stOAKed was originally started in 2013 to combat negative perceptions about Oakland. I was a freshman at Oakland Technical High School, and I had signed up for a class run by BUILD, a non-profit organization teaches high school students in the East Bay entrepreneurial skills. In all honesty, I enrolled in the class because it was marketed as an alternative to P.E. at orientation. But by the end of the year, my team and I had created something special. We went on to win the BUILD Business Plan Competition at the end of the year.
Over the next few years, we formed partnerships with a number of retailers in Oakland who sold stOAKed merchandise in their stores. There were also a few side ventures, including an organic, fair-trade soap line called Oakland Stays Fresh and a record label. Through all of these different ventures, the motivation behind stOAKed stayed the same: to make a positive impact on the people around us.
Today, many people are struggling. It can be challenging to keep our heads high and work towards a better future when so much around us looks to be in upheaval. But humanity has been through so, so much to get to where we are today, and the main reason we’ve made it this far is because of our collective effort to grow, innovate and come together. Regardless of the challenges we face, we keep on striving for a better future. And I think that’s something to be genuinely stOAKed about, regardless of the challenges we face.
Everything begins with the people around us — family, friends, the people we pass on the street, everyone. It’s easy to forget how connected everything is and how every interaction can have profound effects over time. Especially in America, where it seems as though we are subliminally taught to take and take and take for ourselves, compassion and generosity are extremely important. A lot of us (including myself) are quick to blame systems, organizations, and capitalism without looking inside ourselves to face the same energy and motives that have caused the inequality and greed in the world that we are so against. But when we do this, we often miss opportunities to affect ourselves and the people around us in a meaningful and genuinely positive way.
Donating 100% of the profits is a step forward in building on the core mission of stOAKed to affect the people and communities around us in a positive way. This means that the entire difference between the cost of a product and the price you pay for it is donated. Currently, we have chosen to support the Alameda County Community Food Bank, which has seen the need for food double this year last year. If you would like to recommend a local non-profit organization for us to support in the future, feel free to contact us.
The other reason we're making this change is to push forward a new kind of business model, one in which the profits are reinvested in the community rather than the business itself. You only need so much money in life to be happy -- enough for food, water, shelter, and a little extra to not worry about money all the time. For a long time, I believed that I needed to have money and power to make a difference in this world, but I began to realize that operating from those beliefs would most likely cause me to end up becoming the exact thing I was trying to fight against. There are countless opportunities every day to be more present, loving, and compassionate towards all of the people around us. And that truly has a profound effect over time. ♥