We were making a profit regularly. We were growing constantly. We were in a great position for me to finally fulfill a lifetime goal that I had to go back to Africa. Hi, I'm Lotte Davis, and I'm the Co-Founder of AG Hair and Founder of One Girl Can.
The start of AG Hair had very humble beginnings in the basement of our home in North Vancouver in 1989. Who knew, after 15 years, that this would actually work, this insane idea that we had? And it worked on an incredibly large scale as well.
I was born in South Africa at the height of the apartheid era in the '50s. My mother carried a gun in her purse. And I knew that the way that people were treated was because of their skin color, and it did not sit well with me.
We moved to Toronto, and as a young adolescent growing up in that environment, I became aware of the discrimination against women. And it was not very different from what I had seen in South Africa. This motivated me even further to try to create change, so I just got on a plane one day and flew to Nairobi and figured it out from there.
I knew instantly that I was going to be doing this for the rest of my life. And it was at that point that I registered One Girl Can with the government of Canada and hired my first employee in Kenya. And together, we started to build a program that made sense and that became very, very effective.
We provide scholarships for girls in Africa, in Kenya and Uganda in particular, and we stay with that girl from the time she starts grade nine until she gets a job after university. We develop personal relationships with those girls, and we don't consider ourselves successful until she earns an income.
My company wanted to be involved right from the beginning, and even though we were a smaller player in the market, we became more important because of our philanthropic inclinations. We have a donation at checkout every time somebody buys a product, and many of our promotions are related to giving back to One Girl Can. Everybody in the organization was involved. We celebrate Giving Tuesday. We celebrate International Women's Day, International Day of the Girl.
I would say that AG Hair gives back to One Girl Can on a daily basis through every department. I think it's absolutely fundamental, absolutely essential that businesses have a philanthropic component to their business. Today, consumers demand it. It will reap untold rewards.
- Lotte's story is an amazing one. And here to help other business owners who are thinking about doing something similar, Jo-Anne Ryan. She's vice president of philanthropic advisory services at TD Wealth. She's also the executive director of the Private Giving Foundation. And Jo-Anne, it's always great to have you with us. If a business owner is watching this and thinking, how do I choose a charity to help, give us your thoughts about how they should do that.
- Sure, Kim, Thanks for having me. They should pick a cause that's really meaningful to the company and also aligns with the brand. It could be a cause or organization that's important to the owner or to the employees. There are actually over 86,000 registered charities in Canada, so there's no shortage of need out there. But I think engaging employees in charitable activities is great for team-building, and it boosts morale.
- Can we dig in a bit on that one about-- you said-- you know, you talk about engaging with your employees because they may have their own ideas, and I'm sure they're going to be making-- could be making donations to it as well.
- Absolutely. One thing you can do is consider matching employee donations, and a matching program can be a very meaningful part of the company's corporate social responsibility. If necessary, put a cap on it, but pledging to match your employees' donation will result in a greater charitable impact and positive employee engagement. And everyone loves to have their donations doubled. But you can get your employees engaged in lots of good volunteer activities with charities, also. It's not just giving money. It's giving time and getting together to do good.
- Now, we've talked about donor-advised funds before, but I wasn't aware that's something that a business could use as well.
- Absolutely. So a donor-advised fund's a simple alternative to establishing your own foundation, and minimum only $10,000 with the Private Giving Foundation. So in years when a business is doing well, they can put funds aside into a donor-advised fund. They get a donation receipt, and then every year, they have money available to give to charities.
Because what happens is in years typically when a business does well, they give generously to charities, but in years where the business is not doing so well, they don't have money to give to charities. But the charities in their local community will come asking every single year. So by establishing a donor-advised fund, then you can be sure that regardless of the volatility of your business, you have money available every year to support the causes that are important to you and your company.
- Jo-Anne, I've only got about 10 seconds. This is the most unfair question, but for International Women's Day, I know there's a lot of charities one could support, but just quickly-- I know Lotte's is One Girl Can-- what are some other ones people can think about?
- So in Canada, I would suggest Women's Shelters Canada is great, as well as the Canadian Women's Foundation. Outside of Canada, you might want to look at the Equality Fund. They're doing really great work globally. And then, of course, as you've mentioned, Lotte's charity, One Girl Can, is doing fantastic work for girls in Africa.