I started my first company, Balloon Zoom, with my sisters, Anna, and Leila, when I was in kindergarten. Check out this video of five-year-old me, building a frame for our first balloon column!
In the six years since this video was taken, Balloon Zoom's balloon decor has grown increasingly complicated. But one thing has remained the same: Balloon Zoom gives. Locally, Balloon Zoom has given money to Janney Elementary School, donated balloons to school auctions and Prana for Preemies, twisted balloons in local nursing homes, and bought coats for elementary school children who needed warm clothes. Internationally, we've bought goats, chickens and ducks for families in need through Heifer International.
I want to keep giving at the heart of Imagine Plush as well. That's why a bee is this company's first product. I wanted to both put bees in the spotlight, and put my money where it would help local bee populations. Imagine Plush's first donations will go to the Bee Informed Partnership, which works with area beekeepers and the University of Maryland (College Park) to help honeybees thrive in my backyard.
But, today, I want to talk about another form of giving. I have learned, through running Balloon Zoom, and starting Imagine Plush, that helping local businesses is also a powerful way to give back to the communities we live in. I have been lucky to have been mentored by Gina Shaefer, who owns ten fabulous Ace Hardware stores in the D.C. Metro area, including the Tenleytown Ace Hardware across from my old elementary school. I've been supported by Dr. Roya Pilcher, a wonderful pediatric dentist who has her own Washington, D.C. practice. Dr. Pilcher has not only been a loyal client since Balloon Zoom began, but introduced me to the talented Kimberly Hudson, the owner of visual communications firm Claritas Creative in Crystal City, VA. The Imagine Plush logo that you see on this website, the hangtags that will be on my bee, my business tags and banners, are all Kimberly's creations.
I'm honored to say that Kimberly's company yesterday awarded the first Suzanne Turner Creative Empowerment Grant to Imagine Plush, and that the grant, which she created to help local women-owned businesses that give to the community, will help fund my first plush run.
My definition of giving has been changed by these creative, energetic women. My company will support bee research. It will also donate plush bees to local children who might need the comfort of a toy in a scary situation. But I hope that my company, too, will be able to help other girls and women who own businesses in my neighborhood, and inspire them to pay it forward.