A friend of ours had a dear friend who gave birth to twin daughters prematurely; they fought hard to live but both babies died. This was several days before the mother’s birthday. Our friend said the only thing she could think to do was give her a Guardian Angel blanket, to remind her people are here to support her. She says the mom keeps the blanket with her constantly, it brings her some comfort through the pain. That is exactly what we were hoping BIG LOViE could provide — solace for the giver who was able to offer a meaningful gift, and something that offers relief and soothing to the recipient.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rosie DeSimone and Sheba C.E. Fideler.
Rosie DeSimone is the CEO & Cofounder of BIG LOViE. She lives in San Diego with her husband and two children who are a constant inspiration for BIG LOViE. Previously she worked in healthcare as a Doctor of Chiropractic and later in small business management. Rosie faced health issues including thyroid cancer and Lyme disease and battling through those contributed to her motivation and desire to bring more comfort and love to others through BIG LOViE.
Sheba C.E. Fideler is the CCO and Cofounder of BIG LOViE. She is a Minneapolis-based brand strategist, visual translator and entrepreneur. She and her husband have created three longstanding businesses: Sheba Concept & Design, a graphic design and branding agency; Sheba Productions, an event production company, and The Sample Room restaurant. Seeking to develop a company built on compassion and connections, Sheba partnered with Rosie to launch BIG LOViE.
BIG LOViE is founded on the truth that we all need comfort and love. Rosie and Sheba created a line of super soft, luxurious blankets crafted with care and love for people of all ages. Each blanket includes an inspiration — a positive message to remind people what amazing souls they are every time they wrap up in the comfortable warmth of a BIG LOViE blanket. For every blanket purchased, their Share the Love! program donates a blanket to a child in need.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Rosie: I grew up in a big Italian family whose life revolved around the kitchen table with lots of family and friends. Connection and love were at the center of everything.
The stress of life distracts us from what is important. Joy and happiness seem just out of reach for so many of us, I want to be part of something that brings us back together. Something that helps us all feel more loved and connected.
Sheba: As a graphic designer, marketer and entrepreneur I have been designing and creating for more than 25 years, and progressively working with more and more clients and projects whose goals were focused on promoting positivity and helping improve lives. When Rosie called with the idea to create super soft blankets adorned with positive messaging I was immediately all in; every person giving a BIG LOViE feels good; the recipient is constantly reminded they are important, they matter, they are loved; and with every blanket sold one is donated to a child in need of warmth and love. I knew we could move the needle, blanket by blanket, and the ripple effect of that would be limitless.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Rosie: It’s been rewarding to watch our customers express their love for others through heartfelt gift messages that come through with orders. My favorite story is about a woman who received a Wings blanket as a gift when she was going through chemotherapy. She said it was there with her every moment bringing her comfort and reminding her of the support she had during her health crisis. A few months later she gifted a Wings blanket to another friend going through chemo — it was such a beautiful chain of events, of love being passed on.
Sheba: My mother was recently diagnosed with dementia that affected her motor control and confined her to a wheelchair. She could not lift her arms or hold her head up which made it difficult for my normally strong-willed, very social mother. After we gave her a BIG LOViE blanket, her demeanor changed; it gave her something to grasp and eased her anxiety.
We have heard the same sentiment from people going through chemotherapy, especially with the Infinite Love blanket; not only do they love it because of their body’s temperature swings — it is warm yet breathable — it also gives them something to hold onto and thus reduces anxiety while receiving treatment. All of this reinforces the powerful benefits of a BIG LOViE blanket and why we are driven to spread more love and comfort in the world.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
We learned a lot during the manufacturing process — it was all new to us! Once when we were reordering products from a vendor who had made our product before, we made the mistake of assuming they would know exactly what to do since they made the product the first time. When the order arrived, all of the labels were sewn on the opposite side of the blanket and they were inside out! It was too outrageous to not be funny. At first, we were horrified and upset, but we knew that wouldn’t solve the problem. We found an extra supply of labels and delivered the blankets to a local seamstress, who sewed the labels on correctly by the end of the day.
We learned two things from that. First: never assume. In fact, with manufacturing products — assume that something will be done wrong. Make sure to outline specifics clearly, confirm, validate. Second: panicking, getting upset and blaming doesn’t solve any problem. It was a valuable lesson to learn early on.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
With every blanket purchased, our Share the Love Blanket Program donates a warm, cozy blanket to a child in need of warmth and love. We partner with My Stuff Bags Foundation, Miracle Babies and YouthLink. Every day countless children are suffering through traumatic life situations. A blanket wrapped around a child helps them feel warmth, security and love — like a giant hug that lasts. Together, we can embrace these children and let them know they are important, they are cared for; we can brighten their day and provide some hope.
