OUR STORY: FROM OUR FOUNDER
I am so happy with how far we've come, ecstatic about where we're going, and excited to welcome you into our journey!
HOW IT ALL STARTED
My personal journey began while working at Nestle where through research, I found myself in the homes of low-income families, single moms, and those who were retired and living on a fixed income. I held focus-groups and did home visits across the U.S. to gain insight on how Nestle could help families in need, and while the stories were unique to each individual, the theme was exactly the same.
The repeated family dynamic was that the eldest would live out their days in struggle and despair, their children had disappointed them, and all hope for a better future was placed on the grandchildren. The stark transition from complacency to harsh words of disappointment and onto smiles beaming with hope was palpable.
THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION
Few and far between, there were the kids who had "made it out" and that always
centered around education - starting with graduating high school. While the idea of not graduating from high school and continuing onto college was utterly foreign to me, it both shocked and humbled me to hear how commonplace this was within low-income communities. Whether I was in Queens, Houston, Watts, or the rural Mid-West, the story was the same and while the hope was high, the expectations were low.
DIGGING IN FURTHER
With education as the driving force to escape from the clutches of poverty, I went on a mission to find out why these kids were dropping out of school at a rate of six times more than their peers. I hoped that through the chaos and overwhelming nature of it all, I could find some small piece where I could help. Well after oodles of research, what I found completely surprised me in its simplicity. With everything else at play, the proven top two reasons for school dropout were simply due to (1) lack of confidence and (2) the lack of tools to do their work.
SHIFTING THE FOCUS TO SELF-WORTH OVER UTILITY
That information alone drove me to take action. I knew that those were two things I could help with and scale for significant impact by starting my own company. But it had to be different than what already existed to truly make a difference. Quality for longevity and confidence had to be the #1 priority. After seeing kids come home from school carrying their books in black trash bags, in cheap plastic grocery bags, or piled up to their chins while donated backpacks hung on hooks at home because they would break if they put anything heavy in them, I knew that there needed to be a transformational change in how we provide for these students.
WE CAN'T HELP WHAT WE DON'T KNOW
I interviewed principals, teachers, social workers, and non-profit directors and the takeaways were always the same.
All had drawers filled with donated backpacks that had broken or would break upon first use
All had sparse supply closets which forced the teachers to pay for supplies for their students out of their own pockets
None had given feedback to donors about the poor quality of items donated, which made them unusable for their intended purpose
In a nutshell, I found that millions of dollars were spent each year on donations that didn't work and didn't inspire and that donors had no idea that they weren't making the impact they thought they were.
SYDNEY PAIGE WAS BORN
I launched Sydney Paige in 2013 as a buy one / give one benefit corporation where for every backpack sold, another (same high-quality) was filled with school supplies and donated to a child in need. Having come from the corporate world, this quickly migrated into partnerships with businesses to donate in higher volumes while engaging employees in community giving. In 2018, I launched the Sydney Paige Foundation as a 501c3 non-profit in order to grow and strengthen our impact.
FROM A MINDSET SHIFT TO A MOVEMENT
Of course, convincing sponsors to spend two to three times more than they normally would on backpacks was and continues to be an uphill battle. But hearing the feedback time and again from educators and non-profit staff that our bags bring on a whole other level of joy, confidence, and commitment to school within the kids we serve makes the challenge worth it. I am so grateful to all of our partners - both on the giving and the receiving ends of things - for their dedication to challenging the norm, getting donors to think differently about the impact they're making (quality over quantity), and ultimately raising the bar on providing for the youth who need us. Together, we have created a movement with infinite possibilities, and we've only just begun.
Giving Back Together,
Sydney and Paige are the daughters of our founder, Courtney Brockmeyer.
Courtney ultimately left her corporate career to start this Foundation. The driving reasons for this change were to:
make a difference in lives of children in need
spend more time with her family
teach her girls about the importance of education & giving back
be an example that women can be successful CEOs
show her girls how challenging the status quo, with constant creativity and passion for what they believe in, can lead to such fantastic positive change in the world