Creating Global Impact Through Fashion And Friendship
Three years ago, Ralphie Lega decided to leave the literary teaching world to pursue a long term career to help build the 1:Face watch brand. As a writer and teacher who wears Warby Parker, Proof Eyewear and owns State Bags, Lega already had the foundation of a social entrepreneur’s heart and style. He is inspired by Steve Jobs as one of the greatest leaders of our time, he looks to Jerry Jones for his unapologetic confidence, and historically, he admires Madame CJ Walker, one of the first self-made African-American millionaires.
Lega started at 1:Face as an intern writing press releases and instantly fell in love with the brand and its’ vision. 1:Face, based in Chicago, is a social giving brand with a mission built around the idea that one person can change the world. With each 1:Face watch purchase, a contribution is made to a designated charity with specific impact goals.
Today as 1:Face VP, Lega takes two impact trips a year dedicating time to meet with the non-profit organizations that 1:Face works with. He and 1:Face CEO/Creative Director Fam Mirza, split their time going on impact trips and working closely with the organizations and their communities. Last year, Lega went to Africa while Mirza went to Syria, and next year Lega has plans to go to Haiti.
“This fall we are looking to start expanding into some new causes and supporting some new charities. Over the last three years, we've received requests to support a variety of different causes and want to give people the opportunity to support the causes they are passionate about,” Lega said. “We plan to visit India (and Haiti) to give an update on how the money that we've raised has helped to impact those around the world.”
1:Face has established key partnerships in the U.S. as well as overseas. This global impact brand has partnered with The Adventure Project to help preserve the environment (Haiti), Faces of Change to help fight hunger (Syria), Gram Vikas to provide clean water (India), Pencils of Promise to provide and promote childhood education (Guatemala) and these are just a few of the key causes.
Making a difference is the key purpose. “Our goal is to create a world where giving back is the norm. I want to see 1:Face as a global symbol for creating change", said Lega. “When people hear 1:Face they don't just think watch but also they think of a set of people that cared enough about the world to help in anyway possible.”
The original line of 1:Face watches include key causes to with purchases that support Breast Cancer awareness (pink), saving the animals (yellow-orange), education (yellow), hunger (white), environment (blue), Cancer awareness (black), AID/HIV awareness (red), the American Red Cross (white with red frame), and water (white with yellow frame). Earlier this year, 1:Face launched new touch screen watches with new colors and new impact. New colors include: rose gold, gold and silver. A purchase of one of the touch screen watches allows customers to choose 3 of their preferred causes to do contribute to.
This week, 1:Face launched the new M watch, just in time for the holidays. This new design offers a more mature look with fabric bands and a traditional analog face. Check out the 1:Face M watch on the www.1face.com for more information.
Ralphie Lega wasn’t a watch guy before 1:Face was founded. What if you don’t wear watches? “I’d say share the stories of our partners. I’m sure the causes we support in some way or another affect everyone in at least one way. That’s how I started getting involved,” said Lega.
“Both of my grandparents were impacted by some form of cancer. By sharing these stories people are aware that their purchase can make an impact and they can decide which one. I actually wasn’t a watch wearer myself, I always wore bands, and then it became a 1:Face watch.”
When working as a social entrepreneur, it can be hard to find balance between work, personal, and social responsibilities. What does Lega recommend?
“Knowing when to take some time for yourself. You can often find business owners constantly on their laptops or their phones answering emails, doing additional research, but it is more important to take good care of one's mental and physical health to ensure business success.”
He finds time to do a lot of writing. “Before 1:Face, I taught writing and science. So I like to write out my thoughts, my reflections. It helps me think outside of my current reality, to escape for a moment. I find that so much of what I’m doing everyday, all day, comes back to my work. And being able to step away from that in the form of writing- writing things down, putting it away on paper, helps me move on to the next day.”
As football and basketball season are currently in session, Lega makes sure to get as much game time in. “I’m also a mad sports fan—so when I have time I tune out to football, baseball, some basketball or just play ESPN Sports Center.”
What’s the goal for 1:Face through building an impactful, yet transparent business? “Finding a happy medium between making money and making a difference. I think because of our transparency with the organizations we are working with, we feel very strongly that what we say is honest and pure,” said Lega. “A one for one model is great, but for us we want to tell the story through impact. Exactly what is that purchase doing? Making it clear and understandable for everyone.”
Many social business founders, their teams and their communities are personally touched by causes that make them want to make a difference. “When I went to Africa, I met a young photojournalist from Illeret, Kenya. She told me about a young man in his early 20’s named James who had completed school and gone on to college and was passionate about helping give back to his community. I had met him over Skype just talking over the phone, and he insisted we go out to visit them. So we met at the airport and he was so excited and so surprised to meet me (and because I’m African American). Many philanthropists and entrepreneurs that go visit Africa are light skinned white Americans, so I think that element of surprise helped spark a connection for him.”
Inspired by change, social entrepreneurs like Lega work hard to enrich the lives of people they already know, and those they haven’t met yet. The reward for everyone involved is being able to share stories, build lasting relationships and see how they worked together to make change happen. “While I was in Africa, James and I were basically inseparable, and it was really a trusted friendship that we built, not just a global partner,” Lega said. “We had an instant connection and we’ve been friends ever since. He calls me his brother from Chicago.
FROM THE EDITOR
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