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goodMRKT Live! - Building a Legacy with Michelle Tunno Buelow

Posted by Adam Lambert on

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"But when you truly figure out why you are put on this earth and what your impact is meant to be, you just come alive."

- Michelle Tunno Buelow, Bella Tunno

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Welcome back to goodMRKT Live!

This week on goodMRKT Live! Harry and I caught up with Michelle Tunno Buelow. Michelle is the founder of Bella Tunno, a company that creates incredibly charming baby products and is dedicated to ending childhood hunger. For every product that Bella Tunno sells, they donate one meal, to one child, somewhere across the world.  

Michelle was gracious enough to share the emotional backstory that inspired her to create Bella Tunno, talk about how childhood hunger can lead to addiction in adults, and explain what it feels like to have donated more than six-point two million meals to children across the planet. 

We’re so happy to have you join us on this episode of goodMRKT Live! As we showcase another amazing story from our community of creators dedicating to doing good.

 

LISTEN TO GOODMRKT LIVE!

 

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PRODUCTS MENTIONED IN THE SHOW

Shop ALL Bella Tunno

Dedicated to Doing Good
With their Buy One, Feed One program, Bella Tunno donates one meal to a child in need for every product sold. Through their partnerships with Feeding America and the Global FoodBanking Network, Bella Tunno has donated over 6.2 million meals to children in need.

 

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READ THE TRANSCRIPT:

Building a Legacy with Michelle Tunno Buelow of Bella Tunno:

Michelle:
Yeah, all right, my turn?

Harry:
Your turn. It's all you.

Michelle:
Yeah, so I think probably similar to a lot of founders stories. It definitely wasn't a straight path and it definitely wasn't a path that I would have selected. I always say this story chose me and kind of the start at the beginning. I grew up in a super small town in Pennsylvania, a small town next to a small town that we identified by the next small town.[laughing]

Michelle:
And I always had these big aspirations that I wanted to see the whole world, and I wanted to do big things. And I grew up taking every single opportunity I could; straight-A student, gold-star kid, just wanted to make sure that I was climbing a ladder two rungs at a time. And I grew up in a nuclear family: a mom, dad and a brother, one sibling and he was my best friend. He was three years older than me. And we did everything together. Picture the panel station wagon driving the whole way from Pennsylvania to Texas.

Harry:
Did you all sit in the back seat looking at the back window?

Michelle:
We did and we would sit we would sit facing each other. I'm dating myself, now.

Harry:
Super not safe now... [laughing]

Michelle:
But yeah, the seat in the back would look at each other and it would be like a contest who could outlast the other in getting sick, you know? So we just had this insane relationship. And the whole time I was definitely a goody two shoes, he, he was on a different path and he was an academic.

Michelle:
And he was hilarious. But he started struggling at a pretty young age with drugs and alcohol. And by the time he went to college, it was heavy. He was he was really in. And he went in and out of a ton of rehab programs. I think there were five. And you ride those highs and lows of, "this one worked", you know, "I think this one is the one that we're going to get back together and it's all going to be OK".

Michelle:
And it's interesting because he wasn't the drug addict that people think of when you think of addiction; he kept a 4.0, he had a fully-paid scholarship to do graduate work; he was working on his PhD,;he was in a band. It was just one of those things where I think, in hindsight, we were so easily tricked that he was doing better than he was because the outward appearance was better. Anyways, I'm running a brand strategy department. I'm flying to all these different countries internationally.

Michelle:
I think I've made it in life, I have the expense account, I'm flying first class, I'm twenty-five years old. I'm like, this is the life I dreamed from that small town. I wanted to get out. I wanted to do it all.

Michelle:
Finally, with all of Matt's ups and downs, it was August 5th of 2003, and we got the call that he had passed away, and he had overdosed. It was it was a moment where everything that I thought had mattered, everything I thought was success in the way I defined that, just came to this--not to a screeching halt because it was just a silence. It was a deafening silence.

Michelle:
I had no idea what my life was meant to be, and--I went into a crazy depression. I just lost my brother, I'd lost my person. I'd focused so much--there was a guilt that I had focused so much on building my life and my career and making everything look so perfect. I knew he was struggling. And it was just this thing where I was like, "Wow, I don't know what to do."

