Sydney Paige's buy one, give one philosophy
helps underserved children
By Lou Fancher
Sydney Paige Inc. is redefining the term "BOGO."
Instead of "buy one get one," the Moraga-based women's business enterprise is distributing thousands of "buy one give one" backpacks and accessories. For every high-quality backpack purchased, another model-matching backpack, filled with approximately $40 of school supplies, is donated to underserved children across the country.
Founder and CEO Courtney Brockmeyer is applying to the buy/give endeavor the marketing know-how she used while leading growth initiatives for over a decade at Fortune 100 company Nestle.
"An initiative I led brought food and beverage solutions to lower-income communities," she said. "With that, I was in people's homes, saw their kids, heard their struggles. That's where this began. I wanted to help."
Specifically, Brockmeyer wanted to help kids stay in school.
"I researched and learned the top reasons kids drop out are lack of confidence," she says.
Discovering a 2012 U.S. Census report that said 16 million children in America live in poverty, and a National Education Association statistic that said low-income youth are six times more likely than kids from higher-income families to drop out of school didn't necessarily surprise Brockmeyer. After all, she grew up, if not in poverty, aware of economic divides.
In her middle class Southern California home, the family clipped coupons, saved for vacations. Other kids had the gated community, the BMWs, the designer backpacks. She attended Pepperdine University on scholarships.
"People who didn't even know me were giving me money to follow my dreams," she marvels. "From that moment on, I had a heart to give."
She also had a husband, Dale, and two daughters, after which the company is named: Sydney, now 8, and 10-year-old Paige.
"My kids were living in a bubble, very spoiled. That's why I have them go to the give events. We need to appreciate what they have."
It worked. After distributing lunch bags and pencil cases at Foster Care Counts events or books to Boys & Girls Clubs, Brockmeyer says her older daughter began washing her toys and suggesting they give them to kids without playthings.
"It was a total flip flop for my family," she says.
Brockmeyer's giving energy extends beyond kids to women, particularly to women like Sydney Paige's director of sales Tenaya Garrett. The young mother of three, ages 1, 3, and 9, left the corporate world to attend to her kids and assume PTA presidencies.
Caught questioning her value to the larger community, she says involvement with Sydney Paige has galvanized her ambition.
"I've had an opportunity to believe in myself again," Garrett says. "I've opened up to the idea that anything is possible. I can give kids resources. I can be an example of not giving up."
Brockmeyer says that checking a donation box on a form or sending a cheaper version of a pair of shoes isn't enough to help a child -- nor is it wise to overlook the collective smarts of women to own and operate successful, yet still generous, companies.
"When you start a business, you have to do everything. You have to have confidence, but also awareness that you don't know everything," she says. "The confidence gives me the feeling I can learn anything. The awareness has me hiring people to do various aspects. Perseverance and passion are vital so that you keep going."
Brockmeyer pays her co-workers but does not herself yet draw a salary. With a $100,000 Small Business Association loan and $200,000 from her 401K invested, she's planning to gradually pay back the investments under the company's benefit corporation structure. The business model allows her to retain legal control, unlike in a nonprofit business that wields governance to a board.
In 2014, the company donated more than $100,000 in items. This month, Google and Volunteers of America of Northern California and Northern Nevada partnered with Sydney Paige to send 10,000 backpacks to children in need. Sydney Paige products are sold online, through retailers and via fundraisers.
Next on Brockmeyer's agenda is upping last year's ante.
"This year, it's over one million (in the value of items) we'll donate," she says. "I want to reduce homelessness and educational deficits. I want to have collective impact; to continue to raise the bar on buy/give."
Garrett adds, "Next year, if we could help even more children -- well, it would touch my soul. I was raised by a single dad. To help kids have beautiful things, there's no word that encompasses being able to give like that."