I wish someone had told me when I first started is that it is okay to take your last five dollars and invest it into one thing you can sell to make back more than you invested. This is the core to beginning any business to take what you have and start there. There is no rule that says it has to be some bank loan kind of investment to get started. We glorify street hustle in music, and on TV yet we don’t appreciate that real hustle is not drugs, it’s your product or service. More people especially now through the pandemic are opening stores for all sorts of products.
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Woody Holliday
Woody Holliday is a homeschooled third grader at South Sutter Charter School in Placerville, CA. He loves all things out doors; hunting, fishing, mud riding. He is an amazing scooter artist, who also plays Roblox and Minecraft in his spare time.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
I grew up traveling with my family the poor way. In a 1978 former U-Haul truck hauling motorcycles cross country. When I was just a baby, my parents needed financial assistance. They reached out to several resources, to no avail. My mom went to the local convenience store and begged for change to get me some diapers. She was inspired from that experience to come up with something to sell versus begging. She came up with the Woody Bracelet, a hemp, wood and glass mix. Inspired from a boutique she had worked in before, Romancing the Stone. She sold bracelets not just to meet our daily needs, but also to move our family forward. We did move forward into a hauling business, where we traveled with the bike life, until devastation struck our delicate lives again. We have spent the past few years recovering from the trauma that it served. Now, we are on a mission to find and help those people who have a fragile life and help them to find a better sturdier way.
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you growing up? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I wish I could say that it was the Harry Potter series, or Dogman who had the most impact on me growing up. Because of the way we chose to travel it’s the Police departments around the country that have made the most impact on me. They have held guns to my face, they have beat my parents, they lied to have interaction with us, for example “We received a call that you are out here selling stolen motorcycles” No, in fact officer I have a bill of lading on all the merchandise on my truck. Police are supposed to protect our communities and instead they are intent on destroying people. I have watched in fear as the police threw away a homeless person belongings, all the person had and laugh while they did it. Taking selfies like they were conquering heroes. This is why I want to be a resource to help people to overcome obstacles they face that leave them open to be victimized by a system that doesn’t care about them.
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Making a difference means to make a change in someone’s life. A change that is substantial. For instance, once when our car broke down, we went to seek help from traveler’s aid. It made sense that they would be help for travelers. We were told there was no help for us. If we had received the help, we needed for just a few weeks then we could have fixed our car and kept going on our journey. Instead, we had to sleep in a van we had rented from an individual. It took us more than a year to get back up financially from one simple problem. I want to be that difference in someone’s life. That if the problem is a 500 dollars car part, then let’s get that. If it’s a safe place to sleep, why aren’t we doing that? No one should ever go hungry, but they are. Making a difference means to rise above your judgement and offer a loving hand up. This will help the person change their on perspective on their circumstances. A change in perspective can be a monumental difference.
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
Go Woody is my organization. We are still making the natural bracelet that my mom made all those years ago. Bringing them back I feel is a proper way to help others in need. For every bracelet we sell fifty percent will go to fund Hot’s N Cot’s, a resource that will help everyday people who need real help. By real help I’m talking about a wide variety of difficulties, because we are all unique so are our circumstances. There is not a one size fits all solution to poverty or homelessness. It takes a community to build a community. Some people need a safe place to be, some need medical help, some live on fixed incomes and have no money left after bills. Our goal at Go Woody is to offer hot meals, cots for sleeping, assistance with vehicles, help with rent or utilities. To do this the plan is to start small by creating a bus that will sleep a few. Where we can serve the same meals we eat to those who need the warmth of a hot meal. We plan to grow from there to wherever God leads us. The ultimate goal is to spread love, compassion, and mercy not just by helping with physical solutions, but also by changing the way we view ourselves and our roles in our own communities.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
I was inspired by our family’s own experiences be poor and trying to build a decent life. The obstacles at times felt so big that we never imagined that we would overcome them. We knew that we had to keep going. From the words of Dory in Finding Nemo “Just keep swimming!” Every day we had to work toward achieving one goal. If the goal was to get the car running, then every day we worked to buy one part at a time to complete the whole job. There were so many people who truly helped us to achieve that one goal. Offering the same help to others is my way of paying it forward.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
I had a moment when I was asked by Mom how do we make our business better? It made sense to answer the question with: by becoming the very help that we once needed. At that moment I knew that I had to sell bracelets not to help ourselves, but to help others the same way we were once helped. If we could manifest change in our own lives, then why can’t I manifest change in the lives of others?
