Eleven years ago, our lives looked much different. Dale and I weren’t what you’d call ‘natural health’ people. We had never been to Africa, and we didn’t have a garden.
Never would we have imagined that by 2015 we’d mark $1 million in personal donations to Africa through our business.
We were in our early fifties, so retirement was looming. If you’d asked Dale about his dreams, he’d have told you about a sailboat. He wanted to sell the house, reduce our possessions to what we could pack in a 20 foot hull, and see the world untethered.
I wasn’t so sure my dreams would be found in the belly of a sailboat. There was more I needed to do, but what, I didn’t know.
You might be surprised to learn that before Natural Calm, we were co-pastors of a church in the north end of Toronto. Our business was spiritual health.
In many ways, it’s been a huge shift, but there are parallels: as pastors, our profits were in lives changed. Today, with an award-winning, seven-figure business, I’d still say that’s where our profits lie.
But let’s backtrack to 2004. It was the year that everything changed with one trip to Malawi, Africa.
THE TRIP THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING
Dale and I had both seen poverty before; Dale, in some of the least developed parts of Latin America. But this was something else.
Even before AIDs, Malawi was among the poorest places on earth. The AIDS crisis further entrenched poverty and created a generation of orphans.
In Malawi, we were surrounded by orphans everywhere we went. We saw them spilling out of overcrowded huts. We saw them living on the streets.
It’s impossible to see a child in need without feeling a tug – a visceral response. Now, multiply that feeling by thousands. That is what it’s like to be in Malawi, surrounded by beautiful children who have nothing, and often, no one.
We knew we had to do something, but it wasn’t until 2005 that the pieces came together.
CONNECTING THE DOTS BETWEEN BUSINESS AND PASSION
You see, ten years ago this year I started the business. At first it was on a very small scale. I placed a modest order and sold it locally to retailers.
But Natural Calm practically sold itself.
Very soon we realized it could become a real business – not just a side venture. We saw the potential and made a decision: we’d build Natural Calm Canada and the profits would go to orphans in Africa.
It was – and is – exhilarating. We could help the orphans in a way that would scale. Instead of relying on the generosity of others, we could open our own pockets and give.
How does this giving work?
We do pay salaries – our own, and those of our staff – and we do invest profits back into the company, to make it grow. These are sound business decisions that create sustainability – important, because we want to keep giving for a long time.
When we’ve satisfied these requirements, we donate the rest. Year-to-year the total varies, but when we add it up, we’ve now surpassed $1 million. I’m especially amazed because for many companies, the first ten years is precarious – many barely keep their heads above water. We’ve managed to not only survive, but thrive and give.
THE HEART OF OUR BUSINESS
Within a year of our trip to Malawi we were building a not-for-profit that would soon become Organics 4 Orphans (O4O).
O4O is a grassroots solution to the problem of poverty. Through O4O, we empower communities to grow their own food and natural medicine. They become stronger, healthier, richer, and better able to care for orphans.
And so here we are: completely sold on natural health; deeply committed to organic agriculture; and more in love with Africa than ever.
What a decade!
Many times I’ve told the story about how Natural Calm helped my low bone density and insomnia. More importantly, Natural Calm helped me to create a much bigger impact in the world.
Please share the Natural Calm story! You can inspire other business owners to make a difference.