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Our commitment to giving

I started The House That Lars Built in the fall of 2008 for a graduate school project. At the time, I didn’t have grand plans to turn it into a business with a team, but as time passed and the blog grew and you grew (THANK YOU!) I saw its potential to use it as a platform for good. While we have always striven to create content that we believe in and can be enjoyed by all, I’ve also always wanted to contribute financially to causes I believe in. I just couldn’t quite figure out HOW to do it when I felt like we needed every penny to grow.

How COVID has affected our small business

About a couple of weeks into the pandemic in 2020, I realized that as a company, we wouldn’t be the same. I had already had to make some pretty drastic decisions about our small team, which, unfortunately, meant lay offs and other sad decisions. I was unsure about our future and it was the only thing I could control.

Picture Hope Coloring Book

Then the idea of a collective coloring book came to me in the form of Picture Hope: The Social Distancing Coloring Book. 60 artists contributed a coloring page to form this amazing book (yes, I proudly admit that it’s amazing!). I had had this idea of a collective coloring book for some time but it seemed like it would have the most impact if we could do it for a purpose. And it was! We were able to donate about $12,000 to various charities who have been hit hard by the pandemic! Incredible!

Ways to donate as a small business

As you can see, it literally took a catastrophe to get me comfortable with the idea that our small business could give to charity. I had always read about the benefits of donating even when you don’t think you can “afford” it so I knew I could somehow work it out, but it just never felt feasible. On a personal level, I give a percentage of my income away so you would think I would have learned that concept, but I just didn’t know what approach to take.

Witnessing that our tiny company had the support from our community to contribute $12,000 with our coloring book gave us the encouragement to keep on going. Yes, as a company we could have used every penny coming our way during such an uncertain time, but we knew that we needed to give and we were very much buoyed up by the support we were receiving to make it happen. There are so many people needing our help and we feel the responsibility to pitch in and give.Art for Coronavirus

Our Print Shop Artists who are giving

We were pumped when some of our Print Shop artists also wanted to find ways to contribute in their own way. Erin Jang, a NYC based designer, created this beautiful print and donates the profits from those sales to NYC based non-profits like the NY Food Bank. We are happy to use our platform and shop in order to make that happen and ended up matching those donations.

Amanda Jane Jones continues to contribute the profits from her Yum, Yummy, Yuck collection to charities. Additionally, she creates beautiful products on her own channels and contributes the profits to charities that she is passionate about.

The organizations we give to

During the holidays we teamed up with Love for our Elders, a non-profit focused on alleviating loneliness for the elderly. We committed to give a portion of our profits from our sales of Picture Hope for that month and were able to give $1440. According to Jacob Cramer, its founder and executive director, “This donation will help us so much as we continue to serve seniors and fight social isolation throughout this pandemic and beyond.”

Build a Nest

We were also able to contribute to Nest, a non-profit that 1) increases the supply and demand of the hand-craft industry 2) improves conditions for the women in these industries 3) preserves the culture and techniques of these hand-crafts. As a company who encourages people to make with their hands and celebrate the maker, this one lies near and dear to our hearts. Again, we were able to give $1440.

Neighborhood Art Center

Lastly, we got to hand out another check for $1440 from the sales of our kids’ art course, Great Artists! to an organization that hits close to home, literally. The Neighborhood Art Center is a local place where kids and parents can create, appreciate, and experience art. Their founder, Tallis Feltis said,

“Because of their generous donation we were able to make and hand out free Martin Luther King Day kits to our community, even though we couldn’t have a party this year we are so grateful they made it possible for children and their families to celebrate this important holiday together. We were also able to use their donation to offer another set of very low cost art classes for kids on Fridays, and we have loved being able to teach kids about so many amazing artists every week. @houselarsbuilt made a huge impact on the programming we were able to provide to the community and we are so grateful, thank you so much!!”

As you might imagine, I was in a puddle of tears upon learning about this news. It’s one thing to give money blindly and it’s another thing to hear how it’s directly affecting their organization. Jasper is now old enough to participate and we can’t wait to get more involved on a personal level.

Loveland Foundation

As a team, we’ve come to see the tremendous results from giving, which is why we are trying to incorporate it more into our work and flow. For example, for Martin Luther King Day we released a print that reads “Only in the darkness can you see the stars” and all the profits go to the Loveland Foundation, a charity that gives to people of color, particularly Black women and girls.

How We’re Helping Texas

Additionally, with the power outages and lack of water, food, and proper shelter in Texas, we are putting our Picture Hope Coloring Book donations to Kid’s Meals Houston. This non-profit delivers a meal to a family of a child for every $2 donated. Please consider making a donation for this very current need.

Black History Month

And now, lastly, for the rest of the month of February, Black History Month, we are providing our Alma Thomas class from our Great Artists! course at $10 (regularly $25) and donating the profits to The Ellington Fund. Our hope is to make this class accessible to more people because Alma Thomas should be a household name!
The Duke Ellington School in Washington, DC, where Alma Thomas lived for the majority of her life, was a couple of blocks away from my graduate school, Corcoran College of Art and Design. I passed it every day on my walk to school in Georgetown and always heard tremendous things about the talented students. The aim of this fund is to “support, promote, and empower the next generation of emerging artists, global citizens, and critical scholars by investing in their futures today.” This is truly something we can get behind.

How we’re giving going forward

This past year we discovered the ways in which we can serve and we are committed more than ever to continue. How? We plan on continuing to promote our Picture Hope Coloring Book as COVID continues to affect us. Additionally, because we have an in-house design team, we can continue to create products with specific charities in mind. We also have a new course coming out later this year and much like Great Artists! we plan on dedicating profits to it. Additionally, we can’t wait to become more hands on as COVID lets up and we have the ability go serve in person as a a team and individuals.
Some claim that giving is mainly to make you feel good, and while yes, it feels amazing to give, there’s just so much need right now that it feels impossible not to do it. I’m proud of my team who has been so on board to making this happen and constantly thinking about more ways to give back. And a huge applause for our accountant, Kerry, who has the tricky task of calculating a lot of numbers!
THANK YOU for being on board. We can do all of this because of you. It takes a community of supportive people to create a successful business AND support others on their way. We value you. Now, let’s keep on moving!
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