Gen “Z” and Gen”erosity” January 28 2018
HI! My name is Lea Olszeski! I am in my sophomore year at Milton High School and have lived in Roswell, Georgia all my life. I cheer for Milton High School's football and cheer competition team, and love it so much! I used to be a gymnast which I was SOOO passionate about and practically lived in the gym before I fractured my back and was not able to continue. So, I told my doctor that cheerleading might have to be a “step down,” but I have to be active 24/7. One of my favorite things to do on the weekends is have friends over and have an enormous bonfire. It’s a tradition we have! So that’s a little bit about me.
But I am here to tell you a story that turns out to be a bigger deal than planned, thanks to Jesus. My gymnastics coach, Macgill, was my everything, just as gymnastics was. She was always there for me. At practice she would work my butt off but only to make me a better gymnast and a stronger person in general. I’ve known her kids since they were born and I’ve been blessed to be the only “pretty cool” teenager she trusts to babysit her kids whenever they need a night out.
So I was surprised to found out from Macgill’s Instagram that she had been diagnosed with cancer. After reading her post, my heart kind of fell apart. My mind was racing. I thought, "she doesn’t have time for this! She has 3 boys. What the heck is happening?" I knew I couldn’t just sit and do nothing. So I turned to another one of my hobbies - making jewelry. All of my friends always ask me to make necklaces for them, so I just figured my friends and I could make these necklaces and sell them to raise money to help her family out. I thought we might raise $100 and it would still be cool to at least get them a week's worth of groceries. But no, God's plan was so much bigger, as it always is bigger than anyone ever imagines. I raised $900 to date!
My mom also set up a meal plan that all of our fantastic friends have been contributing to since the day Macgill was admitted to the hospital. Thanks to the meal plan, her husband, Mark, did not have to make a meal throughout their entire crazy journey.
Meanwhile, the $900 from the chokers paid for a wig she will be wearing for the next 2+ years because of chemo, and so much more! Doing this small but grand deed for this family has definitely impacted my life so much. It’s crazy that putting my heart and time into something like this fills my heart with such joy. I am in shock that a sophomore in high school can do something so simple, but that it can make a huge difference.
I hope that everyone sees my generation as inspiring and encouraging. My generation has access to anything and everything with the help of technology, but it does not make us necessarily selfish or spoiled.
People that I have never even met would come up to me and ask to donate and find out what more they could do to help. I encourage you to think of someone in your life who is struggling with something big or small, and figure out some way to hold out a hand and be there for them. Jesus helped me every step of the way.
Headbands of Hope - New Styles... Same Great Cause November 16 2015 2 Comments
by: Corey Washburn, marketing and communications intern
We’ve mentioned to you all before the Bourbon & Grits founders, Shannon Koontz and Missy Durkin, love to give back to the community. Since its earliest existence, Bourbon & Grits has been seeking ways to fulfill this goal, and came across “Headbands of Hope” in early February. These headbands have been featured in InStyle, Seventeen, Self, Lucky, and Vanity Fair, and have been worn by many celebrities including Lauren Conrad and Selena Gomez.
Jess Ekstrom started the company, “Headbands of Hope,” after completing a college internship for a wish-granting organization for children with cancer. Working with these children was rewarding for her in many ways, but also challenged her to think about the other ways she could give back. In April of 2012, she founded Headbands of Hope to help boost the confidence of little girls who were losing their hair due to chemotherapy. Recently, they’ve expanded their focus to girls’ headbands to include “buffs” for little boys as well.
So how does it work for the kids? For every headband purchased, another headband is given to a child with cancer AND $1 is donated to fund childhood cancer research. Since Headbands of Hope began, they have donated over $30,000 to support pediatric cancer research, and seek to reach beyond that accomplishment with every advancement in their business and through donations. How awesome!
Now, Headbands of Hope has become wildly successful. Just four months ago, in June 2015, they celebrated donating to every children’s hospital in the United States! The expansion of this organization continues as other businesses and organizations carry the headbands and other gear that is part of the “Hope Market” which was launched in September to carry jewelry, clothing, and other items.
Bourbon & Grits is passionate about carrying these headbands for many reasons. We have recently added even more Headbands of Hope styles, so that whatever you’re wearing – you can pair it with a beautiful headband to complete an outfit, while knowing that you’re supporting childhood cancer
research and a little girl who can’t wait to match one with her outfit, too.
Meet our newest Bourbon & Grits team member - Corey Washburn!
Corey is a senior and an English major with a double minor in communications and entrepreneurship at Wake Forest University. We met her at a Bourbon & Grits trunk show and instantly fell in love with her "fire" - she is so smart and funny, we knew that we had to bring her on board as our new marketing and communications intern.
Corey is a Chi Omega and a cheerleader at Wake Forest University, and when she is not getting tossed into the air - she is skydiving and flying planes! Corey will be wearing many hats for Bourbon & Grits including handling most of our social media, developing our college ambassador program that we are launching in the spring, and writing blogs for B&G. Today's is the first blog she has written - about the WFU Breast Cancer Fashion Show held this week, in which Bourbon & Grits had the honor of being one of the featured boutiques in the show.
