“The minute I discovered there was an opportunity to be a part of the Marcus Graham Project, I knew it was something I wanted to do.”
This is Jennifer Smith—solution-oriented, inclusive, highly engaged. She’s a Group Manager in Product Development for Fossil men’s leathers, as well as a frequent volunteer. Though she passionately supports s a variety of organizations and causes, The Marcus Graham Project (MGP) has been especially meaningful to her. MGP creates opportunity in the marketing industry for ethnically diverse students, and Jennifer sees herself in the interns who come to Fossil during the summer.
What do you make time for?
I always make time for mentoring others. Marcus Graham Project affords me an opportunity to do this and Fossil does a great job getting us plugged in. The program allowed me to interact regularly with my mentee, to discuss current projects, offer advice on handling situations and provide feedback on the group’s final presentation to senior management.
Why did Marcus Graham Project resonate with you?
I am an advice giver by nature. To be able to take what I’ve learned as an African American woman in the corporate world and pass it along, not only to my mentee but to other people in the group, was the most rewarding thing for me. When I started my career, it would have been helpful for me to have a similar mentor who could share his or her experiences and advice.
How does Fossil Group support what you’re passionate about?
Fossil does a great job of empowering employees to get involved in the community. I’ve been able to, on multiple occasions, participate in volunteering activities during the weekday which I otherwise would not have been able to attend.
Tell us about a recent volunteer experience that was meaningful to you.
I partnered with members of the Product Development team to organize a holiday party for the children of the Interfaith Family Services, a nonprofit organization in Dallas that works with families to break the cycle of poverty. We played Christmas-themed games and decorated cookies. It is always so refreshing to spend time with kids and do things that put a smile on their face.
What advice would you give someone looking to make an impact in their community?
When most people think of giving back to the community they think of monetary giving. One of the things I have learned through my various volunteer experiences is that face to face contact with people.
Byron Sanders is relentlessly building a community of changemakers with a single goal: to unleash the potential of every single kid in Dallas.
He’s the new President and CEO of Big Thought, a longtime social impact partner of Fossil Group, and he’s on a mission to close the opportunity gap in his community. It’s this passion for leveling the playing field and bringing opportunity to ALL students that’s fueling what’s next for Big Thought.
How does Big Thought unleash the power of youth?
We do this in two different ways. One, we empower kids’ creativity. And two, we help them foster healthy social and emotional wellbeing.
Big Thought has a number of programs that focus on empowering youth to create, to use their voice and to use their imagination to rethink what’s possible. It’s a muscle that you have to develop. Sometimes it’s not necessarily intuitive. We don’t implant the voice, the voice exists and we create experiences that help draw it out.
What impact has your organization made on the Dallas community?
We’re here to create an ecosystem with other Dallas partners whereby more kids get access to out-of-school enrichment in order to develop their creativity. In this way, we’ve worked with thousands and thousands of kids. It’s a beautiful thing. Just last year in Dallas City of Learning, we reached nearly 40,000 students. It’s incredible to talk about the scope and scale of how we work with our partners in our community to enable such a large impact.
What do YOU make time for?
The thing I relentlessly make time for is exposing my kids to new experiences, just like what we’re doing with Big Thought. We make time to travel, which expands their worlds just that much more. Here’s an example: we were able to take our daughter to see Hamilton last year. That was a lifetime moment for her. We knew all the words, we’ve been rapping it for like a year. And then we surprised her with a trip to New York. Life-changing.
The thing that I make time for on a daily basis, kind of my happy place, is listening to audiobooks. Nerdy? I know. But it’s cool. I love being a nerd. I love biographies of leaders throughout history. I love these biographies because most of them look at both the good and the bad—the whole story, the whole human—and you get that vulnerability.
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve encountered on your journey, and how did you overcome it?
I grew up in a house where there was domestic violence. I used to be so ashamed to talk about this. From a very young age, these after school programs, summer school programs, out-of-school experiences, those were my safe space.
I noticed at a very young age, any time I came home with good news—a good report card, or stickers or medals or something like that—everybody was happy. And it’d lighten the room so there wouldn’t be any arguing. There wouldn’t be any of the violence that I’d come to know.
