This semester, Sara Wroblewski ’13, CEO and founder of the entrepreneurial programming non-profit One Bead, and Bekah Malover, a freelance graphic designer, visited Associate Professor of Media and Society Leah Shafer’s “Senior Seminar” to talk with the students about branding for nonprofits. Malover was recently hired by One Bead to rebrand the organization and update its website.
“The students in the senior seminar were thrilled to meet Sara and Bekah. We’re studying branding this semester, and learning about the ways that Sara has leveraged brand identity to create a progressive non-profit inspired the students to think about ways they could apply what they’ve learned in our seminar to their future roles as community leaders,” says Shafer.
“The hardest part of the journey for me has been evolving One Bead’s branding and messaging to clearly convey the mission and vision of our organization. Bringing Bekah on was a game-changer,” says Wroblewski.
Malover says she helped refine the brand in order to visually and artistically represent the company’s mission on the website. “It was really important that the company has a separate identity, that isn’t Sara’s identity,” Malover explains.
In 2011, Wroblewski collaborated with Kenyan artisan, Anselm Croze, on a service project supporting the local community. Wroblewski led fundraising efforts for the initiative by selling Anselm’s handmade, recycled glass beads to friends and family members. In 2012, Wroblewski launched her company as the inaugural winner of HWS’ Pitch Contest. After completing the service project in Kenya, Wroblewski’s experience inspired her to evolve One Bead into a business that provides high-impact entrepreneurial programming to students across Boston.
During Shafer’s class, Wroblewski discussed the current challenges affecting the greater Boston community due to the pandemic with enrichment programs such as One Bead getting sidelined. When schools transitioned to remote learning in March, Wroblewski and her team noticed a significant decrease in student participation. The first step they took was to ask themselves who was unable to access their programs and why. This exploration led to the realization that there was (and still is) a digital divide disproportionately effecting communities of color in Boston.
“It is important to understand the full impact that this divide has on our students. The reality is that, in more affluent, predominantly white communities, there is less demand for our work. This is best exemplified by a response we received from a school leader in a wealthy district after pitching our program: ‘Our students don’t need programming that will introduce them to CEOs; their parents ARE CEOs.’ Until the system of white supremacy that pervades our society is dismantled, exceptional programming for Black and Brown students, experiences intended to amplify and empower must be essential,” Wroblewski says.
In effort to make their work more accessible, Wroblewski and her team created a four-hour Tech Program that they are now offering to hundreds of families, in multiple languages, at each of the schools they partner with. At the end of the program, parents and guardians help their child log into and participate in a 30-minute enrichment session hosted by One Bead. During the session, students engage in conversations about equity, leadership and identity with Boston-based leaders. With the increased presence of the Black Lives Matter movement, One Bead’s interview series exclusively features leaders of color.
When giving advice to students on starting a non-profit, Wroblewski encourages them to first and foremost get started. “Start sharing your ideas with as many people as you possibly can. I learned from a fellow entrepreneur to never stop evolving your message. So, dive in now knowing that the evolution is all part of the process!” she says.
Students appreciated her honesty. “What I liked most about Sara’s talk is how real she was. She was so pure with her talk and it was nice talking to someone who wasn’t holding back with her experiences,” says Alexandria Knipper ’21.
For more information on One Bead visit https://onebead.org/
In the photo above, Sara Wroblewski ’13 leads a class for Boston-area students.