Bourbon & Grits Gives Back in WFU Breast Cancer Charity Fashion Show
We recently celebrated Bourbon & Grits Boutique's first birthday, and in the midst of a full year of traveling, marketing, and learning from our customers, B&G has seen its styles on customers all over the U.S. - in 27 states and counting!
Though B&G started as a tailgate boutique, it has expanded its fashion to include styles for all occasions and in all seasons - from wear to work or class, to a casual day out with the girls, or to a night out. Now, Bourbon and Grits has once again dipped its toes into yet another area of customers' lives - charity, this time on the Wake Forest University campus in Winston-Salem, N.C.
On October 26, 2015, Wake Forest University hosted a fashion show through the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer awareness.
The show runs solely on a volunteer basis, and relies on companies to donate clothing for models to wear in their walks. Each sorority on campus nominates a senior to represent them in the walks.
This year's event was co-sponsored by the WFU baseball team who also participated in the walks with the models. Bourbon & Grits was one of two clothing sponsors for this year's event, and they donated two walks each for eight models.
The model walks showcased several of our new styles and some that have been customer favorites for a while - including Angry Rabbit jeans and Piko tunics; fall styles including fur vests and sweather dresses; dressy casuals including our new joggers; fun cold weather ponchos and cardigans; and of course, tailgating styles. We even threw in several black and gold outfits for the Deacs!
Models also had a creative hand in the styling - they used their own footwear and accessories to complete their outfits. We were so excited to showcase our new styles as well as sponsor such a meaningful event!
It was such an honor to help Wake Forest in this way while supporting something near and dear to all of our hearts - cancer research.
While Bourbon & Grits has always been hosting charity trunk shows, we were excited to have a hand in an event that makes such a difference - and were especially excited to see college girls (and boys!) come together to make this event successful.
100% of the proceeds from this event went to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
We look forward to being a part of more WFU Panhellenic or charity events soon!
***Photography by Dean Shore
Headbands of Hope: Pretty Headbands with a Prettier Cause February 06 2015 1 Comment
Since opening Bourbon & Grits Boutique, Missy and I have been searching for opportunities to "give back." That's why we were so thrilled when we recently discovered a headband line called "Headbands of Hope." .
Their products have been featured in InStyle, Seventeen, Self, Lucky and Vanity Fair (just to name a few) and have been worn by many celebrities including fashion icon Lauren Conrad, actress and singer Selena Gomez, and former Bachelorette Emily Maynard.
The company was started by Jess Ekstrom (pictured right) after completing a college internship for a wish-granting organization for children with cancer. Her experiences in her internship started her thinking about ways that she could improve the self-esteem of little girls who were losing their hair during chemotherapy. In April 2012, during Jess's junior year of college, she founded Headbands of Hope.
Here's how it works... for every headband purchased, another headband is given to a child with cancer, and $1 is donated to fund childhood cancer research. Since their launch, over 25,000 headbands have been donated, and $25,000 has been donated to pediatric cancer research.
You can learn more about their story by watching this interview from the Today Show (I dare you not to cry).
To see all of the beautiful Headbands of Hope products carried by Bourbon & Grits, click here.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Statistics about children and cancer
- A child is diagnosed with cancer every 3.5 minutes
- Cancer kills more children than any other disease
- Before they turn 20, one in 300 boys and one in 333 girls will have cancer.
The end of football season is also a beginning November 26 2014
Around this time one year ago, Shannon and I revisited Boone, NC, where we both attended college, to bring a vision into reality - Bourbon and Grits Boutique (which we jokingly refer to as our "newborn").
In that weekend, we decided on our company name, how we wanted to structure our business, and what was highest on our list of priorities. Everything at the top of our list happened this year:
- We successfully launched an online company.
- We felt a personal connection to each of our customers.
- We learned that we could be good parents and still work hard (with the help of our supportive families).
But the unexpected lesson we learned this first year of Bourbon and Grits Boutique is what true friendship really is: the completely unselfish act of "putting each other's needs first." Reflecting on the end of our first football season (and the beginning of basketball!), and now that Thanksgiving is here, I realize that getting to work with my lifelong best friend is the greatest gift this business has produced. YES, we have had a BALL creating this fun company, and YES, we met all the other business goals that we wanted to meet - but WE DID IT with the only intention being to serve each other, our families and our customers. I wish I could write how eternally grateful I am for:
1. Shannon and her precious family (which I call my own too)... we only exist because of a dream Shannon had of this Boutique, her husband, Hoyle - and his genius team at Frogman Interactive for their branding and creative design talents, and her kids for just being completely AWESOME!
2. All of our overwhelmingly supportive friends who went OUT of their way to post our page on social media, buy our styles, model our clothes, offer their suggestions, laugh at our crazy stories, teach us this business and love us in the process. THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH THANK YOUs.
3. Our shocking amount of fans (we were hoping for 500 Facebook "likes" by Thanksgiving - and we are almost at 1000!!!) and customers whom we are NUTS about! We love your ideas, suggestions, positive reinforcement, constructive criticism (and we REALLY listen to you!), and all the LOVE we feel from you. It is completely humbling in a way I have never been humbled.
