Michelle Obama: Educate a Girl, Change the World Role Model

The day you surprised me at the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon…and how you inspired me and countless women and girls to never give up.


Dear Michelle,

It was such an honor meeting you at the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon back in January 2017! That morning, I thought I was recording a video expressing my appreciation for all your work. I never expected you to step out from behind that curtain with Jimmy Fallon to surprise me in the studio! I hope you like the “Educate a Girl, Change the World.” sticker I gave you when we met. The design was created by a college woman named Leah from my mentorship program.

I’m a female entrepreneur on a mission to help young women and girls in high school and college design the life and career they love. When I started My Social Canvas, I never imagined that I would be standing face-to-face with you one January morning at NBCUniversal, or that I would have the chance to sit in a room full of inspiring women and hear from you and Oprah at the 2016 “United State of Women” Summit hosted by your team at the White House.

Now, this journey did not come without challenges. I remember one time after I first launched My Social Canvas, I had just $7 in my bank account. I knew I couldn’t give up on my dream, and you’re one of the reasons I didn’t. I know there are plenty of girls around the world who would feel the same.

I recently sat down with Tatiana, one of the young women in my “Design the Life You Love” mentorship program, who you also surprised at the Tonight Show! Tatiana said, “The moment you surprised me was so inspiring. It was a moment of immense joy and gratitude. I felt like I was sharing the moment with my mom, my aunt, and my grandmother. To all of us, you are truly a role model. I come from a family of hard working immigrants that left Barbados to move to New York to seek more opportunities. You just don't see many black women hold positions of power that we get to see, hear, and celebrate. The moment we met was so special and it’s a day I’ll never forget.” Tatiana is just one example of a young woman whose life you’ve changed for the better.

Your passion and drive extends far and wide to girls across the world. Krishanti Vignarajah, who spearheaded your work through Let Girls Learn said, “You inspired girls everywhere to reimagine their lives through your eyes. You saw what they could be and made them see it, too. I saw myself in the girls we met visiting the neglected corners of Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as your Policy Director and to lead Let Girls Learn. Best. Boss. Ever.”

During your final speech as First Lady, you said, “If we're always shining the spotlight on professional athletes or recording artists or Hollywood celebrities—if those are the only achievements we celebrate— then why would we ever think kids would see college as a priority?”

Today, in celebration of International Day of the Girl, you are doing just that. You are putting the spotlight on girls around the world and even invited a group of women and girls to celebrate the morning with you on the Today Show. Talk about an unforgettable experience for the girls involved! Now, with the launch of the Obama Foundation’s Global Girls Alliance, you will continue to lead the force by educating girls, and truly changing the world.

Mrs. Obama, because of your passion for everyday women, girls, and families, you remind me it’s never time to quit. You have made me and countless others see that it doesn’t matter if I’m one woman with a dream or the CEO of a fortune 500 company — I can do anything.

I believe in the power of mentors and other women reminding us to never give up. So thank you, Mrs. Obama, for being a role model to all of us and reminding us daily that we have the capacity to dream big and truly design the life and career we love.

xo,

Lisa, Tatiana, + the girls of My Social Canvas and Design the Life You Love

It's never time to quit, even with $7 in the bank

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Although I’m a business woman and entrepreneur at heart, my true passion is service to others. I believe that if you build your career around generosity, there will never be too much success to go around. One specific turning point during my career was the moment when I had just $7 in my bank account. Living in NYC at the time, I was on the way to an important meeting and didn’t have enough in my bank account to buy myself a weekly metro card. Instead of giving up on my dream of building My Social Canvas, I took a screen shot of my bank statement showing $7 and hoped it would become a part of my entrepreneurial journey and story someday.

While there are so many people globally that have far less than I had during my “$7 moment”, it reminded me that each and every one of us will face challenging times in which we must keep fighting. Why are we fighting? We are fighting so we will get through that moment to share our story and encourage someone else in the future. If we don’t get back up, how will anyone else we meet keep fighting when they feel like giving up?

For that reason, I hope to celebrate and remind women to persevere. It’s never time to quit, even with $7 in the bank. No matter what you’re facing, whatever your “$7 moment” is — just know that you’re not alone. With enough hard work, patience, and resilience, you will find a way to design the life and career you truly love.

xo,

Lisa

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Honeymoon Volunteering - Our Dream Honeymoon

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Over Thanksgiving weekend in 2017, I married the love of my life with a small group of family and friends. It was our dream wedding because we had the chance to not only celebrate our love, but also celebrate on a weekend that symbolizes gratitude and the expression of being thankful!

When Anthony and I sat down and started dreaming up our perfect honeymoon, we both realized that to us, the perfect honeymoon involved serving others and giving our time and talents to create change.  For that reason, we decided to travel several continents away from our home in New York City to Mumbai, India. And it was in Mumbai where we served alongside Vision Rescue to support their mission of empowering people to find their purpose and live with dignity.


It has always been in my heart to go out and create change. In 2015, I started My Social Canvas a social-impact fashion brand featuring designs by women, for women. Although we use fashion in our business model, this is so much more than fashion.

