Stillwater-based start-up connects artisans with global consumers 


Quinn Vadenberg and Jonathon Button wanted to make a difference.

After hours of research, they learned that Central American youth were in desperate need of school supplies and could use the help of two 20-somethings.

They quit their corporate jobs in California and flew to Nicaragua.

Once there, they began working with local non-government agencies and uncovered the talents of artisans to create products that can be sold to support the children’s needs. Since November 2012, they have used their Stillwater-based start-up, Life Out of the Box, to accomplish this feat.

LOOTB has since expanded to three continents: Central America, Africa and Southeast Asia.

“We have products from Nicaragua, Guatemala and Morocco, and we work with organizations from all over the world,” Button said. “We’ve given school supplies to Kenya, we’re giving school supplies through one of our team members in Peru and we were able to give school supplies to students all over Southeast Asia this summer.”

The company’s mission is simple: Help educate children out of poverty.

“We work with artisans from all over the world,” Vadenberg added, “but right now, we’re focused on setting up a micro economy in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Morocco and working with their artisans to create sustainable jobs in these countries.”

Each product is assigned a unique identification number, which can be keyed in at the company website so customers can follow the partners as they work.

“We want to connect our customers with the impact they make,” she said. “It comes full circle to giving and receiving.”

The pair also creates videos that document their journeys and interactions so people can feel included.

“We’re calling it a ‘Life Out of the Box experience’ that people are now able to have something they can see where their impact was actually made,” Vadenberg said.

Three years after launching from a hostel, this summer, LOOTB was named runner-up in the 2015 USA Creative Business Cup, a competition that pits entrepreneurs from around the world against each other. It is one of two companies to represent the U.S. during Global Entrepreneurship Week this month in Copenhagen, Denmark.

They heard of the contest while in Nicaragua and agreed to apply. Vadenberg described the process as “very thorough and very long.”

When they returned to Oklahoma, the co-founders learned LOOTB was selected to compete as one of two companies representing the United States. It’s a chance they decided they couldn’t say no to.

“Just networking with this great group of people wanting to create things, change the world and move forward,” she said. “We’re excited to be meeting people with the same mentality.”

The pair also has plans to expand their company.

When asked what they learned about poverty through their work, Button responded, “[We] believe that every child is born equally and deserves the right to go after their dream career. We found the main resource to do this was through education.”

Vadenberg stressed the importance of education.

“We see poverty as something that no one really deserves and that education is really the way out,” she said.

Print Headline: Box tops, A Stillwater-based start-up connects artisans with global consumers in order to provide free schools supplies to in-need youth in developing countries and win international acclaim in the process.

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