, both when it comes to my personal and professional life.

You went from a military class pilot to yarn business pioneer. Can you tell us more about how that happened?

When I started knitting, it was nothing more than a hobby. A way to unwind and relax from work. It was my mother-in-law who taught me some of the basics and then I perfected my technique by watching online videos. As the time passed I noticed that it is impossible to get the hold of a quality yarn, so I decided to dig deeper into the problem. Soon I realized that the companies which sold recycled silk failed to provide quality one, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

At the time, my husband and I lived in California. That’s where I made friends with a woman from India with whom I was sewing garments from recycled silk. She was the one who introduced me to the members of Indian community in California who manufactured yarn from recycled silk, and if it hadn’t been for them, I would have probably never started Darn Good Yarn.

Initially, I wanted to provide people who do arts and crafts with world-class material. Eventually, this idea took me around the globe, all the way to Nepal and India. When I saw just how talented those women are and how underestimated their work is, I knew I had to do something about it. It was obvious that they possess highly valuable skills and I wanted the entire world to see that and appreciate the work they were doing. I also noticed that there was a lack to basic supply in the poorest regions of these two countries. That’s when I started to provide spinning wheels for those who were willing to work but could not afford one.

People refer to 08 as a triple bottom line business as it helps people, environment and makes profit. However, the ways in which you affected the lives of women in India is outstanding. Would you tell us more about it?

Before I established Darn Good Yarn, even though they were extremely hard-working, many Indian and Nepalese women were unemployed. The ones that had only about 3 months of work a year were considered the lucky ones, what was obviously not enough to support their families, especially with salaries lower than $2 a day.

Today, craftswomen from Nepal and India distribute quality yarn and goods worldwide. They have an all-year round jobs and earn between $13 and $16 a day. We at Darn Good Yarn are all really proud to have helped those women become autonomous and self-reliant. They’ve gained economic independence and are able to provide for their families, get food and proper medical care, as well as educate their children.

I understand that you’ve also traveled a lot over the years. Would you be able to select one trip as your favorite or the one that had the most influence on you?

I’ve visited India and Nepal on numerous occasions, and even though trips were mostly business-related, I had the opportunity to see how Darn Good Yarn changes the lives of working women and their families for the better. But I will never forget the 17-year old girl I met a couple of years ago. She was spinning banana fibers and told me how she was saving to go to medical school. She had to work because of her family’s poor financial state and there was the time she thought she will never get the chance of getting proper education. We spoke about the effect of Darn Good Yarn on a multitude of occasions, but the conversation with this girl is what made it real and what motivates me to keep moving forward.

For the end, is there any advice you would like to give young women who are only at the beginning of their career?

Well, I know this is going to sound cheesy, but I always emphasize that doing what you love and not giving up on your dreams will lead you to success. If I had given up after I was fired and told that I wasn’t a good fit for small businesses, I would’ve never got to where I am now. I was disappointed, but not discouraged.
As I already said, trusting my gut is what got me where I am today. Find your focus and believe in yourself, but remember that your business is not all about you. It’s important to know that your family is on board with you and that you can always count on them. And in the end, believe me when I say it – getting a paycheck and earning a lot of money is not something that should be your primary goal, but the will to do greater good.


International Women’s Day (March 8th) is a day to celebrate the achievements of womankind, to recognise the contribution of our gender to worldwide peace and development and to bring issues that are directly affecting us to light.

This year marks twenty years since the fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 where the Beijing Platform for Action, a plan for increasing women’s rights, was developed and signed by 189 countries. The theme of this year’s International Women’s day events is ‘Beijing +20’, designed to spark a review of the document in regards to the progress that has been made in the campaign for gender equality, as well as to encourage further action.

Back home, the Australian National Committee for UN Women hosts events all over the nation. They suggest that you can get involved with the campaign by attending or hosting an event, becoming a member, selling ribbons or simply donating.

These are all fantastic ways to support the movement, but if you cannot commit the time to these initiatives, do not stress, you can still play a part!

There are many organisations operating across the world with the aim of empowering women to take control of their lives and achieve financial independency. This International Women’s Day, why not support these women by purchasing an item from one of these companies or charities? Better yet, gift them to your girlfriends and colleagues to spread the word about International Women’s Day, socially conscious organisations and the issue of gender equality!

Without further ado, let us introduce you to 9 such organisations that you can support to make a difference in the lives of women this International Women’s Day.

Gifts for International Women’s Day

1. Sawa Australia NSW Inc.

SAWA (Support Association for the Women of Afghanistan) Australia NSW is a charitable organisation whose current major project is providing free education to Afghan refugees via Heward High School in Pakistan. It is one of the only schools in Pakistan that remains open to Afghan girls where 147 students currently attend from grades 1-12.  Amongst more traditional subjects, the students are educated on the topic of women’s rights in an effort to change the next generation’s perception of gender roles.

To support the cause you can purchase an Eco Shopping Bag, available in a wide range of colours, or a pack of 6 gift cards to send to your girlfriends this IWD!

Eco Shopping Bags $10 each, Sawa Australia NSW Inc.

 

2. Popinjay

Popinjay is a company that grew from Founder Saba Gul’s realisation that artistic talent in her home country of Pakistan was stifled due to the lack of connection to the world market. So she set out to be the voice between the local and global markets and in the process developed a successful brand that is about quality over quantity, locally sourced raw materials and intricate handcraft. By providing above average wages and training Gul has enabled the women she employs to become financially independent.

