Recently, I started listening to a podcast called “How I Built This”. This particular podcast highlights interviews with entrepreneurs talking about how they started their companies from scratch and grew them into successful enterprises.
As the Founder of Maple Tree, stories like this fascinate me. I can so closely identify with the blood, sweat, and actual tears these business owners have poured into their companies. In a world where people tend to only show the social media-worthy highlight reels of their lives, there is something refreshing about hearing these stories of grit and tenacity.
Because, the truth is, building something great isn’t always easy. There are tears, feelings of self doubt, times of loneliness, frustrations, and times where all you want to do is quit.
That is why when I look back on the story of Maple Tree, I can’t help but recognize that we only have been able to grow to this point because of God’s amazing grace. It is so clear to me that Maple Tree isn’t a story about me and my success – it is a story about Him and His faithfulness!
I could write a book about all the times God has come through in amazing ways for this organization. And maybe someday, I will. For now, I want to share some of these stories with you through the platform of this blog. My hope is that it inspires you to trust and obey God in your own life. If He can show up for me, He can – and WILL – show up for you, too! His blessings are abundant!
Use Your Gifts
The first story I’d like to share with you is about hair bows.
For those of you who have been following our journey from the beginning, you already know about the hair bows.
For those of you who are new to Maple Tree, you probably are a little confused. That’s okay – I’ll explain!
When we first received word of our non-profit application approval on June 16, 2011 I was sooooo excited…..for about 7 seconds….then I begin to panic.
“What am I supposed to do now???”
“Who am I to try to do this?”
“How in the world do I even run a non-profit?”
“Is it too late to change my mind?”
You could say I was freaking out.
I had no doubt that God was calling me to do this. I even believed that He was going to help me along the way. But in that moment, all I could see were my (many) short-comings.
When I feel overwhelmed, it helps me to make a giant to do list and work through it one step at a time.
So that’s what I did here. It went a little something like this:
- Raise money
- Print flyers
- Get a website
- Introduce myself to oncology offices
- Tell oncologists how to refer patients
- Find ways to spread the word through speaking engagements
(Of course, there was more, but you get the picture…..)
So lets start at step one: raise money.
Hmmmmm…….Well, I really didn’t like asking people for money. Eight years later, and I still don’t really like it. So I tried to be creative. First, my kids held a lemonade stand. They drank most of the profits, but we still came away with nearly $50. It was a good start and began to build my confidence in my fundraising abilities!
Then one morning I was brushing through my daughter Abby’s hair. When she was little, Abby had wild and crazy curly hair that was difficult to manage. So, my philosophy was to comb through it as best as I could, then pin it up with a big hair bow and hope no one noticed that it was still a little tangled underneath 🙂
Because of that, we had a lot of hair bows. Most of them, I had made in an attempt to save money (and to match her pretty dresses!).
That’s when it hit me. I could make hair bows and sell them to raise money for Maple Tree!!
It seemed like a good idea. I quickly figured out that I could make bows to raise enough money to assemble 100 care packages. This would help me make introductions at oncology offices and start a referral system – and, most importantly, allow me to cross numbers 1, 4, and 5 off my list!
I determined that I would need $1500 to do this….sooooo…. 300 hair bows. How hard could that be?!
Cue: self doubt.
“But Karen, hair bows have nothing to do with your mission statement. Won’t you confuse people?”
“Who would buy these hair bows anyway?!”
“Won’t you be embarrassed to put yourself out there like that on social media??”
You can either identify with this, or you think I’m a crazy person. But the truth is, I was struggling through this seemingly insignificant decision!
I decided to give it a try anyway and see what happened. After all, I didn’t really have much to lose at that point. I figured that if I couldn’t try this out now, I’d never have the courage to do anything with Maple Tree!
So one night, after I tucked my kids into bed, I sat down at my dining room table and began to make hair bows. I bought some breast cancer awareness ribbon I thought was cute, and went to work.
While I was working, I was listening to my favorite radio station, KLOVE. About 30 minutes in, the DJ quoted the Bible verse of the day, and explained how it meant that we were to use the gifts God had given us to do what He had called us to do in life.
In that moment, I felt as if he was speaking directly to me. I actually felt like God was there with me, cheering me on as I made those hair bows.
With each bow I completed, I became more and more confident that I was on the right path, and felt that God was going to bless my efforts.
Before I went to bed that evening, I had made 15 hair bows. I quickly snapped a picture of them and uploaded it to facebook (not an easy thing to do 8 years ago – this was before smart phones!!). I told everyone I was selling these bows for $5 each, hoping to raise $1500 by the end of the month so I could make 100 care packages for cancer patients.
By the morning, every single one of those bows had sold.
I have some amazing friends! I had also just made $75. Suddenly, $1500 seemed to be within reach.
Each night, after my babies went to bed, I made hair bows. Night after night. Bow after bow. I had never felt more at peace and content in my entire life. For the first time ever, I felt like I was on the exact right path God had for me. I felt like He was sitting with me each night encouraging me along the way.
I believed with my whole heart that we would reach $1500 by the end of that month. I didn’t know how, I just knew we would.
On the final day of the month, I was still about $160 short of our goal. At this point, I figured we were close enough that I could just write the check myself and get us to the goal. However, I had this strange feeling that I could not ignore, and I knew that we would reach our goal without my check. I didn’t know how, and I can’t explain why, but I knew we would!
That morning, right after I got to work, a woman in the office next to mine walked in. She told me that on her way in, God had laid on her heart to support what I was doing. Right then and there, without knowing how much money I needed, she wrote me a check for the exact amount I needed to reach my goal.
God had come through. Just like I knew He would.
And the rest….well, I’ll save that for another blog!