So this year, Thanksgiving for me has taken on a new meaning - just as it did after my first child was born, and again when my twins were born - my heart just keeps exploding with a deep gratitude that no blog, article or interview could capture. So along with the debut of many new styles that can be worn year-round, Bourbon and Grits Boutique will begin the second year of our "newborn's" life with lessons learned and lots of love.
HAPPIEST OF THANKSGIVINGS TO ALL OF YOU!!!
"We'd like to thank the Academy..." September 17 2014
We are now well into our second month of our Bourbon & Grits launch, and have been very excited over all of the support we've received from friends and family who have shared our information with their friends and family, who have in turn shared it with their friends and family, etc. We now have people on three continents who are following us on social media, and we have gotten orders in from the U.K. and all across the U.S. - literally from coast to coast, and not just the southern states! And the feedback has been incredible. We're so happy to hear that the styles we are picking are exactly what our customers have been searching for.
And to think it all began with just two! But before we get too far into the fall season, I wanted to stop for a minute to take you all behind the scenes, so you can meet some of the other people who helped us make it happen. I hope that this doesn't sound too much like an Oscars acceptance speech, but we didn't want to go another day without giving these introductions and shout-outs:
Hoyle Koontz (and Frogman Interactive) - Of course our list is in no particular order, but I put him first because he works for us DAILY. Hoyle is my husband, and one of our biggest cheerleaders. We have also
He is also a partner in Frogman Interactive, who designed our brand (special shout-out to the amazing Tracy Sainte Marie for her design skills!). Hoyle's talents are still used every single day when I pick his brain for his extensive marketing experience. He also edits nearly all the shots that go on our website with his extremely discriminating eye.
Kevin Durkin - Kevin is Missy's other half and a professional golfer, who is so proud to be a part of the Bourbon & Grits family that he even sports our brand on his golf bag for all the world to see. He has also been steaming and hanging clothes and schlepping them to and from storage to "studio" - a thankless but most helpful job.
He is also one of the sweetest guys you will ever meet, and has been a tremendous support for Missy during this crazy time. Fun fact - Missy and Kevin are extremely busy parents - a five-year-old and very active 2 1/2- year-old twins! Geesh!
Betsy Cobb - We hit the jackpot with Betsy. The beautiful Betsy Cobb isn't just a pretty face... that lady has the brains to match!!! Betsy is our CFO who keeps our money organized and keeps us legal. She has extensive experience in the corporate world and her advice has been invaluable.
She is also so excited to be a part of the Bourbon & Grits team that she says SHE'S the lucky one. CRAZY!!!
MaryCatherine "M.C." Durkin - This southern girl happens to be married to Kevin's brother, Brian. Thank you, Brian, for marrying this amazing woman! Her grace, beauty, style and sweet southern smile are the reason why we can't get enough of her and have made her our official Bourbon & Grits poster child.
She has also been a huge cheerleader, single-handedly spreading the word about Bourbon & Grits across the south, particularly in Mississippi. Go Rebels!
Jordan Anderson, Jade Burgess, Margaret Cafasso, Clayborne Poindexter and Mary Beth Whitley - Jordan (bottom right) is not only a family friend, but both Missy and I consider her and her mom,
Then there's my sweet Margaret (top left)... if you can believe it, she was my 5-year-old flower girl at my wedding 16 years ago. I grew up with her equally beautiful mom, Jackie Wolf, so she is also definitely part of my family. Margaret brought with her the gorgeous Jade (top right) who also lent her talents and made some extremely impressive styling suggestions the day of our shoot. We hope to bring her on as a fashion marketing intern in the near future. All of these beautiful girls are featured throughout our website!
Tom Keith, Kasey Revis and Laura Long - I put out a Facebook post asking for help with our first photo shoot and got a call from former Forsyth County D.A. Tom Keith (thanks to his daughter and my high school friend, Jennifer Keith Schell!). Tom Keith and his soon-to-be-wife, Becky, have a beautiful historically significant farm on the outer edges of Winston-Salem. It was the perfect backdrop for our shoot and we felt very humbled and honored to be there.
Through Facebook we were also put in touch with Kasey Revis (thank you Shallowford Shorthairs!) We LOVE Kasey - such a GREAT guy!!! His truck is that beautiful blue truck we used in the photo shoot. Kasey is the owner of Speed Hound Dyno Service and restored the truck after inheriting it from his grandfather. Thanks Kasey, for your generosity!
And I also have to thank my good friend, Laura. I made a last-minute panicked call to her asking for help to stage the photo shoot. Laura has a background in interior design and is so amazingly gifted! She dropped everything and saved the day. She's in the picture with Missy (here to the left) - a behind-the-scenes shot from the day of the photo shoot.
So thank you ALL, for loving us, or at the very least, our clothes!
Hey ya'll... watch 'is! July 29 2014 2 Comments
You’ve probably heard the joke that “Hey ya’ll… watch this!” is a redneck’s last words, yet now I find myself uttering that same expression when I think about us launching Bourbon & Grits Boutique...