Carolyn Koppel of Aaron's Coffee Corner

We spend our days talking with empowered women from all walks of life who are following their passions — artisans, businesswomen, mothers, directors, politicians, chefs, dancers and so much more. They are all on very different journeys and at various stages along their paths. But one thing many of them  have in common, and what we have been most inspired by, is that they are so grateful for their own blessings in life and they use their platforms to pay it forward. Some of them mentor other women to help them pursue their passions, others have founded their own charities, a few work for philanthropic organizations and a lot of women donate portions of their sales to those in need. They all have a variety of reasons for choosing the causes they align with but each one wants to do good, spread love and make the world a little bit better.


Carolyn Koppel has always been drawn to projects that help other people. Early in her career she worked for Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios. She was always drawn to projects that had a purpose. But when she found herself the mother of a non-verbal, non-ambulatory son, who was prone to unmanageable seizures, she discovered her purpose hitting much closer to home. After many long nights in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, unable to leave her son’s side to get a cup of coffee, Carolyn founded Aaron’s Coffee Corner. The organization provides 24/7 access to free, fresh, quality coffee in the family great rooms of PICUs. Carolyn told us, “I decided to focus the charity on the families rather than the children themselves because if you can bring a little comfort to the family in the smallest of ways, it’s going to make the biggest difference. I always felt that if we could help the families, we were helping the child because you create less stress, you create a little peace of mind and it makes you better at navigating all of this unfamiliar stuff.”


Erica Wright founder of Project UFirst is on a mission to bring dignity to the lives of the people in the homeless community of Atlanta, Georgia and beyond. She and her team distribute Love Bags that hold basic necessities — like a washcloth, a toothbrush and toothpaste — in an effort to help those living on the streets to lead a healthy and whole life. Erica, who was once homeless herself, empathizes with the community and wanted to give back. She said, “I had a great group of people around me supporting me, who poured back into me. So that spirit never left me. Even at a young age, I’ve felt like we could always do more because of the things that we have. So it’s just been a passion of mine to just give back to those in need.”


In 2014, Caleigh Hernandez founded ROHO after falling in love with a pair of beaded sandals in a craft market in Uganda. Caleigh teamed up with a Kenyan woman named Lydia and launched a company that focuses on social change by empowering women. Profits from ROHO fund artisan development as well as women’s and environmental initiatives in Kenya and the United States. She stated, “We’re working with these artisans. We are decking women out in the US in fabulous, unique, interesting products and at the same time, ensuring that these products are doing something meaningful, bringing people out of poverty in Kenya.” Not only does RoHo provide fair trade jobs with good wages, they also fund education for the children of their artisans to ensure their global good keeps on giving.

Check back next week for Part 2 and more female founders paying it forward.

Sisters Amy and Nancy Harrington have been inspired by the #MeToo movement and #TimesUp campaign and decided to use their skills as celebrity interviewers to work to tell a different kind of story. Where many podcasters reserve their airtime for the elite, Amy and Nancy are talking to amazing women you probably haven’t heard of, who are making a huge difference by following their passions. From the founder of a successful ice cream company to a volcano scientist running for office to an artist who makes sculptures using melted down nuclear weapons, Amy and Nancy shine a light on the positive stories of women on The Passionistas Project Podcast and the newly launched Passionistas Project Pack.