I grew up in a small town right outside of Scranton Pennsylvania called Fleetville. Being brought up in such a rural town allowed me to enjoy a lifestyle that included close friends, a verity of outdoor activities and having the opportunity to play any sport that I wanted. My parents would always encourage me to follow my dreams, and I can still hear my father say, “you are the only one standing in the way of achieving anything you want in life.” So I decided to dream big! Of course, I wanted to be a professional baseball player like all of my heroes that played for the New York Yankees. I can still vividly remember throwing the wiffle ball up into the air thinking of Michael Kay announcing, “and here comes the pitch!” With the strike of the bat, “this one is drilled to let field! Bonds is going back, on the warning track, this one is gone!” I laugh when I picture myself running around the bases in my backyard where the squirrels would be the only creature able to witness a little boy’s dream playout. Even though I wasn’t able to accomplish being a professional ballplayer, my father’s quote is still a reminder to chase my dreams and achieve my goals.
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit rushing through my veins, but it took me a while to recognize it. I distinctly remember the first time the enjoyment of being an entrepreneur hit me. It was an assignment to set up a dentist office for one of my Healthcare Management classes. I loved figuring out how to accomplish the task by being creative rather than using memorization skills like many of my other classes. This event quickly lead to my first entrepreneurial idea called MR. Bites! MR. Bites (a favorite among my college friends) was a food truck that would serve 40 different flavors of boneless wing bites! People would love when we'd test different sauces and give out samples at our college parties. Sadly, my friend Rich Majoriano and I knew it would be difficult to raise the necessary funds to support such an idea. MR. Bites was no failure though. The lessons I learned from MR. Bites offered me experience going into the world of entrepreneurship.
Tell us about your Social Enterprise, Give Back Bands.
Give Back Bands was created on the connection between charitable giving and dream chasing. I wanted to use a product that could motivate, empower and encourage someone to continue to chase their dream (like my own). At the same time, I wanted to give that same person the opportunity to choose where they would like some of the proceeds from the purchase to go. Today, there’s an issue of distrust with certain charitable organizations. People want to know what the money that they are donating is truly doing for people, animals, and the environment.
That is why I came up with the idea to allow my customer to research different charities that have partnered up with Give Back Bands on the “pick a charity” page. This page was created in the hopes of ultimately allowing the customer to pick which charity they would like to donate to with the proceeds of their purchase.
Give Back Bands feature empowering reminders to inspire women. How did you identify the need for these bands?
The quotes on the bracelets consist of motivational, funny and sometimes edgy sayings. A lot of other companies offer similar motivational sayings, but not everyone is inspired by the same thing. The vision for Give Back Bands is to offer a variety of words and phrases so that each person can be inspired by one that is special to them individually.
How do you define empowerment?
I understand empowerment as having the ability to control the outcome of your dreams and goals in life. So why is it so difficult to achieve empowerment? I think the hardest part is putting aside what others tell you what you can and can’t do, and having the courage to believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, how are you going to reach empowerment? You are the only person standing in the way. Stop accepting what society thinks of you. Go out there and write your own story.
Why do you think it’s important that men be involved in women’s causes and empowerment initiatives?
I feel like the most important thing a man can to do is to listen to what the women’s causes and empowerment initiatives are all about. Listening will help men develop a sense of what the issues are, and how both men and women can come together to achieve the goals of these causes. Men need to be involved. Being involved in this case means listening and understanding. I had a vision for Give Back Bands to help empower and motivative women to accomplish their dreams. I choose to listen and understand when women told me what empowered and motivated them.
I hope every woman on the planet understands her potential. It is great.
How do you think we could better involve men in this conversation in a way that they feel empowered?
I think it's about having the right conversations surrounding the subject. We have to stop debating subjects like this because it only separates us (men and women). No one wants to be told that they’re wrong. How is blaming one another for each other’s issues the right conversation? The right conversation consists of listening, understanding and answering one another’s questions. When a man takes the time to listen and understand the context of the conversation, then a woman has the opportunity to make him feel empowered. She can use some words of approval or encouragement at the end of the conversation.
What life lessons did you learn from your parents?
I owe my parents so much. They always took the time to put their children ahead of their busy personal schedules. I remember my father always telling me to “work smarter... not harder”. I enjoy a good laugh when I hear that phrase because he happened to tell me that one a lot. Both my mother and father taught me the meaning of never giving up. They always pushed me to be better in the sports that I played and would always offer me words encouragement before a big game.
Tell us a little bit about your own personal path of empowerment? What was significant?
My path of empowerment is directly related to starting Give Back Bands. I went to Temple University for Kinesiology with the plan to go directly to Physical Therapy school after. During my senior year, I increasingly enjoyed the freedom of creativity that being an entrepreneur provided. Once I had the idea of Give Back Bands, I was faced with a difficult decision whether I should just go for it or put all of my efforts towards going to Physical Therapy school. It was difficult for me to present the idea of Give Back Bands because I didn’t want anyone doubt my ability to achieve my vision. Certainly, entrepreneurship has its risks, but look at all of the lives that could be impacted positively.
"I replaced my ego, pride, fears, and doubts by dreaming of empowering others. Therefore, empowering myself."
What advice would you give to young people starting their own social enterprise?
Stop listening to people giving “advice” on starting your own business! You have to START. You will make mistakes, and it will be difficult, but there’s hidden treasure in getting your hands dirty. You will discover countless lessons that will never be forgotten which will only make your work in the future easier. Every single day I end up taking five steps forward followed by four steps back while developing my business. While that may seem discouraging, it is my way of knowing that I am learning the necessary skills to be an entrepreneur.
Who inspires you?
I’m often inspired by people who had next to nothing and were able to change their life drastically for the better. My favorite hip-hop artist, Logic, is a great example. Logic faced an endless list of difficulties while growing up. The guy made it his mission to become the best hip-hop artist by grinding every day. It’s lyrics like, “Rehearsing for hours in front of my mirror until my voice was hoarse, but my vision was clearer” that help keep me motivated to achieve my goals.
“Follow your dreams, this life ain't what it seems”- Logic
What’s your favorite achievement in life?
I’ve been blessed to have an amazing group of people in my life. This includes the family and friends that I’ve been able to build strong relationships with. Most people would name a significant life event that is short lived, but my favorite achievement will carry over a lifetime.
What is your vision or hope for women on the planet?
I hope that every woman on the planet understands her potential. It is great.
How can people get a hold of you and your business?