How did a high school freshman Economics project end up contributing more than $13,000 to charity? We are still asking ourselves that question. Our names are Lauryn Hong, Ella Matlock, Sofia Migliazza, and Erin Rogers. We are the creators of Be the Change Coloring Co. The four of us met at a swim program for Long Beach Poly High School in the summer of 2019. We had no idea that this friendship would lead to the start of a successful business.
We became fast friends last summer and learned that we were all in the same academic program, PACE. After the school year began, we were assigned a business plan project. Our teacher, Mr. Jeff Montooth, would periodically remind us about it during class, so we knew what was coming. We became a tight-knit group, especially because we were spending a lot of time together in swim. Then the coronavirus hit.
On the morning of March 13, we remember our teacher saying school would abruptly be put on pause. Little did he know, it would end that day. By the third period, everyone was looking at their phones. There was a message that read “All LBUSD Schools to Close March 16 and Resume April 20.” Everyone was in shock. Our Spanish class was so ecstatic, the substitute had to blow her whistle to quiet us down. It was such a celebration. We were all blind to the fact that this might put an end to our freshman year on campus. Teachers and students alike eventually learned to adapt to online learning. Weeks went by, and it was finally time for the business plan project.
Since we also take AP Environmental Science our freshman year, the two courses are normally combined for this project. We were supposed to create a theoretical business plan that would solve an environmental problem. But since we were stuck in quarantine, plans had changed, including ours. Instead of the typical business plan, we were offered the opportunity to create one that would solve a problem related to COVID-19 and the pandemic. Our group chose this option, as it was the one most relevant to what is happening in our world today. The four of us decided to be group partners because we were already such close friends.
We met to brainstorm ideas for our business and knew we wanted to give back to the community, and support kids, during this tough time. Our ideas ranged from asking neighbors for donations for our local hospital, to making mask-decorating kits for kids. We’re not really sure who came up with the idea because all of ours blended together, but we eventually decided on an educational coloring book for kids. The plan was then pitched to our teachers and parents. All of them, especially our teachers, approved of the plan and wanted to turn it into a real product. We would show them the pdf version of the book and they would keep encouraging us to “Just make the real thing!”
We decided to go through with it and contacted a local printer, ABC Press. The company was so kind in helping us and answering all of our questions. In our initial print order, we asked for 25 books, to sell to family and friends. But after pre-orders and launching the book on Instagram and other social media, we needed to increase the order to 450 instead. All the positive feedback came as a complete surprise — we never expected to get this many orders. Then, we got an email from Gary Metzker, a writer at the Grunion Gazette, a local weekly paper in Long Beach, requesting an interview. After that, our business took off. We began getting more interviews, and even more orders.
So far, we have sold more than 7,000 books, and donated more than $13,000 to organizations including CDC Coronavirus Relief, Black Lives Matter, and our local hospital, Long Beach Memorial and Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital. We’ve even created another book, called “Stand Up for Your-Shell-ves”. It is about social justice, and we hope it leaves kids with the message that they should be kind to everyone no matter what. You can order both of the books on our website, www.bethechangecoloringco.com. Our group is so grateful to have the opportunity to help our community, educate kids, and encourage others to pursue what they believe in. None of us expected our book to be this successful. It only serves to reinforce this message, which we’d like to share with others: If you believe in yourself AND your cause, you can achieve great things.