OAK Lifestyle

idea by jessicasjolseth
OAK Lifestyle

Applicant Name

First and Last Name:

Jessica Sjolseth



What inspired your idea?

4 years ago, we adopted two kids (domestically) that were heading into 2nd and 3rd grade. We thought we were prepared for the potential emotional and behavioral issues, but we never anticipated their academic challenges. Since they spent much of their lives homeless or in short-term housing, they missed out on reading books before bedtime, counting Cheerios, writing thank you notes, and the other "teaching" we take for granted. We decided to help non-profits who were not only giving backpacks, but who were invested in the long-term educational success of the children they serve.

What’s your social impact business idea?

OAK (Ordinary Acts of Kindness) Lifestyle was formed with the idea that ordinary people can make a difference. OAK bags are high quality backpacks and bags whose purchase results in a donated backpack + school supplies to a child in need in the United States (homeless children) or Rwanda (impoverished children). Each OAK bag comes with ideas of ways to make a positive impact in the lives of those around you. We hope to inspire our customers to continue other Ordinary Acts of Kindness.

We also believe that when we hand a backpack to a child who is struggling, it says "We believe in you. You can be successful." It's an item that is all their own, and receiving it brings enthusiasm for a new year of learning.

What is your impact and how is it relevant to the business?

Access to education is essential for those who need to improve their financial circumstances, and each patron is supporting education for future generations. There is a very tangible, direct correlation between the bags and the backpack + supplies donation. Patrons are supporting education by simply making an ordinary purchase. We also see OAK as a platform to encourage ordinary people like ourselves to volunteer, give, and perform other acts of kindness (ideally inspiring others to do the same). We also hope the recipients of giveaway bags + supplies will pay it forward to future generations.

How will you establish sustainable impact in the locations you wish to serve?

Our giving partners aren't simply handing out backpacks and supplies to kids and walking away. The U.S. organization serves the homeless population with tutoring in area shelters provided by certified teachers, counseling provided by supervised graduate social worker students, and more. The African non-profit educates orphaned children, and houses the children in a family setting to nurtures the children's emotional needs. We know there are many more organizations like these (across the world), and the more we take care of their backpack + school supply needs, the more money they can free up to help more children with more full-service resources.

What does success look like, including measurements and reporting on the business and your impact?

Our relationships with our partners will continue to be just as important as our relationships with our customers. Our current partners are very detailed in the information they collect and report about their efforts and impact, including numbers and demographics of those they serve, declines in drop-out rates, academic success, and post-graduation success stories. We would require this of future partners as well, once we max out our current partners' needs. This is the data that inspires us and motivates us to keep pushing for more sales, along with the stories people share with us about their Ordinary Acts of Kindness following an OAK purchase.

What would $50,000 mean for your business? And how will it help your company better reach its goals?

We feel this would not only help us purchase additional inventory (more styles and colors), but it would allow us to sharpen up our branding/collateral, and work with a PR firm to get the story of OAK out to a broader audience. We believe all of the pieces are in place to grow our company: we have an educational and kindness mission that our society supports, quality products, a solid team, excellent customer service, and a detailed business plan. If more retailers and customers were to an aware of OAK, we believe they would be extremely pleased with their experience.

16 Pink-talk-bubble-tail

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I love the simplicity of your idea. We parents buy backpacks anyway, year after year, but by choosing OAK as the source, it makes life better for a child. Brilliant! A great opportunity to make a small decision with a big impact.

by talktojulie
11 months ago | Reply

We would like the items we make to always be ordinary purchases that give back. Thanks so much for reinforcing that!

by jessicasjolseth
10 months ago | Reply

I love my backpack. I take great pride wearing it on my shoulder knowing that with my simple purchase a backpack and supplies were provided to a child who was in need. I am a believer in Ordinary Acts of Kindness and paying it forward. Thank you for your efforts and good luck with the contest.

by GabeT
11 months ago | Reply

Thanks for the post! You totally get the message of passing on the kindness and we love that!!

by jessicasjolseth
11 months ago | Reply

We LOVE our backpacks and the creators behind OAK!

by lana.bromiley
11 months ago | Reply

Thanks for giving away a backpack and school supplies through your purchase! We appreciate it!

by jessicasjolseth
11 months ago | Reply

Tremendous product for anyone. My senior parents each have one, My husband and I have one. My 5th grade daughter has one. It's so cool to know that each backpack purchased brought tools for success into someone's life. And we would have bought a backpack anyway. Good stuff, and I feel privileged to have helped them in the beginning. Would love to see these amazing young philanthropreneurs make it off the ground.

by susana.l.fletcher
11 months ago | Reply

Our early customers have been so valuable to our hopefulness and keeping our momentum. We are so optimistic about the long-term impact OAK can achieve, and it's because of people like you who believed it could happen!

by jessicasjolseth
11 months ago | Reply

Buy one give one is great since ALL kids usually destroy their backpack after one or two years. Marketing suggestions- start local. Ask schools if they will attach one of your fliers to the 'school year materials list' that they send out, track sales and donations for your city and submit info to local paper/ tv and radio news stations. This way, if you aren't comfortable being the spokesperson, you can still get the word out about your program and can say "this is what we are about. this is what we have accomplished right here, in our city. this is what we want to accomplish." Then next school year, expand fliers into neighboring city's school districts, etc. You're right, this works because its an ordinary purchase that you would make anyway, your market isn't buying stuff that they don't need. The only downfall that I can see would be kids that have an OAK pack may be targeted for being "needy." Perhaps know one ever knew Sally was in foster care... until she showed up to school with her free back pack. Perhaps a good goal would be to saturate the market, bit by bit. Let's say the entire student body has on OAK pack, it would be harder to determine which one was purchased and which one was donated... Agghhh. Very tricky when you throw in adolescents to the equation :-)

by nicole.wdisf
11 months ago | Reply

Those are some great concerns and suggestions, and we appreciate your feedback. We have addressed some solutions to those issues, but are always open to input! Thanks for all the thought that went into this!

by jessicasjolseth
11 months ago | Reply

I am so very glad that this contest is asking contestants to define success metrics and ro report data! Social programs that don't measure don't get my vote, but I am happy to support OAK :)

by elyssagj
11 months ago | Reply

We agree, and appreciate your candor! It's important to know that the programs aimed at making change are successful! Thanks for your vote of confidence!

by jessicasjolseth
11 months ago | Reply

What a great company!

by jamie.vietingkershner
11 months ago | Reply

Thank you so much - we really appreciate your support!

by jessicasjolseth
11 months ago | Reply

I have bought several of their backpacks and can attest to the quality of the product. More importantly, I know two of the owners and can say without a doubt they are passionate about helping kids in need and are so excited to be able to do so with their company. I have full faith that if awarded this money, they will put it to the greatest use for the greater good.

by Radfemme
11 months ago | Reply

Thanks so much for your continued support! You are such a great advocate for this cause!

by jessicasjolseth
11 months ago | Reply

Circle-1-inactive Step1-title-idea-inactive

Submission Began
Monday, April 22

Submission Ended
Friday, May 17
at 12:00 PM PDT

Circle-2-inactive Step2-title-voting-inactive

Voting Began
Friday, May 31

Voting Ended
Friday, June 14
at 12:00 PM PDT

Circle-3 Step3-title

Winner Announced
Tuesday, July 02

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