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How I Created a Block Party in a Box

We all reside on some type of street and whether we live in an apartment, a detached house, or townhome, we all have amazing people we call our neighbours. But when was the last time we got together with them simply to party?

Neighbour Day is April 26. With the goal of creating a scalable toolkit, I set out on Neighbour Day 2013 to gather friends, neighbours and complete strangers to brainstorm what a toolkit like this might include and what it might look like. Now, my project is a real thing and can be used for Neighbour Day in 2014.

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In March 2012, my business partner Ross Lohr and I drove from Boston, Massachusetts to Morganton, North Carolina with a car full of t-shirts that we were planning to upcycle into t-shirt tote bags and circle scarves. Two years later, we have sold over 15,000 custom t-shirt quilts. How did we go from upcycling random t-shirts that we thought were ironic, into becoming an affordable way for people to preserve their t-shirt memories? We made a whole lot of mistakes, but we tried not to make the same mistake twice. In order to save other aspiring entrepreneurs some time, here are five things I wish I’d known back then:

Do your research: There is more than one place in the United States that does cut and sew.

Instead of doing our research and being resourceful, we drove across the country to find our manufacturer. On the one hand, we made a lifelong connection with the people at Opportunity Threads in western North Carolina; on the other: we did not have enough traction to justify a road trip. There are now also a lot more resources to find textile-manufacturing plants, and we should have done our homework.

Hearing that you have a ‘cool’ idea is different than people purchasing your product.

A lot of times in the social enterprise or for-profit world, people ask their friends and network if they would buy x if it existed. Most people say, “Yes, that’s a cool idea.” But when the product is actually presented, oftentimes it's too expensive or just not that good. During that first spring of trying to convince people to buy our totes, we asked a lot of people what they thought, and the typical response was that we had a nice concept. One night on the bus coming home, we asked a random passenger what she thought, and she said, “It looks like the first bag ever created—it’s not very good.” At the time, we felt she didn’t understand the “story,” but if we had stopped and really listened to an unbiased consumer reaction, we would have saved a lot of time and money.

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Remember when swinging twenty feet above the ground on a swingset was the ultimate accomplishment in life? Then you grew up and all the sudden things were no fun. Playgrounds disappeared from your lexicon. Work became the consumer of your play. The cracks of sidewalks weren’t cliffs to jump over and escape scary monsters, but rather, a mover of people from Point A to B. There’s a need to make our cities playful again and Hunter Franks' League of Creative Interventionists is on the forefront of that mission. GOOD joined him, urban planner Patrick McDonnell and Women.Design.Build founder Christina Mirando on a Google Hangout about play and here were our key takeaways.

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A Social Entrepreneur's Guide: Start Making the Mistakes That You Will Never Regret

I liken being a social entrepreneur to being a New York City resident; you don’t really feel like you belong until you can show others around. After celebrating two years of being a social entrepreneur, I've turned mistakes into a meaningful enterprise.

I liken being a social entrepreneur to being a New York City resident; you don’t really feel like you belong until you can show others around. After celebrating two years of being a social entrepreneur, I've turned mistakes into a meaningful enterprise.

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I found myself working at a company at the bottom of the totem pole in the midst of budget cuts. When I was laid off, I realized I wasn’t as upset as I would have been if I had loved my position. I immediately went back to applying for jobs that I would find meaningful and honestly couldn’t find an open, full-time position that fit my skillset at an organization I was really enthusiastic about. So, my husband told me it was time to pursue the idea that got me into graduate school- starting a cause-based marketing firm.

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I don't know about you, but my shower blesses me with amazing ideas. Convincing others of their brilliance, though, doesn't always happen so fluidly. Let's be honest, for many of us "cerebral-types," the thought alone of having to explain yourself to hundreds of onlookers could result in discrediting bright ideas long before they ever get to that point.

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