October 18, 2016

Today We Turn 4!

Today’s a big day! We turn 4!!

I never seem to remember until the day or two after our anniversary, and then I say, “Ah, dang it, I missed it again!” But, this time around, I remembered two days early! Yessss.

Four years ago today, I was 3.5-weeks married (which means that on our wedding day, I technically didn’t have an answer to the, “So, what are you doing for work?” question) and I really didn’t have much going in regards to SYS being a real thing. We had, however, formed a hugely important partnership with BPA Health early to implement our nationwide counseling program – so we offered counseling out of the gate and still do today. That was an early win. But, we really didn’t have options for people to be involved with our mission, besides simply donating.

So, essentially we made the “Hello world!” social media post… and then hoped something would happen as a result.

Nothing really happened though.

Our donor base consisted of my parents (our first investors) + a Texas couple named Amy & RV Brinkerhoff, who essentially became angel investors after their son, Cody (who had been sexually abused as a kid), took his life. In their immense grief, they blessed us – something we’ll never forget.

This was our seed funding, which made it possible for us to slowly (and, boy, do I mean slowly) grow in 2013.

In spring of that year, we had an all-day board meeting in which I had an idea that I knew was either a game-changer or just one of the many ideas I have but nix soon thereafter. I chewed on it for a few months, asked friends for input, and then tested it. And, it turned out that people loved it and its symbolism. So, we gave it a name – The Stitch – and continued to test it.

A year later, we officially launched The Stitch, and I’ve been enjoying the challenge of growing it ever since. So, although today is our 4-year, I still feel like that launch 2 ½ years ago was when we really got things started.

I was in a meeting last week when, in a candid moment referring to the challenges that have come in the 4-year journey of building SYS, I said, “Nothing about this has come easy – not a single step in the process.” And, that’s true. Child sexual abuse is not an easy cause to take on – hence our mission. But, I knew this from get-go.

The person I was meeting with quickly responded, “The harder it is, the more important it is.”

And I think she was spot on. It’s a tough one… and it couldn’t be of higher importance.

To be honest, looking back, I’m actually so grateful that it hasn’t been easy, because it’s made us so much better. And, if you really want to know the truth, if it’d been easy, I would’ve been so bored. I love a good challenge, so it appears that I picked the perfect career path. 😉

On top of all that, it’s also shown me that we have the most loyal supporters on earth (that’s you) who’ve helped us make it through the challenging first few years of getting established. 🙂

Two years ago right now, we were broke and had no future funding to depend on. So, we formed The Loudspeaker – a donor group that would invest in our mission (i.e. The Stitch), growth, and the things that most donors don’t want to fund, but which are so crucial for our success. We reached out to a few people to join and we got “yes” in return – and they made it possible for us to not only survive (without the need to constantly fundraise), but to grow and thrive. I’ll forever be grateful to this group of people for investing in me and lifting so much stress from my shoulders.

Six months later, we still didn’t have enough funding for our counseling program, and thus had over 50 people sitting on a waitlist. That simply was not okay in my book. I didn’t have to wait for months and months to get into a counselor and neither should anyone else. So, we formed The Fam, to play the role in the lives of our counseling grantees that my family played in my life, helping me access counseling when I couldn’t afford it on my own. 175 people have since joined, making it possible for us to help every single person who has come to us for counseling since. Pretty incredible.

At the beginning of this year, we went from 6,000 people having The Stitch in their hands to now 24,000+ people. In seven months, we quadrupled our physical reach.

So, as they say that no two years are the same, that rule is proving very true this year, which has been big in its own unique way. We’re working to build The Stitch into a symbol that is recognized and worn in households across the US, and this has, by far, been our biggest year in working toward that goal. We have a ton of work ahead of us, but we have momentum.

Sometimes, since I lead this thing and am in it day-to-day, I have to remind myself to tell this story in a way that, frankly, you will give a darn about. It’s not about the numbers, it’s not about the donations, it’s not about any of that. I started this thing because my life was changed a few years ago after twenty years of being genuinely terrified to share my story with anyone. I realized my true worth… and my whole world changed. I want everyone to realize this same truth about themselves, and this is truly the motivating factor that gets me out of bed in the morning (I’m not a morning person, so it had to be something really compelling). 😉

Really though, I recognized that child sexual abuse is a gigantic problem in our world – directly affecting approximately one out of every five of your friends – and yet, it’s a cause that hasn’t had a clear leader or effective solution. It’s at the root of so many other social problems, from poor school performance, to suicide, to divorce, to lack of self of esteem, and everything in between. This problem covers the whole gamut, and it has to change. And, until the heavy, stigmatized social dynamics surrounding the whole issue shift… the stats and the impact of the problem won’t change – at least, not on the scale that’s needed.

So, we’re going straight at the root of the problem, working to shift social dynamics. It’s a huge task. But, it’s already working.

So, in reflecting back on 4 years, I’m not at all surprised we made it this far. I’ve always believed that in order for us to be successful, we have to be all-in with no exit strategy, knowing that “not making it” simply isn’t an option on the table. It’s just a matter of how and when.

So, as we cross into year five, I’m thrilled about how many people have quietly reached out to me or to SYS simply to share their stories for the first time. These are stories you’ll likely never hear, yet it takes a lot of courage for each individual to reach out and is often one of the most significant events of their lives. My fuel tank is filled by the individuals who’ve reached out saying that they wouldn’t be alive today had they not discovered SYS. I’m encouraged by the individuals who quietly champion us by sharing about The Stitch with their friends in private. And I’m encouraged every time I hear someone say, “Oh, I know about The Stitch!”

We constantly have forward movement, and that’s what it takes. And I’m thrilled about it!

I can genuinely say that each and every person who’s been part of this has made a profound impact – both changing and saving lives.

SYS is simply the conduit. You guys are the ones who’ve made it all possible and without whom we would accomplish very little.

Thank you for making it possible to get our message physically in the hands of 24,000+ individuals. Thank you for making in-person counseling a reality for individuals in 25 states. And, thank you for wearing The Stitch and sharing our message with the people you love the most – this is truly how we grow and how our mission is fulfilled.

It’s been a great 4 years, but I honestly feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface and are just getting started. We’re in it for the long haul and couldn’t be more appreciative of you early supporters who’ve made it all possible.

Cheers and hugs, my friends! So honored that you’re part of this. 🙂


In celebrating 4 years, use this coupon code in the next 24 hours for 25% off any purchase of The Stitch:  syslovesme  (Click here to start shopping!)