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Pay it forward!


The last time I was at our home on the Chesapeake Bay, our neighbor’s grandkids were visiting. They were having a great time skipping stones across the water. Do you remember doing that as a kid or with your kids or grandkids?

The effect, of course, is that you can see ripples in the water. And the more ripples, the better.

Have you ever thought about the ripples you make with your business? I want to share four stories about ripples. One I shared several years ago. The others I have not.


In 2012 I connected with Clara Vargas, a Master Sergeant in the US Army. At that time Clara was stationed at Shinand Airbase in Afghanistan. Clara and her team of American and International soldiers were tasked with the mission of teaching more than 4,000 widowed Afghan women how to sew. The goal was two fold: to show the Afghan people that they could do for themselves rather than rely on charity or terrorists for survival and to show them that American troops were there to keep them safe and to help them rebuild their country for themselves and their children.

I went on to write an article about Clara and her mission that was published in The Professional Quilter. After that, Clara wrote to me, “I always said, ‘You don’t have to be a Soldier to make a difference around the World.’ You’re one of my Heros! I truly LOVE the article. God is good to me, he provided you to our mission. I thank you again, for keeping our Soldiers safe in Afghanistan. We are winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, and I believe because of that more Soldiers will returned Home to their loved ones.”

Clara’s email got me thinking about the ripple effect and how even the smallest thing we do makes a difference. Did I think writing an article and publicizing the mission was keeping soldiers safe? It is easy for me to look at what I do and not see something significant. I publish business content and coach women on how to grow their creative businesses. If I really think about it, I can see how helping someone grow her business in turn lets her support herself, add to her family support or change how she views the importance of her contribution. But I need to look even further to the people that person will effect. It is really pretty astounding what one person can do in the scheme of things.


Someone else who is making ripples is Maggie Ball with Dragonfly Quilts. Maggie answered an email call from Selenge Tserendash, a young Mongolian lawyer eager to help needy Mongolian women both economically and socially. Beginning in 2004, Maggie made her first trip to Mongolia to teach women how to quilt. Selenge’s mission was to establish a community center in Ulaangaatar where Mongolian women could meet for quilting and other crafts, take quilting classes and run a shop to sell their wares. In 2008, Maggie headed a capital campaign that raised $80,000 to purchase a permanent facility for the center. Maggie’s latest trip was in 2014, and she details the activities of the center with periodic updates on her blog. Since Maggie became involved, more than $200,000 has been raised in the United States for this project, which has significantly impacted the women at the center and their families.

Washington, DC

A third example is Rachel Hope Needle, founder and designer of HopeRocks Jewelry. The inspiration for Rachel’s sophisticated, handcrafted jewelry comes from creativity and a connection to nature. That connection to nature reminds her to focus on what truly matters. To Rachel, that means equality, civil rights, and social responsibility, and that “why” is what fuels her design and her business. In addition to allowing her to connect with nature, it lets her make a difference in the lives of young women, specifically teen parents. She donates 10% of the price of each piece of jewelry to support Generation Hope, a charity in the local Washington, D.C., area that provides mentoring and scholarships to teen parents pursuing college degrees. . Generation Hope’s mission is to offer a two-generation solution to alleviating poverty by providing teen parents with the emotional and financial support they need to graduate from college, rise out of poverty, and create a brighter future for their children.

Rachel’s jewelry is handcrafted in the United States and also in Vietnam by a women’s cooperative comprised of highly skilled artisans. This cooperative pays higher than average salaries and also pays for the workers’ children to go to school. Education, both in the United States and Vietnam, leads to financial independence. Her hope is that the movement leads to spread kindness, alleviate poverty and create a better future for all our children.


In 2013 the Savar building collapsed in Bangladesh killing 1,134 and injuring about 2,500 people, including many women who worked in garment factories housed there. After the tragedy, Hema Halel launched an initiative to support 100 families and 132 children for one year. Her initial goal was to provide food, clothing, and basic necessities for the survivors as they tried to recover physically and emotionally.

It was important to find a way for the affected families to begin to earn income again, and Hema started Hems & Hues with 20 artisans. The artisans learned to sew making bags. The following year, additional women learned to embroider, quilt and dye fabric. Today, these artisans work full time creating colorful handmade Kanthas (quilts/blankets) and clothing. They are rebuilding their lives, and the lives of their children, and they are independent wage earners.

Little steps

Would you like to create a bigger ripple? The sure fire way to do that is to stop keeping yourself a secret —  share your message and skills with the world.

For each of these women, creating a ripple effect required them to step out of their comfort zones and share themselves on a larger platform.

It didn’t require them to share on a huge platform, just to share. It’s about taking one step to share your story, your message.

Then take the next step and share it further. That’s how you create ripples in the world and make a difference.


It’s your turn!

What are you doing to create ripples?



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One Response to “Pay it forward!”

  1. Laura Estes said:

    Little ripples, done consistently can become a great thing. Sharing the “art” we make, brings beauty, joy and pleasure to others. Showing, sharing or selling, it adds a point of civility to our world. Volunteering, giving spawns more giving, paving the way and encourages others to let their talent be seen and shared. These ripples can push back the dark and sad state of the world, just as water ripples push back the beach, grain by grain, inch by inch.

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