OUR STORY: FROM OUR FOUNDER
Welcome to the Sydney Paige Foundation!
I am so happy with how far we've come, ecstatic about where we're going, and excited to welcome you into our journey.
My personal journey began while working at Nestle on a worldwide initiative to create solutions for families in need. With this, I did research where I was 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. 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.
Few and far between, there were the kids who had "made it out" and that always centered around education - starting with graduating high school. 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 the expectations were low.
With education as the driving force to escape from the clutches of poverty, I dug into why these kids were dropping out of school at a rate of six times more than their peers. While there are instances of teens needing to earn money to help support their families, the proven top two reasons for school dropout are simply due to (1) lack of confidence and (2) the lack of tools to do their work.
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. 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, millions of dollars are spent each year on donations that don't work and don't inspire, and donors have no idea that they aren't making the impact they intended.
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.
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 side 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. They are our future and they deserve the very best.
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