It's easy to say that you want to do more: volunteer, donate to a good cause, spend time giving back to your community. But, really, it's hard to find extra time and money and the excuses just pile up. But that's where The Soulfull Project comes in. The hot cereal company makes it incredibly easy for you to give back and all it takes is buying delicious hot cereal for your own enjoyment.
For every serving of The Soulfull Project hot cereal that's purchased, the company donates a serving of their 4 Grain cereal to a food bank in your region. It's an awesome way to encourage your own family to eat better and also help ensure that someone less fortunate in your area is getting the quality food they need. (We're personally hooked on the Brown Sugar Pecan Multigrain Hot Cereal.) So far, The Soulfull Project has donated 100,000 servings to 200 food banks across the country, which is pretty impressive for a company that's only been around about a year.
Megan Shea is the brand's co-founder and head of business operations and she gave us the lowdown on The Soulfull Project and why giving back is so important to her and the brand's mission.
Please tell us about The Soulfull Project and why you started it.
We started The Soulfull Project after we had met a family struggling to not just eat well, but to put food on the table. We made a promise to ourselves that we would do something meaningful to help them. But unfortunately, like so many of us, life got in the way. We never followed through on that promise.
We were later reminded of that promise and realized that there are so many people, like us, that want to help others in need, but often don’t know where to start. So, we created The Soulfull Project to give people a chance to make a positive impact in their communities by buying food they feel good about.
What made you decide to use the one-for-one model?
We created Soulfull as a buy one, give one because we wanted to find a way to make giving a part of your everyday life, but also to ensure that the giving means something to you. For every serving of Soulfull that someone purchases, we donate a serving of our 4 Grain Cereal to a food bank in the region purchased. The Food Bank of South Jersey, as our first partner, helped us develop our 4 Grain cereal based on the needs of food banks.
What is your biggest career achievement so far?
Creating and launching The Soulfull Project has been the biggest achievement of my career so far. Neither of us started out with a goal of being entrepreneurs. But, when we realized that we had this opportunity to create a business that could have an impact and help others, it has become a driving force in our lives. Over the past year and a half, it has been grueling but truly incredible to realize that a crazy idea we had has grown to provide an opportunity where we could donate over 100,000 servings to 57 food banks in our first year in market.
What are three things that have gotten you to where you are today?
1) The people we meet continue to inspire me and push me to make a difference. Whether it’s a volunteer or someone who needs food… they remind me how lucky I am to be doing this and how much more we can do to make a difference.
2) My family. It’s so important to me to be able to not only tell my kids what it means to do something good, but to show them. Their support and patience have been a driving force in keeping me going.
3) Laughter. Even when things seem too difficult to figure out, we have still been able laugh and find the humor in situations.
What are some upcoming goals for The Soulfull Project?
Our first short-term goal was to donate 100,000 servings and we achieved that in our first year! We have now set our site on donating 1,000,000 servings of our hot cereal to food banks across the country.
We are focused on growing the business so that we can bring The Soulfull Project across the country and into as many people’s lives as possible. We continue to ask ourselves what would our communities look like if every one of us volunteered an extra hour a year or helped a local food bank with your everyday purchases? We are focused on building this business and mission so that we can one day answer that question.
Could you share your favorite anecdote from The Soulfull Project thus far?
This mission is so personal to us that we have been travelling from food bank to food bank across the country to meet with their representatives and volunteers. I feel like most of my favorite memories are inside of a car. The thing is, you just never know what the people you meet will say when you tell them what The Soulfull Project is all about. I liken it to showing someone that piece of artwork that you’ve spent so much time on and are so proud of, and hoping that they will hang it on their fridge. We plan our trips so that we can visit as many food banks as we can along the way and sometimes it can get pretty crazy… hours of driving with just a few quick stops for gas as we follow our hand drawn maps. I’ve found that each trip is worth every minute, because with every food bank stop, we meet someone who inspires us to keep doing what we are doing.
On one particular trip, we were driving through West Virginia to meet with the Mountaineer Food Bank, and we pulled up to this tiny food bank back in the woods. We walked in and we were greeted by Michelle, Rodney and Jim. They sat with us and told us their stories and in the middle of our conversation, Michelle got a call: “We need 25 senior food boxes made up and delivered right away. Can you guys help?” And just like that, we hopped in our car and headed to their warehouse and helped them pack up food for 25 senior citizens. They were so grateful and as we drove away, I couldn’t help but think… that’s what I love about doing this, we get to meet all of these amazing people. These people truly make a difference and today, we lent them a hand.
What's the best part of your day?
We are constantly visiting the foodbanks to learn more about their organizations and their communities. Earlier this month, we spent the week in Tennessee meeting with each of the food banks and dropping off their first donations. It’s been incredible to walk into these food banks and see that each of them, just like the communities that they serve, are so different. We have been fortunate to be able to travel to so many communities across the country and sit and talk with them about what they need and how we can help them. We also get to meet these incredible individuals that are volunteering or working to help their neighbors. It’s truly inspiring and so motivating.
What advice would you give someone else looking to give back in a meaningful way?
Start. Just start somewhere, because every hour and dollar has an impact. When we had made that initial promise, we didn’t know that every contribution is meaningful. After spending the past year and a half meeting with food banks across the country, I have realized that every hour a volunteer gives, every dollar donated, and every item purchased makes a huge difference to helping a neighbor in need. The one hour you volunteer at a food bank could pack 25 school backpacks for kids to have at home on the weekends. The need is so great in every community in this country, that even the smallest contributions matter.
At Livingly, our motto is "live life beautifully." What does living beautifully mean to you?
Beauty is inside and out and living life beautifully means that making a difference and helping your community starts in your soul and ends with a smile.