Popinjay offer a range of limited edition products, including clutches and totes made from handwoven fabric and detailed with silk embroidery.

Baracoa Zip Clutch $205, Popinjay

3. Oxfam Shop

At Oxfam they are working on a sustainable solution to poverty that involves providing people in need with the training, resources and market exposure necessary for success. Oxfam currently has trading relationships with 136 producer groups in 38 countries (even including Australia!). They use their Oxfam shops to sell these hand-made and fair trade goods and by making a purchase you are supporting the small-scale producers around the world, as well as helping to raise funds for new and existing programs.

In store or online you can find a variety of unique goods including children’s toys, home décor, kitchen supplies, clothes and accessories, books and cards and food and drink at very affordable prices!

Jewelled Metal Cuffed Bracelet $16.95, Oxfam Shop

 

4. On Purpose by Kate Spade

Kate Spade has developed a range of handmade goods under the brand ‘On Purpose’. This is a side project of the company, who has set up training and production facilities in Masoro, Rwanda. They stress that the initiative “is not a charity project” and that they are “training them to become a profitable supplier and participate in the global marketplace”. By employing 150 women from the Masoro community they have been able to positively impact the lives of some 20,000 people in the community.

The On Purpose range extends across all brands under the company – Kate Spade New York, Kate Spade Saturday and Jack Spade (for men) – and you can purchase everything from bags, scarfs and jewellery, to beanies and hand-stitched pocket squares!

Kiss Me You Fool Clutch $198, Kate Spade On Purpose

 

5. Moeloco for the Hope Foundation

Kathy Wong’s MoeLoco, is a socially conscious brand that has been developed in line with the ‘buy-one-give-one’ business model to combat poverty, particularly amongst children. This means that for every pair of shoes purchased they will give a pair of shoes to the Hope Foundation for allocation to an orphan in need. This simple system will help the children avoid injury and health problems and attend school.

Currently MoeLoco stock beautifully designed thongs that feature inspirational messages on the top and sole. This is so that when you walk in the sand, you leave behind words of kindness such as ‘love’, ‘happiness’ and ‘peace’. How great is that?!

Dream Crazy Flip Flop $35, Moeloco

 

6. The Brave Collection

The Brave Collection is based in Cambodia and aims to empower women through job opportunities. They employ local women from disadvantaged backgrounds, single mothers or those with a disability to work in their studio producing hand-woven and carved jewellery. In return the women receive a fair working environment, above average wages, benefits such as health insurance, and are able to bring their children to work. In addition, The Brave Collection donates 10% of their profits to fight human trafficking and collaborates with local organisations to educate and empower the local women and girls through creative arts programs.

Each piece of jewellery sold by The Brave Collection has been dyed, woven and carved by hand. The ‘Brave Bracelet’ featured in the picture is one of their signature pieces. See their website for more beautiful designs!

Brave Bracelet (Deep Moss) $38, The Brave Collection

 

7. The Akola Project

The Akola Project is a not-for-profit organisation that believes the only sustainable way to reduce poverty is to empower women to become change makers in their community. They do this through a six step model that includes building community infrastructure, providing vocational training, producing globally competitive products, rewarding workers with above average wages, assisting beneficiaries with health and financial advice, and encouraging and supporting the women to embark on their own business venture. This approach means that each woman can support 10 children and is equipped with the skills and resources to make a better life. Until recently, Akola’s main focus has been communities in Uganda, but they have just introduced a program in Dallas, Texas.

Akola women create beautiful accessories using local materials and techniques. The cherry on the cake? 100% of the profits from the sale of these items are reinvested into the project.

Drape (Chartreuse) from $96, Akola Project

 

8. Women for Women International

WFWI run training and development programs for women in 8 countries to help them rebuild their lives after war. These programs provide the women with in-demand skills and a health education and inform them of their rights so that they may become active in household and community decision making.

Featured on their website is the link “Shop with a Purpose” where you will find the products created and the shops endorsed by WFWI. Recently they launched their first cookbook titled ‘Share’ that includes local recipes from around the world as well as individual stories of the women that completed the WFWI program. You will also find contributions from world-renowned chefs and humanitarians. What’s more, 100% of the profits go back to the program. The perfect gift for that master chef friend of yours!

‘Share – The Cookbook’ $28.34 (on Amazon), WFWI

 

9. Global Girlfriend

Global Girlfriend is a GreaterGood online store, which means that every purchase made gives a charity royalty between 5-30%.Global Girlfriend’s charity of choice is GROW (Girl’s Right to Opportunity Worldwide) who work to assist young girls to attend primary and secondary school by providing them with the necessary resources and covering tuition fees.

The products sold on Global Girlfriend’s website are women-made, fair-trade and eco-friendly and sourced from all over the world. You can find many affordable gifts, great clothes and accessories and find out all about the organisations who make them.

Bangladesh Botanical Note Paper & Pencil $10, Global Girlfriend

 

By purchasing a gift from any of these organisations you are making a real and positive impact on the lives of the women producers and their families across the world. International Women’s Day is a great excuse to check these organisations out and to realise the power of our daily spending in making a difference.
Happy International Women’s Day!

 

Authors:

Ozlem Beldan

Ozlem is the Founder of Spirit of Womankind – a platform for facilitating womankind’s reconnection to their truth so they feel free to design the lives they truly want to live. Ozlem is also an Associate at Xplore for Success – an organisation dedicated to driving gender equality in the workplace.

Sarah Phasey

Sarah is based in Melbourne, Australia where she is completing her Business degree.

Feature image credit: Moeloco