This was the idea 2005 Carmel High graduate Quinn Vandenberg and her boyfriend Jonathon Button had in mind when they packed their bags for Nicaragua last May to start their own business, Life Out of the Box, a product-for-product business that supports local artisans and provides school supplies for children.
In Nicaragua, Vandenberg and Button run an online business where they sell bracelets handmade by local artisans in order to support the local economy and families. A portion of the money goes directly into the hands of children in the form of school supplies.
“I’ll never forget the first time we gave a notebook and pencil to a little girl in Masaya, Nicaragua,” Vandenberg says. “It was the first day we opened our store, and when we gave her the school supplies she was so excited she started dancing. It let us know that we were doing something right.”
Each product has a LOOTB label and number associated with a child so the buyer can go to the website, LifeOutoftheBox.com, and see a picture of the child with the school supplies they helped buy.
“Seeing how much a notebook and a pencil can make an impact on a child is such a beautiful moment,” Vandenberg says. “It’s something we truly cherish, and it’s the driving factor of why we are here.”
By building a business model that allows people in Carmel to give a child school supplies in Nicaragua and see the impact they are making on the child’s life, Vandenberg and Button have achieved their goal in connecting the buyer to the child.
“Our passion is the business,” Vandenberg explains. “Every day involves working with the artisans, working with the NGOs and finding out what they need, working with the kids directly, just seeing what we can do. We’re having a blast.”
The two entrepreneurs graduated college with degrees in business, Vandenberg from the University of California at Davis and Button from the University of Hawaii. Together with their love for service and adventure, they set off for Nicaragua, searching for a life that would bring hard work and something new each day.
“We both really wanted to have our lives contain something that gave us fulfillment and gave back to the world, and wanted to give others the opportunity to give back to a culture that they may not have otherwise been able to touch,” Vandenberg says.
LOOTB has two main goals: inspire people to achieve their dreams and live “out of the box” and give children in developing countries the same opportunity by providing them with the tools they need to pursue an education.
“We want kids at Carmel High and around the world to act on the thoughts they have, the dreams and the passions, and not put it to the side,” Vandenberg says.
What has been the most rewarding from their work?
“That’s easy,” Button says. “It’s the children. When we give them school supplies, we ask them the really important question about what they want to be when they grow up. That is a question that most kids don’t get asked here. And just seeing their gratitude and seeing their faces when they think about their future, it’s the best part, hands down.”
The name of the business came from their belief that everyone has a dream—a dream that should not be altered by limitations.
“Our business is made to inspire others or give others the opportunity to live their dream,” Button says. “With the children in Nicaragua, we want to give them the tools they need to be the person they want to become, and with the people in the states we want to show them that you can do it. You just have to work hard and make it happen. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.”