A young couple started a unique small business: one that gives back.
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Tillamook

When Caroline and Trey started their small business, they knew they wanted to run things a bit ... differently.

Here they are with their tea:


Hey there, Caroline and Trey! Image by Jen Christo.

The challenge they faced was this: How could they combine their delicious iced tea recipes with their love for community?

So they created solidariTEA, an iced tea company that donates 10 cents to community groups for every bottle of tea sold.

Caroline and Trey started brewing up (heh heh) the idea for solidariTEA in the spring of 2011 as a way to strengthen their community.

"We see communities as the societal equivalent of an ecosystem," they explained to me. "The stronger and healthier the community, the better it will be able to serve and support its members."

Even their cat loves the tea. Image courtesy of solidariTEA.

To get the project going, Caroline and Trey had to raise money of their own. They turned to microlending campaigns and even got a boost of support from Tillamook Co-Op members, which works hard to support community real-food projects.

Next up was deciding who they were going to support. The duo didn't just want to create a new community organization. They wanted to support the groups already doing great work on the ground. So they started partnering with existing community groups to provide an alternative to traditional nonprofit grant funding.

In May 2015, solidariTEA made its first donation of $3,500 to partner nonprofits. And that's just the beginning.

After the first couple years of making and selling tea, Caroline and Trey were able to make a donation in May 2015 that represented their sales through the end of 2014.

The solidariTEAm giving their first checks to community partners. Image courtesy of solidariTEA.

Who were the lucky recipients? Rock Paper Scissors Collective, a volunteer-run community arts organization, and People's Grocery, a group that aims to provide education and healthy local food choices to the community — both based in Oakland, California.

"We understand [that $3,500] is small potatoes now," Caroline and Trey told me, "[but] as we scale up our business we expect ... our teas to represent a real source of stable income to our partners to continue the amazing, grassroots work they do."

Still, their first donation is a huge success for everyone involved! That's $3,500 these community groups can spend "on absolutely anything that fits within their scope and mission." That's because, unlike traditional nonprofit grants, solidariTEA's donations are based on trust, respect, and solidarity and come with zero spending restrictions or strings attached.

Pretty cool, right?

Despite all the hard work it's taken to start their own business, Caroline and Trey say it's all been worth it.

"We've met a lot of really inspiring, wonderful people: people with big hearts who are doing bada** things, from which a lot of new friendships have grown."

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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One little girl took pictures of her school lunches. The Internet responded — and so did the school.

If you listened to traditional news media (and sometimes social media), you'd begin to think the Internet and technology are bad for kids. Or kids are bad for technology. Here's a fascinating alternative idea.

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Norton

This article originally appeared on 03.31.15

Kids can innovate, create, and imagine in ways that are fresh and inspiring — when we "allow" them to do so, anyway. Despite the tendency for parents to freak out because their kids are spending more and more time with technology in schools, and the tendency for schools themselves to set extremely restrictive limits on the usage of such technology, there's a solid argument for letting them be free to imagine and then make it happen.

It's not a stretch to say the kids in this video are on the cutting edge. Some of the results he talks about in the video at the bottom are quite impressive.

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