Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Laura Armstrong, who founded A Work of Heart to allow proceeds from her art sales to benefit development projects in Kenya. What was the inspiration for her project? Find out in today’s profile…
Elevator Pitch: Describe your business in a nutshell.
A Work Of Heart allows you to buy artwork and 50 percent of the proceeds are invested into development projects in Kenya.
Why did you start your business, what was the inspiration?
Over the past seven years I have travelled to various parts of the world to participate in volunteer programs. Kenya was one of these destinations, and a place I fell in love with. I worked with a local organization called Living Positive Kenya (LPK). They worked with women and children in the neighbouring slum and taught them how to live a positive life while being HIV positive. They received counseling and were taught how to sew and run a business to generate income for their families.
One child I met in the slum stood out to me. Her name was Doris and she couldn’t go to school cause her family didn’t have the money to send her. I am a self-taught artist and I realized on this trip that the amount of money I was selling my art for could put this little girl through school. So I did just that; I used my art sales to be her sponsor. Since then, the concept has grown to fund building projects in Kenya, such as renovating LPK’s daycare.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis?
I have always been a storyteller, and painting allows me to share stories and experiences abroad in a unique way. The majority of my clients send me photos to paint that also have stories behind them that they share with me. I have learned so much about human connection because of this.
The most challenging part?
The most challenging part of this is time management. I currently work two jobs on top of running A Work Of Heart. Finding a way to budget my time week to week is always a challenge. But it’s great work and I have always loved a challenge. Knowing that what I am doing is causing a positive change in the lives of people I care about makes it worthwhile.
Where do you see your business going in 5 years?
Five years from now, I see A Work Of Heart having its own studio and a solid team running it (currently working with interns and volunteers to help run the business). I also see A Work Of Heart having sustainable projects running in Kenya. Right now I am in the process of buying land in Kenya that will be used for farming. It will allow the women we work with there to generate sustainable income and support themselves and their families. I picture this farm running to it’s full potential by then.
What does success look like to you?
Independence. Like majority of people my age, I want to be my own boss and call my own shots. I will know that I have succeeded when I am able to do this.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
When Tetley Tea casted A Work of Heart for their ‘Renewal Campaign’. This commercial was viewed over a 100,000 times on YouTube. Knowing that such a large brand supported my concept made it clear to me that the business was a worthwhile venture. Tetley brought A Work Of Heart to the next level by providing me with a new Mac desktop computer and a professional website.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Be prepared to work your ass off. Surround yourself with people who are driven and it will keep you will keep focused on your goals. Find someone you look up to and have them as your mentor. Have a friend who is in the same position and has the same desire of for success as you do to so you can feed off each other.
Always provide help when you can, even if someone hasn’t directly asked you. You will feel great about it, and you never know when that will come full circle to help you later on.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Besides running A Work of Heart, I work for a local charity called Sky’s The Limit. Their mission is to delete The Digital Divide in Canada by donating refurbished laptops to youth and students who need them but can’t afford them. In addition to that, I am the Foundation Coordinator for Choice Hotels Canada, which supports three international development charities focused on the shelter and education of children in vulnerable situations. Having both jobs allows me to help locally and internationally, so I get the best of both worlds.
What is Notable to you?
The women I have had the pleasure of befriending in Kenya. They have lived through extremely dire situations, while also being infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Their perseverance is a true credit to the human spirit. There are no words to describe how incredible these women are.
Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
How do you keep active, energetic, and vibrant?
Travelling, long runs, great music, a good book, amazing conversations, and naps.