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
One small step every day. There is no magic to starting a business, or even achieving goals. It is having a goal and doing one thing every day that gets you closer to achieving your goal. I think all too often we see our goals as a mountain that is too high to climb. When in reality if we just take a few steps at a time, the mountain turns out to be a beautiful road we travel to get to a new place in our lives.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
This story is one from our journey and a monumental learning lesson. We were at a parts store to change some filters. We had finished selling bracelets to buy the parts and were sitting in the shade while Dad did the actual filter changing. A man, who had come out of the parts store also, saw Dad struggling with some rusty bolts that didn’t want to budge. He offered to help Dad. When Dad looked at the man in his slacks and dress shirt he declined the man’s help. The man turned to us with the saddest look on his face. We smiled at him and nodded knowingly. The man wanted to just help any way he could. Mom said as the man drove away that we should pray. We prayed that if the man truly wanted to help then something as simple as some burgers and fries would be amazing. About thirty minutes later the man reappeared with burgers and fries. As it turns out the man listened with his heart and showed us that love transcends all things.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
I don’t know if my mistakes are funny or not. In the beginning there was a lot of working out size and bead styles. There were a lot of changes. The mistake that impacted me the most is once we were out selling bracelets when we approached a gentleman. We gave him our elevator pitch. When he looked at the bracelets he was really interested, but none of the ones I had would fit. I learned that not everyone is built the same, but we are all interested in beautiful things. After that, I changed the design of my bracelets to offer enough string to fit any one. I want to offer a product that everyone can share. This is about spreading love, love of parents and children (yes, these bracelets are cool enough for both), love of strangers who are just connected by the struggle of life. Love is the most powerful tool any of us have.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
Without saying specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
When we first started life was tough. Selling bracelets were tough. We went parking lot to parking lot across town until we had made enough to pay for the room, food, baby supplies, and save a few dollars. The parking lots were so hot. We sold and sold. We came upon a homeless man. In our previous life we had helped this man ourselves, so we sort of knew him. He made glass figures to support himself. While we were talking to him, we noticed that he was wearing one of our bracelets. We asked where he had gotten it. He told us a story that someone had bought him lunch and helped him with other personal supplies. That person had given him the bracelet to remind the homeless man that everyone deserves to be loved and is loved no matter the circumstances of thier lives. This is when we knew that our bracelets were spreading love.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
We can start first in our own communities. Love is a powerful tool. You can help by building a food pantry in your neighborhood. We are all struggling to get through life. This way people can get some canned goods whenever they need. We can also dedicate empty lots to become community gardens. Our city officials should have already made this an easy to do task in any neighborhood, or empty city lot. We as a society also need to become active in our judiciary process. From voting to auditing the courtrooms, auditing every public office to teaching law classes free at local community centers. When I say law, what I mean is knowing your rights, knowing how laws affect our communities locally, nationally, and globally. That’s a lot easier said than done. As for our politicians, we are at a generation who is ready for change. That change has to start with the way we police our communities. We need to require more education for police officers. If they are going to enforce the law then they should know every part of law. The policies and procedures that have become everyday acceptable, but hurt families and individuals need to change.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each).
First thing I wish someone had told me when I first started is that it is okay to take your last five dollars and invest it into one thing you can sell to make back more than you invested. This is the core to beginning any business to take what you have and start there. There is no rule that says it has to be some bank loan kind of investment to get started. We glorify street hustle in music, and on TV yet we don’t appreciate that real hustle is not drugs, it’s your product or service. More people especially now through the pandemic are opening stores for all sorts of products.
Second thing I wish someone had told me is once you earn your first dollar you are now a legitimate business. A lot of police told me through the years that we were not legitimate business because we didn’t have a ton of overhead and debt. Every customer kept me going by validating that I was in fact a new business. It took every day to keep selling and build Go Woody one sale at a time. I only now feel like a business, reality is that I have had a business from the first bracelet that was sold.
Third, I wish someone had told me is that every business is a live and learn experience. There is no right or wrong way to start or keep going, or even market your product or service. In the beginning I was so hard on myself. Every mistake was the end of what I was trying to create. I just knew I had messed up the whole business. Every mistake becomes a learning experience. As long as you keep trying to move forward, even setbacks become a step forward.
Fourth, I wish someone had told me to have faith in myself the way that God has faith in me. It was fear that kept me feeling unworthy or not good enough. I felt that because I had chosen such a street level way of marketing that I would only end up as a street peddler. I felt too that the judgement of the police was a direct judgement of the entire city. That I was a bum and not an aspiring business owner. What I learned it in fact the opposite. The whole city is not judging me, and I can accomplish anything I decide to.
Finally, I wish someone had told me that one person can make a difference. I did not start out believing that I was affecting people around me. I did not believe that I could make such a dramatic difference in someone’s life. I had heard that change begins with me. I thought that meant that I had to change myself and make me better. It is more than that. Of course we need to self-evaluate improving ourselves. We also need to self-evaluate as a community and make our communities better. That begins with each of us doing that one thing every day to make where we live better. It is the duty of each of us to make a selfless act for our community every day.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
We are a generation who desires change. We crave unity. We are looking for ways to demand change. I want everyone to know that we are united, we can make change. It is simple, one small action every day builds up in to one great big action. Whatever it is that you want to change, then take one action that will lead to that great big change you want to see.
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. 🙂
If I could meet anyone for breakfast I would meet Madame Vice President Kamala Harris. She comes from California where homelessness is very high. She also understands the effects of police harassment. I would hope to begin a conversation where we can repair these two faucets of our community and bring healing into our generation. We are better than this!
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This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!