One woman with an idea and the passion to follow through on it really can change the world.
That was the inspiring message Lauren Bush Lauren, the founder and CEO of the socially conscious business FEED, told an audience of more than 200 of Charlotte’s female leaders during the Visionary Women Luncheon on Monday at the Mint Museum Uptown. It was hosted by Queens University of Charlotte in partnership with Wells Fargo Private Bank and the Mint Museum.
Lauren, the granddaughter of former President George H.W. Bush and the niece of former President George W. Bush, came up with the idea for her business while a sophomore at Princeton. As a World Food Programme (WFP) Honorary Student Spokesperson, she spent her school breaks and summers visiting countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa where WFP operates School Feeding programs.
“On my first stop on my first trip, I saw kids that should have been running around but they were so malnourished they lacked energy and curiosity,” Lauren told the attendees. “A mother put her son in my arms. I thought he was 3. He was 7.”
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Frustrated by wanting to do more to help, she used her love of fashion and design to create the first FEED bag. It was made of burlap, similar to the bags used by WFP to distribute food, and had the number “1” on it to signify that purchasing the bag would provide enough meals to feed one child in school for one year.
In 2007, after she graduated, she founded the company that has now provided more than 87 million meals through sales of its products, and the number goes up each day. The FEED line has expanded into 50 different types of bags as well as accessories and apparel. FEED has also forged partnerships with businesses including Target and Pottery Barn. Currently FEED is working with Clarins makeup for a small FEED bag filled with what Lauren calls a “gift with purpose” instead of a gift with purchase, and the home furnishings store West Elm where FEED aprons and tea towels are sold. Products are also available at www.feedprojects.com.
She told the women in attendance that an added bonus to WFP’s School Feeding programs is that more girls are going to school. “Sometimes girls don’t go to school because they are in charge of taking care of siblings or doing chores around the house. Knowing that students are going to be fed is an incentive for parents to send their children to school.”
During a Q&A with Queens University of Charlotte president Pamela Davies, Lauren was asked what her ultimate goal was for FEED. “To close our doors because we wouldn’t be needed anymore.” She also offered these tips for anyone who wants to make a difference whether it’s locally or globally.
- To discover your passion, think back to what you loved to do in your free time when you were child. For Lauren, it was making things and selling them.
- Hone in on where you can make a difference and never let the negative voice in your head tell you that you can’t do it. Always feel that you have that power to make a difference.
- Once you identify a cause that’s true to you, take that passion you have and your God-given talents and use them to do something to help others.
Immediately following her talk, Lauren flew back to New York City to attend the Met Gala with her husband, David Lauren, a graduate of Duke whose father, famous designer Ralph Lauren, created the red dress she planned to wear. “It’s a special night for us because we met there eleven years ago,” she said.
The program continued with a panel discussion by Charlotte City Council At-Large Member Vi Lyles and Premier president and CEO Susan DeVore that was moderated by Joan Zimmerman where they shared their thoughts on making a difference and leaving a legacy.
To close out the event of women’s empowerment and networking, Mint Museum president and CEO Kathleen Jameson told guests that the museum had been chosen over other museums including ones in New York, Atlanta and D.C. to host the exclusive exhibit “Her Action: Women in Abstract Expressionism” planned for fall 2016. It’s the first major museum exhibition to focus on the groundbreaking women artists affiliated with the Abstract Expressionist movement during its seminal years, between 1945 and 1960, including Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, and Grace Hartigan.