Equally as powerful, however, is the positive messaging behind every BIG LOViE blanket. Imagine if every person in the world was able to shift their energy from fear and loneliness to comfort, connection, hope and love — even for one minute a day. It would have an enormous impact. We want to brighten the energy of the world, one blanket, one person at a time.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
A friend of ours had a dear friend who gave birth to twin daughters prematurely; they fought hard to live but both babies died. This was several days before the mother’s birthday. Our friend said the only thing she could think to do was give her a Guardian Angel blanket, to remind her people are here to support her. She says the mom keeps the blanket with her constantly, it brings her some comfort through the pain.
That is exactly what we were hoping BIG LOViE could provide — solace for the giver who was able to offer a meaningful gift, and something that offers relief and soothing to the recipient.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- Our charitable partners are good examples of organizations who are working daily with children who need basic necessities: food, shelter, clothes, supplies, education. More support for these tangible needs is critical.
- More knowledge and avenues of opportunity to address and combat mental health issues. U.S. suicide rates are at their highest since World War II with youth suicide rising more rapidly than any other age group. Collectively we need to find ways to reach people enduring this pain.
- There is great potential for communities to activate positive connection. Learning and systems can be implemented to assist people to shift their behavior from “being a spectator” to nudging them to take simple positive action.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is the lighthouse! There are so many ways to get distracted, so many opinions pushing and pulling companies in different directions. Leadership holds the vision of our mission and purpose and then shines on all decisions, gently guiding us in the right direction.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Find balance between family and work. It is not a race.
Rosie: I work from home so it’s easy to let work blend into life. That might not be so bad except that I have young children. Sometimes I feel the pressure of needing to be mom when I know there is some work that has to be finished that day. I’m a doer and I love to see things completed, so I push. But I’m learning that starting and running a business takes time and patience. There are ups and downs and it’s important for me not to ride those waves and not bring the stress into my family life.
- Trust your gut.
Sheba: Retail moves quickly and it’s better to be in the game than to be perfect and miss the boat. Having been in the branding business for 25+ years, my experience has been to be diligent, thoroughly research ideas and possible avenues and then execute with precision. While this is valuable background, I’ve learned that in the retail environment, many times you have to trust your gut and move — now.
- Outsource help when you can.
Rosie: It’s easy to fall into the trap of just trying to do everything yourself. But the reality is that you often can’t get all the work done. It’s hard to enjoy the work if it’s wearing you thin. One example is bookkeeping. While I’m still trying to get my head wrapped around the best practices, it’s time to pass that job on to someone who can do it better than I can.
- Open yourself up to your consumers and followers.
Sheba: Coming from a behind-the-camera background, I have known how to promote other people and brands and share their stories while I stayed invisible. I’m very comfortable in that position. Our brand is about humanity and connection so of course, Rosie and I need to share our voices and put ourselves out there. This has been a challenge for me but I’m starting to feel more comfortable and confident in this.
- Traction takes time.
Sheba: Rosie and I started talking in April of 2018 and launched online in May of 2019. I am very proud of how we dove into an industry we did not know, developing products and our brand, getting to market so quickly and receiving great response. That said, when you are living and breathing it, and are so passionate about your mission, you want the world to know about you the day you push “go” — obviously it takes longer than that.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Daily practice of gratitude and appreciation, and human acts of kindness can change everything. A movement where every human in the world was compelled to be kind to themselves, someone they love and someone they don’t know — even for the briefest of moments, but kindness every day. What if — instead of greeting people with a handshake, we were all in the habit of greeting someone with an expression of gratitude or appreciation. It would look something like this: “Hi, I’m calling you today to review numbers on some product options for fall 2020. I want you to know that you make a difference in our work because you have a calm and careful perspective in all our decisions. Thank you for bringing that to our partnership.”
Can you imagine if that was our habit, what a positive charge it would bring into everything?
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Rosie: For me, it’s “Practice Happiness.” I don’t remember where I heard it, but it was told with a story about how many people, especially in the USA, work so hard for what is next. They say to themselves…if I could just have this, or when I accomplish that, I will be happy. It becomes a lifetime search for something outside of themselves to bring them joy and happiness. Then when they retire, they find they don’t know how to relax and live in the moment. They don’t know how to feel happy and satisfied. Then they start to look back with regret for not doing this or that. The cycle continues.
The lesson is to Practice Happiness which can only ever be experienced in this moment, and can only ever come from within you.
Sheba: I adore the messaging in “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesy. It’s beautiful and sweet, and every page is a poignant reminder of simplicity, human kindness, loving yourself and others. This is one of my favorites when life is challenging:
“Sometimes,” said the horse.
“Sometimes what?” asked the boy.
“Sometimes just getting up and carrying on is brave and magnificent.”
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS, whose mission is to use business to improve lives. He saw a need when he saw children growing up without shoes; he turned that into a multi-million dollar for-profit company, and at the end of 2019 they’ve impacted 96.5 million lives. Blake, please have lunch with us — we’d be so grateful for any insight you could provide to help BIG LOViE follow in your footsteps!
And — the Queen of England! She’s seen it all, done it all, and weathered it all with style and grace.
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This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!