Coming out of this period, I felt like I was able to turn some pretty dark times into something that was very positive. I prided myself on being the golden child, and very often I was able to bring success and thus joy to my mom. Unfortunately, around the time I was in college, I lost my footing. At a fraternity event, I witnessed a college hazing incident that resulted in the expulsion of every student present—including me. But by the grace of God and the grace of other people, I got another shot. I got to go to the University of Tulsa.
There was a guy there, Earl Johnson, who listened to my story and took a chance on me. When I got there, I was like, “I am not going to waste this one.” So I got up there and knew one person. By the end of that year, I’d been elected student body president.
When you take your life lessons, then channel all of your strengths and your experiences into becoming your best self, beautiful things can happen. I am the beneficiary of other people’s grace and other people giving me a chance, which is why a lot of our kids resonate with me personally. A lot of them are similar to where I was at one point: They’ve been written off and they think they don’t have anything left to give, and I know for a fact they do. We just have to be that lifeline to help them recognize it–and the world’s going to catch up.
What advice do you find yourself sharing most frequently?
One of the lessons I’ve learned is that every moment is a gift and we don’t have infinite moments. There’s a finite amount of time that we have on this planet and we have a responsibility to make sure that we’re using those moments intentionally. If we have an opportunity, it’s that we can be effective in helping somebody else’s life, helping them cultivate and curate their greatness.
So the advice that I give, especially when I’m talking to kids and youth is this: People always say, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My response to that is,
“Why wait? You have power right now. You have a voice right now. Let’s do it right now.”
All photos courtesy of Big Thought and Byron Sanders
Wim Schalken is making a difference “literally one medal at a time” as he puts it. This creative IT director is referring to Hiker Medals, a project he started in 2016 after hiking the 211 mile-long John Muir Trail. What was initially a personal passion has now grown into something greater that’s helping others across the globe.
What do you do when you make time for good?
I care deeply about being able to visit remote places that are away from the crowds and for the most part, untouched by civilization. I got to experience this when I hiked the John Muir Trail in 2016 and was blown away by the beauty of this pristine wilderness. Because of the impact this experience had on me, I was looking for a unique keepsake to commemorate the accomplishment. When I couldn’t find anything already out there, I decided to design and create something myself.
Enter Hiker Medals. When word spread, I found that other hikers were looking for similar memorabilia—and as a result there is now a series of medals I sell to customers all over the world. Each medal has a dedicated organization that benefits from the sale of that medal. These are non-profits that maintain trails, educate hikers about safety or perform search and rescue operations.
Share a favorite success you’ve had with this project.
Aside from allowing me to make donations to non-profit organizations, the medals themselves often represent an important accomplishment in the recipient’s life. One example was a gentleman who bought the John Muir Trail medal for his dying mother who had hiked the John Muir Trail solo in the ‘60s.
How did you most recently Make Time For Good?
Last weekend I worked on a medal for Mount Whitney—at 14,508 ft, it is the highest summit in the contiguous United States. What’s exciting about this medal is that the beneficiary will be the Inyo County Search and Rescue organization. These volunteers risk their lives several times every season to save hikers on the mountain.
What makes Fossil Group’s culture unique?
At work I get inspired by the creativity that is present in our offices. Whatever I produce doesn’t even come close to the uniqueness of the designs and ideas that I am surrounded with at work.
Fossil Group gives its employees volunteer time off as well as matches dollars to support multiple causes. How did we specifically support you in making time for good?
Doing good is part of Fossil’s DNA. In my case specifically, it was the extended time off I could take to hike the John Muir Trail, which led to the creation of Hiker Medals as well as matching funds to causes supporting the preservation of trails.
How can others get involved in your efforts?
Start hiking, be prepared and make sure to leave no trace. If you get the opportunity, volunteer for or donate to an organization that is responsible for trail maintenance. If you enjoy being outdoors, also consider getting Wilderness First Aid certified, so you can help yourself or others in case of an emergency.
Hiker Medals By the Numbers
medals were sold to customers all over the world by the end of 2017
Hiker Medal designs to-date (and it continues to grow)
of Hiker Medal sales has been donated to charities in the past year
The amount matched by Fossil Group’s Employee Matching Donation program to various trail associations, foundations and conservancies
Richardson, TX. February 13, 2018 — Fossil Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: FOSL) (the “Company” or “Fossil Group”) today reported its financial results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended December 30, 2017…
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We’re proud to announce that Fossil Group took home a variety of awards and nominations from the show.
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