PIZZA! Just hearing the word brings joy to masses of hungry humans the world over.

But when it comes to a slice of cheesy, saucy, carby divinity, smell and taste (not hearing) are the only senses that matter.


I made this T-shirt. That's how much I love pizza. Photo by Mital Patel, used with permission.

At one San Francisco pizza restaurant, that's the message: We can't hear you, but our pies are OFF THE CHAIN.

In 2011, deaf pizza enthusiasts Melody and Russ Stein opened Mozzeria, San Francisco's first and only deaf-owned and deaf-staffed restaurant.

Image via Small Business Revolution/Vimeo.

In an interview with Upworthy, Melody Stein shared why they decided to take a big chance by starting a business:

"Being Deaf, I thought it was a far-fetched dream, but thanks to a change of attitudes and laws, I felt I had the chance. We knew we could deal with businesses and government with more confidence and insist on our rights when needed. When my husband Russell said he would support me, I went for it!"

And so far, business is good.

Photo by Small Business Revolution, used with permission.

Since their start, Mozzeria has been honored with a "Recommended" rating by the prestigious Michelin Guide and a People's Choice Award from Food Truck Wars, a competition of mobile kitchens held each year in Orlando, Florida. And their Peking duck pizza has been recognized as one of San Francisco's best bites by Zagat.

Image via Small Business Revolution/Vimeo.

Why staff a business with up to 95% hearing customers with workers who are all deaf?

That wasn't always the plan, Melody said, but they came to realize it was their duty:

"When we first opened, we decided to hire some hearing and Deaf employees. ... Over time, I felt that we should be extending opportunities to Deaf people who otherwise experience obstacles in getting opportunities, training, or employment. We thought the time had come to go all-Deaf. We have never regretted this decision."

Image via Small Business Revolution/Vimeo.

It wasn't easy at first. Take phones, for example — not the most accessible tool for the deaf. Fast Company reported that in its early days, Mozzeria missed half of their phone calls because the technology wasn't quite there for a deaf-run business.

Color-coded LEDs tell Mozzeria staff when calls are incoming or missed. Photo by Mozzeria, used with permission.

But online reservation sites, deaf-friendly technology like LED phone signals, and call routing through a sign language interpretive service (which I tested, and save for a mild delay, it works great) are allowing Mozzeria to bring in more customers than ever.

Calls to Mozzeria are routed through a national call center, where sign language interpreters relay information to deaf staff members in real time. Image via Small Business Revolution/Vimeo.

Despite their unique backstory, Mozzeria's goals are basically the same as other small businesses.

They want to grow. The ever-present challenge to that, says Melody, is "figuring out ways to survive in tough competition and rising costs of doing business in the city."

All while deaf, of course.

"In our daily lives, we face double standards. We have to educate hearing people about how to work with Deaf ... and be patient with us. And this on top of running a business and staying competitive." — Melody Stein

San Francisco. Smothered in spendiness. Photo by Mital Patel, used with permission.

They manage by doing exactly what they set out to do: make damn good pizza.

"Our food is being recognized for its innovation," says Melody. "San Francisco is known for its diversity, and we want to offer a diverse and interesting food menu."

Hosui pear pizza. Photos by Mozzeria used with permission.

Peking duck pizza.

Opening Mozzeria made Melody a third-generation restauranteur, following in the footsteps of her parents and grandparents, who ran successful Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong. Her heritage is sewn into Mozzeria's menu with tasty cultural mash-ups like Hosui pear pizza and their aforementioned signature Peking duck pizza.

The best thing about Mozzeria isn't even their pizza — it's what they represent.

The Steins' story gained the attention of Small Business Revolution, a documentary film project that "celebrates the vibrancy, variety and community impact of small businesses across the country."

Image via Small Business Revolution/Vimeo.

Amanda Brinkman, chief brand and communications officer at Deluxe Corp., the creator of Small Business Revolution, told me why they selected Mozzeria:

“When we learned more about the work Mozzeria does, both as an acclaimed restaurant and a space for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees to thrive, we knew we had to feature them. Their success ... is a testament to the quality of the food they make, their commitment to the community, and their supportive work environment. They're really redefining what it means to be successful entrepreneurs."

Too often, business success comes at the cost of humanity.

The Steins show not only that it doesn't have to, but also that disability doesn't have to be as limiting as we sometimes think.

Watch the video profile of Mozzeria by Small Business Revolution:

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Your weekly roundup of internet sunshine.

Hey everyone! Hope you're staying safe and healthy, and if you're not, at least you know you're not alone. I mean, omicron? Phew. Pandemics certainly know how to keep us on our toes.

If you need a respite or distraction from all that, we've got you covered. If immersing yourself in cute animal videos and feel-good stories of human awesomeness is wrong, who wants to be right? Nobody, that's who.

We all need a break from the less pleasant parts of life, and cheering ourselves up with simple, happy things is a tried and true way to push those endorphins and lift our mood for a bit.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

The scarf, a simple accessory that some find an essential fashion piece. Both fashionable and function with the warmth they provide, scarves can be a valuable gift for any occasion or person. Here, we've selected our best selling scarves from our store. At Upworthy Market, when you purchase a product, you directly support the artisans who craft their own products, so with every purchase, you're doing good. These scarves are not only unique, but they are hand-made by local artisans and all under $30.

1. Fair Trade Woven Dark Gray Alpaca Blend Scarf

Celinda Jaco selects a cozy blend of Andean alpaca for this handsome men's scarf. Classic in style, it features fine stripes of white and black woven through the dark grey textile. Hand-tied fringe completes a distinguished design.

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Ronny Tertnes' "liquid sculptures" are otherworldly.

Human beings have sculpted artwork out of all kinds of materials throughout history, from clay to concrete to bronze. Some sculpt with water in the form of ice, but what if you could create sculptures with small drops of liquid?

Norwegian artist Ronny Tertnes does just that. His "liquid sculptures" look like something from another planet or another dimension, while at the same time are entirely recognizable as water droplets.

I mean, check this out:


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