I was first introduced to the silicone bracelet like everyone else on this planet, the LiveStrong bracelets for cancer research. 50 million+ sold, handed out, donated, and worn showing the world you cared about finding for the cure, donated time and/or money, and wanted things to be better for all impacted, which is all of us. Our industry lead the charge for this and sprouted off hundreds of other reasons, colors, and ideas of why these bracelets were the thing we needed to show what we cared about and what we stood behind; it was the new bumper sticker in a more personal way. Entire companies were created off this one product and they sold tens of millions across the globe, probably hundreds of millions. It became the go to product for non-profits and causes in every corner of the globe and pictures popped up all over social media to help spread it even more.
One day, a few years into this phenomenon, I was driving on the freeway and the idea for the “Pay it Forward” bracelet popped into my head; I know exactly where I was, how fast I was going, and what happened next. The idea was so strong it took over my life for years and drastically altered who I was, what I wanted, and how I went about it. The bracelets were worn as support for a cause, a way to show you donated money and sometimes worn for awhile but most times, worn for a bit and then tossed. The idea for the "Pay it Forward" bracelet was not to wear it as showing support but as a reminder that it was your turn to do something good for someone, to pay it forward. The bracelet was worn to be given away to the person you helped, thus creating the human connection between two people and making sure the good deed was acted upon down the road, long after your initial act. A way of showing someone had done something good for you and that you were going to help someone in the future, however big or small the kind act was. We were at Expo East in Atlantic City talking about it and everyone we spoke to loved it and wanted to be involved without exception. We began handing them out at that show to see what would happen, we were actually not selling them, or had anyway to sell them, they were not a product in our line. It was so strong, we just knew it had to be given out to the world to see the impact it would have.
Without the bracelet, without the ability to hand someone a promotional product, it simply would have not been the same, nor would it have had anywhere near the impact. You speak to someone about a cause or an idea and as soon as the conversation is over, they move on with life and have a million other things thrown their way and life takes over. With the power of a promotional product, life still took over but when they looked down or brought their hand up in their car to hold the steering wheel, there was their reminder; a reminder that didn’t go away until you made someone smile. This promotional product actually led me to leave the industry, get more involved with the "Pay it Forward" Foundation and eventually take over as President, travel the world, do TED talks, and promote the "Pay it Forward" movement with this simple little bracelet as the centerpiece. We sent over 5 million to 138 countries and counting and those bracelets brought in enough money to the foundation that we could finally end up hiring paid staff to grow the movement even more.