We’re on a mission to support programs that educate kids, empower women, and fund other non-profits to help them create change. We love to celebrate, honor, and feature the beautiful stories of women and their designs when we launch our collections to the world. Each design tells a special story featuring the woman’s name, sharing her photo, and what inspired her to create the design. Each design is made with love, by women, for women. 

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The time Anthony and I spent with Vision Rescue in Mumbai will always hold a special place in my heart. It was in Mumbai where my husband and I started our honeymoon and our marriage. It was in Mumbai that I made new friends and family like Biju, Secunda, and the entire Vision Rescue team! It was in Mumbai when I met a group of women who will now be in my heart forever. I sat with these women as they showed me how to use their sewing machines and shared their designs with such pride, care, and love.

For all of these reasons, this collection is so much more than a scarf, a shirt, or a bag. It’s a story about the love, strength, and the dignity I saw in these beautiful women; these women who are part of my very own Global Sisterhood.

The “Love, Strength and Dignity Collection” features the stunning henna patterns and artwork created by the women I had the honor of meeting in Mumbai. We are now launching the designs to fund Vision Rescue’s vocational program. This will help the women in their program by funding their future and providing them with the training they need to launch a business, or find other forms of fair and sustainable work in their community.

These designs represent women and their stories, and they are a beautiful reminder that when one woman sets out to make even a small change in her world, she can develop a friendship with other women and girls even when they live continents apart. 


xo, Lisa

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Designing the Life You Love and inspiring others to do the same.

In 2014, I founded My Social Canvas with the dream of helping the next generation of women and girls as they design a life and career they love. The heart and soul of my company and my reason for getting up each and every morning determined to build this company into so much more than a fashion brand is because the products we make tell a story. It's the stories of young women, their designs, and how their designs fund programs helping to educate girls like them. 

Meet Yasmeen. She is a total girl boss. She's a computer science and mathematics student from Baruch College. To design the life and career she loves, Yasmeen hopes to "contribute to society as a Yemeni-Muslim American STEMist who represents women's empowerment and becoming the change to inspire others." Yasmeen, I'm so proud of all you have done to show Yemeni girls and women that they too can dream big and get an education.

Meet Yasmeen. She is a total girl boss. She's a computer science and mathematics student from Baruch College. To design the life and career she loves, Yasmeen hopes to "contribute to society as a Yemeni-Muslim American STEMist who represents women's empowerment and becoming the change to inspire others." Yasmeen, I'm so proud of all you have done to show Yemeni girls and women that they too can dream big and get an education.

My Social Canvas is now at a tipping point with many recent milestones but it hasn't always been easy. In fact, there have been times that my decision to keep going defied logic and common sense. Although it is widely known that the journey of entrepreneurship is challenging, it is hard to truly understand the ups and downs of building a company until you have done it yourself. There has been so many times I have almost given up, but then something incredible happens reminding me it couldn't possibly be time to quit. These reminders come in many forms, whether it be a chance encounter with a celebrity or influencer on a day when I can barely buy myself groceries, or a meeting with a major corporate brand that expresses interest in partnership, these milestones give you just enough hope telling you to keep working. For me, these milestones included a trip to the White House Summit for Women in 2016 where I had the honor of hearing from role models like Michelle Obama and Oprah, to projects that have had involvement from some truly inspiring and influential leaders in fashion, business, and television including Project Runway judge and designer Zac Posen, fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff, Verizon, Apple, and many others.  

Although any entrepreneur can tell you that founding a business is not free of challenge, I believe that the ability to get back up when hard situations arise help us overcome issues that come our way! Back in 2015, one of our orders with a retailer was shipped to our warehouse with incorrect barcodes. We caught the issue and decided to pull together a team overnight to fix the issue. Our team was upbeat and positive during the process. As I sat on that warehouse floor and attached tags to 2,000 bags, I was reminded that fashion icon Diane Von Furstenberg (DVF) had been in my place before.

In DVF’s memoir, The Woman I Wanted to Be, she shares her story of dresses being shipped from Italy to NYC with the labels incorrectly written in Italian. While this probably discouraged her a bit at first, she didn’t let it get her down. Instead, she personally crossed out the prices on each tag and wrote the price in English. While tagging my products, DVF’s story kept me hopeful because I knew she had been in my shoes.

But perhaps the most discouraging challenge I once faced was a time that I had just $7 in the bank. That month, I was waiting on checks from clients to come in and although we had business opportunities and revenue was increasing, I lost my unlimited metrocard and went to buy myself another one, only to realize I didn't have the funds. While most New Yorkers were using the subway, or perhaps hopping in an Uber, I remember walking to many of meetings that week. 

There's so much more to this story and I'll soon be sharing more of my journey. But for now, I'll leave you with this reminder. If you are passionate about something, and you are ready to work at it, it's really never time to quit.

Howard Shultz, the CEO of Starbucks once said, “When we love something, emotion often drives our actions. This is the gift and the challenge entrepreneurs face every day. The companies we dream of and build from scratch are part of us and intensely personal. They are our families. Our lives.” My Social Canvas is intensely personal to me. The journey has not always been easy, but it has always been worth it. For that reason, whether I have $7 in the bank, or $7 Million, i'm determined to keep building this company, and through it, I hope to inspire other women to design the life and career they love.

xo,

Lisa