Feb 3, 2017
Good is the New Cool: Yoobi
Ever wondered how you could support ethical, sustainable businesses? Welcome to a regular series highlighting products, services and organizations that are ‘doing well by doing good’.
Yoobi creates fun, colorful supplies for the school, home and office that give back. For every Yoobi item purchased, they donate an item to a classroom in need right here in the U.S. through their partnership with the Kids In Need Foundation. We caught up with Chief Giving Officer Justin Wolff to find out more about what they do.
Please give us an overview of your organization? And what you do there?
I have the incredible job of being Yoobi’s Chief Giving Officer. What that means is I’m in charge of the company’s giving strategy, including organizing all of our donations throughout the year to classrooms in the U.S. To date, we’ve impacted over 2 million kids with our give and we aren’t stopping there!
How did this organization start?
Yoobi was founded on the belief that: (1) access to fundamental school supplies should be within reach of all kids, no matter what zip code they come from, (2) teachers should not have to spend money out of their own pockets in order to provide those supplies, and (3) each and every one of us can make a difference. And here we are, Yoobi – vibrant, fun and colorful supplies that give back! We’ve proven that you can launch a successful company and make a difference.
What is the purpose of this organization?
The purpose of Yoobi is to level the playing field in classrooms across the country. We want to make sure all students, regardless of their situation or background, have equal access to the tools and resources they need to succeed and get a great education. Our goal is to one day provide free school supplies to ALL classrooms that lack access to basic learning tools.
What are you proudest of?
To be honest, it is hard to identify a proudest moment as there have been so many. Every day I come into the office and see a team of people dedicating their time and energy to improving the lives of others and it makes me swell with pride.
How do you think you are different to your competitors?
What makes us different is our dedication to giving back.At Yoobi, it isn’t enough to create colorful and engaging products, we want to create teachable moments with every purchase. A pencil becomes more than a pencil when it ensures that another child has one to call their own for the first time. A folder becomes more than a folder when it inspires a child to think about others less fortunate. When kids have the Yoobi logo on their supplies, it’s like a badge of pride – letting others know they helped make a difference. Yoobi’s commitment to giving, and to creating a community of givers, sets it apart from any other brand in the school, home or office supply space.
What do your customers/community say about your organization that makes you happy?
Each week, we receive letters and posts from both customers and educators. One of my favorite things to hear is how Yoobi is inspiring kids to be more connected with their education through fun and colorful supplies. One teacher from Cheremoya Elementary in Los Angeles, said it best: “Receiving the Yoobi Classroom Pack made kids want to use the supplies and excited about doing lessons. Having their own supplies created a close relationship between what they were learning and the tools they had to learn.” Additionally, I love knowing that the supplies we donate truly make a difference to the teachers and students they serve. A teacher at Cooper-Carver Elementary in Dawson, GA wrote: “As a teacher, I have spent a countless amount of money on my students. The day I received the Yoobi products was one of the happiest days ever. I felt so appreciated as a teacher.”
But I think my favorite message of all are the ones that simply say, “I love Yoobi!” I think there are very few companies that have that kind of relationship with their customers and community. Every time I see a post or get a letter like that, I’m reminded of how important our mission is, the impact that it’s having, and how together, we are making a real difference, each and every day.
What is your favorite story about your organization?
Since launching Yoobi, nearly every day seems to generate a new story that reminds me of people’s capacity for doing good. I remember the first day I ever saw our products on the shelf at Target – thinking how amazed I was at seeing an idea become reality, while knowing the impact it was about to have. On a give trip in Ohio, I remember about 30 kids coming up to their teacher after receiving their supplies and giving her a surprise hug. There wasn’t a dry eye in the classroom. I remember on a give in Washington state, there was a blind girl in the classroom who couldn’t see how colorful her new supplies were so after we returned from that trip, we sent her a different set of Yoobi items that were fun to touch and feel (think fuzzy pencil case). We received a letter and a picture from her teacher afterwards thanking us. Although we did the giving that day, it made me feel like we were the ones who had something to be thankful for.
What difference do you make in people’s lives?
Every day we open our doors, Yoobi is impacting the lives of students, teachers and transforming shoppers into changemakers. For millions of students, we provide the first set of school supplies they can call their own. When we go on gives, we often hear things like “this is better than Christmas,” or “this is better than my birthday.” With these tools, students feel empowered, connected to their education, and their confidence goes up.
Currently, U.S. teachers spend on average nearly $500 per class per year out of pocket providing their students with essential learning tools. That’s over $1.6 billion a year. When we give a teacher a classroom pack with essential supply sets for 30 kids, that directly impacts that teacher’s pocket book, allowing them to save the money they work so hard for.
Finally, by creating colorful and affordable supplies, we’re democratizing change. A few bucks can transform any shopper into a changemaker. When a purchase equals a donation, consumers are empowered. This power is changing the way people shop and think about the world around them.
Where can people go to support your organization?
At Yoobi we like to encourage everyone to spread the Yoobi love and join the Yoobi family! Visit www.yoobi.com to learn more about how we give. You can shop for fun Yoobi items that give back at Yoobi.com, Target stores nationwide, or at our retail store at the Santa Anita Mall in Los Angeles. Finally, we like to encourage everyone that cares about equal access to education and supporting teachers to help spread the word about Yoobi by connecting with us on social media (Twitter: @yoobigives, Instagram: @yoobi, Facebook: /Yoobi).The more people that know there’s a brand out there that creates fun colorful stuff for the school, home or office that gives back, the more classrooms, teachers and kids we can impact together.
What are your plans for the future?
In just over 2 years, we’ve already impacted over 2 million kids. But we’re not stopping until all kids have equal access to essential learning tools. Our next major milestone is to impact 5 million kids.
To help us reach our goal, we’re excited to share our newest offering – Yoobi for Business. Yoobi for Business is a great way for companies both big and small to make an impact FAST! By simply switching to Yoobi for the same kinds of office supplies already being purchased, companies can start to impact classrooms in need, today. We offer three different ways to buy BIG and give BIG. It’s a simple way for companies to give back.
Afdhel Aziz is the co-author of book ‘Good is the New Cool’, a book on brands and social entrepreneurship available on Amazon now.
If you have a suggestion for a business or organization you think should be highlighted, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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