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The Art of Giving

Lynn Callaway

Posted on April 23 2017

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a tight-knit family with a strong matriarchal presence. My paternal grandmother, Artelia, was the first altruistic figure in my life. My first lesson in the art of giving was taught by her and her many selfless acts. Throughout my life, I’ve had many life lessons, failures, and accomplishments that have led me to seek a truer understanding of my life’s purpose. I am humbled and grateful that I have a platform to share with you, my thoughts.

When you think about it, giving is not an art at all. It is not a skill, sculpture, or painting that a person masters. It is innate within all of us — some more than others. When giving is about the giver, it is not “giving” at all — it is merely an act. In fact, true giving is the embodiment of selflessness.

The first thing that many of us must overcome is the notion that if you “give” that means you must go without. Giving comes from a place of understanding. As a youngster, my grandmother would always tell me “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” It was that compassion that led me to begin volunteering at a young age, serve as senior class president at my high school, act as a member of student government in college, and later join AmeriCorps. I’ve always found comfort in being a voice for those who are overlooked. I wholeheartedly believe that my happiness is intrinsically linked to helping others.

Growing up, I was told that you should go to college and major in something that would make you tons of money. Later, I realized that it made more sense to pursue jobs that I felt passionate about. As time passed, I began to wonder if both of those things could ever coexist in a happy medium. Nonprofit work stoked my interest and appealed to my desire to do good but working in that space still left a lot to be desired. Obviously, one doesn’t go into non-profit work for the money, but you need to be able to support yourself adequately. On one hand, I was finally doing meaningful work and on the other, the financial burden of that decision began to take its toll.

I don’t know how many times I was told, “yes, helping people is good and all, but you can’t do that full-time.” It was baffling to me how people were quick to dismiss the notion that meaningful work could also be profitable. Mario and I didn’t come from wealthy families, so we took up a few jobs here and there (not in our fields) to make ends meet. However, we did find time to volunteer to promote causes that we were passionate about. Specifically, we felt drawn to issues related to water conservation and eradicating food deserts. I always felt most comfortable interacting with people in the community, and I believed that it was important to understand their struggle. The “whys” have been of paramount importance to me since the beginning. How did they get to where they are? What circumstances took place for those conditions to be brought about? Many of the answers to these questions were obvious because I too have lived a life of poverty. 

I struggle with the notion that many companies and entire industries don’t put much stock into social responsibility and social entrepreneurship despite having the revenue to do so easily. We live in a world where governments, nonprofits, and grassroots organizations cannot be the only entities willing to grapple with social and environmental issues if we earnestly expect to bring about a paradigm shift.

With Ollie & Otto, we want to be the change that we would like to see in the world. Using skin and personal care as the medium to fight a water crisis may seem like an unlikely pairing, but when you think about the effects that personal and skin care products have on the environment and its many inhabitants, it makes total sense.

We want our products to be a beacon for positive change in this industry. Honestly, we would all be better off if more companies incorporated social responsibility into their business models. Imagine the impact that would arise from companies donating 5%, 10%, or 20% of their profit to worthwhile causes or approached business in a way that doesn't leave communities worse off. Now, imagine how we could improve the world by simply aligning our efforts and staying the course when adversity arises.

Ollie and Otto is in a position to stop imagining and start doing. We are happily donating a portion of our proceeds to fight the good fight no matter how overwhelming the odds may seem. Our hope is that we are the beginning of something great in this space.

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