As Americans, we love entrepreneurship. We have taken a real liking to people building something out of nothing, starting with little more than an idea in a garage and ending up with game-changing businesses like Apple or Walt Disney Studios. We are fascinated by the determination associated with the realization of a dream. I have also come to find, through both general observation and HelloGiggles, that we truly dig kindness as well. Whether it is a professional athlete going above and beyond for a fan, an airplane passenger showing compassion or a professor giving and epic commencement speech, we relish in the opportunity to learn about anyone who is taking time to spread the love. So, what happens when two young men combine entrepreneurship and kindness? Love Your Melon is born and we are left in awe of the wonderful things that can happen when the idea in the garage is to be kind in a big way.
Less than two years ago, Brian Keller and Zachary Quinn found themselves in an entrepreneurship class at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota, faced with the goal of creating a self-sustainable business. As the pair discussed their ideas and strategies, they realized they wanted to do more than just build a successful start up; they wanted to do something to help kids battling cancer. Both Keller and Quinn had seen the effects of pediatric cancer and were confident their new business could be put to good use and could bring smiles to the faces of those who needed to experience a little love. As a result of their will to bring together initiative and compassion, the classmates founded Love Your Melon on October 22, 2012, a non-profit organization rooted in the principle of giving.
Love Your Melon is dedicated to improving the lives of children battling cancer by providing them warm, cozy knit hats to wear during their treatments. Built on the buy one, give one model, each time a supporter of the charity purchases a hat, a cancer patient is gifted one in return. While it may seem like a small gesture to some, the founders insist that the hats do more than warm the heads of their recipients – they also give the gift of confidence.
Love Your Melon’s gifts create smiles on the faces of children battling cancer and make them feel comfortable after losing their hair due to chemotherapy treatment,” reads the foundations website.
The business of kindness seems to be a big one as Keller and Quinn’s organization is growing fast and furious. Since it’s inception, their small team has sold over 5,000 hats, giving away almost as many and delivering to all 50 states and 12 countries. On December 23, 2013, the entrepreneurship and finance major were granted 501(c)(3) status, making them a fully established non-profit. In addition, shortly after hitting their one year milestone, they embarked on the Love Your Melon Smile Tour in an effort to spread the headwear word and take their mission nationwide. While on tour, the nation was exposed to the incredible impact people can have when inventiveness and kindness collide. The Love Your Melon team traveled over 5,000 miles through 23 states, visiting nine hospitals and seven universities. They were able to give away 850 hats, recruit reps on college campuses to head up events throughout the year and gain national media exposure on Good Morning America and The Today Show. Upon returning to Minnesota, they hosted a homecoming celebration that boasted a mobile barber shop in which University of St. Thomas students could shave their heads and buy a hat to support the cause. Apparently, if you build it out of kindness, they will come.
Keller and Quinn have shown us that entrepreneurship is not only an excellent platform for kindness but, in fact, kindness can fuel the success of an ingenious idea. It certainly takes a savvy business person to get a start-up off the ground but, it takes heart to deliver hats to sick kids dressed as superheroes; it takes genuine compassion to not only donate knit caps but, to also host head-shaving events to support children in treatment and raise additional money to fund individualized experiences for patients. An entrepreneurial spirit may make someone successful but, when one also has a giving spirit, they share their victory with the rest of the world.
We all love when a dream comes true but, Keller and Quinn remind us that there is nothing better than when the success of somoneone’s idea leads to the delivery of love and kindness to many. The best part is, each and every one of us is invited to get in on the action. I vote we all take a cue from Brian and Zachary and love our melons so a sweet child somewhere can love theirs too.