About 10 days ago, I received an email from FedEx.
This wasn't the normal daily email I get from them that tracks my outbound packages or anything that had to do with my regular shipping services. No, this one was from the Small Business Center. It contained good news: we'd been chosen as a finalist for their small business grant contest!
The news came after a month and a half of asking friends, family, and customers to vote for Handcrafted HoneyBee in the competition. I even had some people set daily reminders on their phone so they could vote for us! While the social aspect of the competition wasn't the final deciding factor, it did determine eligibility for finalist status.
The 100 finalists were chosen from a larger pool of applicants (no stats are available for this year's competition yet, but past years have shown a pool of over 5,000 applicants in a single year). All of the applicants were asked to create a page for their business, discussing what we offer, how the business impacts the community, and what we would do with the grant money. (You can view our page here.)
Then, for 5 weeks, we asked the public for daily votes. But the votes weren't the only deciding factor. FedEx also chose finalists based on business model, social commitment, and what we would do with the grant money. After the five weeks ended, we waited to hear about the next step.
When I received that email 10 days ago, I felt a mix of pride and excitement. But I felt even more excited when I read the next necessary step for the Round 2 submission: they asked us to make a video that discussed why we are passionate about what we do. I knew exactly what I wanted to talk about.
I'd talk about the thing that has gotten me excited my whole life. The thing that still gets me giddy every day. The thing that's been woven into pretty much everything I've done for the last 20 years.
So I sat in my studio with my iPad as my camera and filmed myself speaking from the heart.
I didn't script out anything. I didn't plan out what I was going to say. All I thought about was interview questions I would ask myself. And then I filmed my answers.
We don't know the results of the competition at the time of this writing, but I'm so glad I had the opportunity to put my passion for Handcrafted HoneyBee on film.
Keep your fingers crossed for us! We'll definitely be posting more if we're chosen as one of the grant recipients (there are 10 in total). Grants are announced to the public on July 11th!
Read below for a full transcript of our 2016 FedEx Small Business Grant contest video submission:
The very first job I ever got was as a summer school aide for a first grade class. And that's when I was 16 years old.
Almost every job I've ever had has been involved in education in some way.
I was a high school teacher. I worked in special education as a one-on-one assistant. I taught singing at a music camp. I taught childbirth education. I taught infant sign language. I was a first grade teacher.
I think that education is instilled in my heart. It's one of my biggest passions because knowledge is empowering.
Knowledge is what helps someone go from thinking they can't do something to fulfilling a potential they never even knew they had. That's really magical to witness, and it's even more magical to participate in.
When we started our business, it wasn't even a business at the time. It was just something that I loved to do. I loved making skin care.
I shared it with my friends and eventually ended up selling it. But, of course, I couldn't hold all of that in. I had to teach it. And I taught soap making. And I taught lip balm making.
But I wanted to teach more. I wanted to expand my reach.
Eventually, we ended up going in the direction where we wanted to position our kits so that they had lessons for girls & young women. I knew that it had to be more than just a project.
I knew that it had to be something that could take a girl from that: "I don't know if I can do this" mindset to: "Wow! I can do almost anything."
That's the power of teaching.
I don't think I'll ever stop teaching. It's too much fun! It's just one of those things: you can take the girl out of the classroom, but you can't take the teacher out of her.
Our kits infuse arts and science and math…and whatever other lessons I could cram into there! Because I want girls to know that the things that they do…that they love…that are fun can also lead to so much more down the road.
Every experience we have is an opportunity to learn. Every experience we have is the chance to build on a dream for who you'll eventually become.
My kits are about taking something fun and helping you to know that you can do that and more.
Once I saw how empowering this was, I had to figure out how to grow it. Because a teacher never stops once she begins to see that fire inside of her students come out.
And I was beginning to see that with our customers.
There's so much more education. There's so much more teaching that I want to infuse into this business. There's so much potential out there.
It's so neat, because I'll have moms send me pictures of their girls after they've made their kits. And the looks in these girls' eyes: It's confidence. It's "Wow! I didn't know I could do that!" It's excitement. It's pride.
That's not something you can buy. That's an experience you have to have.
When you can empower someone to push beyond who they think they are, you help them to realize who they've been all along.
For me, that's what this is all about.