Michelle:
So I quit my job. Well, I tried to quit and they kept giving me three months more. And after three renewals of three months more, I felt like I was robbing them. I'm like, you have to quit paying me. I'm not coming back. I can't do it. And I took about a year off and I literally didn't do anything. I was in my pajamas. I was trying to keep my family together. My parents, as you can imagine, were an absolute mess after a 14-year battle with addiction with my brother.

Michelle:
And then it culminating in his death. If anyone's ever been through it, you know what I'm talking about and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. It just destroyed the family.

Harry:
Were you already married with kids yet?

Michelle:
I got married in 2002. I didn't have kids at this time, so he passed away in 2003.

Harry:
So you did have your husband. Which probably helped give you a different perspective with your parents?

Michelle:
For sure.

Michelle:
For sure. And I was in Charlotte. My parents were still in in Pennsylvania.

Harry:
Not easy.

Michelle:
No, no. So, what ended up happening was I truly just took a year off life. And I remember this moment. I don't even know what happened. But I woke up one day after a year of doing nothing with myself. And I was like, I've got to build a legacy for him. I got to destigmatize drugs and alcohol and addiction. I've got to share his story. I've got to let people know that he was so funny and so smart and such a good person. And this is just something he fought; it wasn't who he was. I didn't know how I was going to do that, but don't you know it, a week later I have this fire in me to do something and I'm not sure what direction to take,and a week later, I find out I'm pregnant. So I was like, well.

Harry:
Good timing. [laughing]

Michelle:
We have no money because I quit my job. [laughing] We went from two salaries to one. I'm pregnant. I'm a stay-at-home-baby-incubator, you know? [laughing] I'm going to start making stuff for my daughter, I'm going to start looking for stuff. I went out there and there was nothing I liked; nothing fit my sense of style. It was all ducks and gingham and yellow. And I was like, this is unbelievably terrible. And, so, I started making things. I would go buy fabric and I would make my own burp cloths and bibs and whatever--

Harry:
Did you know how to sew or did you teach yourself?

Michelle:
No. My mom was actually--for the first nine months I was worried about my mom after my brother died. And then she was worried about me and she bought me all these hobby things like a tennis racket; a sewing machine, to do something! [laughing] The sewing machine, I was self taught, although we grew up very, very lower middle class. My mom did make all my clothes. I just never had interest in sewing. Now she got me a sewing machine so, anyway, I started making things.

Michelle:
Long, long story short, there seemed to be this look that I was creating that sixteen, seventeen years ago did not exist in the market--it was bold. And it was like a Pucci, like a Lilly Pulitzer. And it was almost like Missoni and it was on baby stuff.

Harry:
That's cool.

Michelle:
So my friends--I'd give it as gifts because I couldn't afford to buy them gifts. I'd give it as gifts, baby showers, because I was kind of in that, that cycle of life. And they were like, "you gotta sell this. You got to go see if anybody wants it." I really think they were trying to get me out of my pajamas. I really think they were just like those good friend that were encouraging me. But finally, just the kind of quiet them--and to prove to myself that this isn't going to be for me--I took my bag of my little samples to eleven boutiques around Charlotte; made appointments. I was like, can I come show you some products to see if you're interested?

Adam:
Michelle, at the time, when you when you're kind of, you know, taking these around to the little shops, did you have an inkling that this was the legacy that you kind of wanted to create for Matt? Or was this just kind of let's get out of the pajamas, let's let's do the thing we need?

Michelle:
Absolutely not. It was the latter. And honestly, I just had no business. I didn't know how to produce things. I didn't know how to manufacture. I didn't--I didn't know anything. I did run a brand strategy department. So I understood the branding. But how to get the products made and developed and sold? No idea.

Harry:
So, what was the brand? Was it was already Bella Tunno?

Michelle:
Well, I didn't really have a brand name at that point. I just had baby products to show them that look. Ten out of the 11 stores said we want it.

Harry:
Oh, cool.

Michelle:
And I said, "Oh, wow."

Harry:
'Now, I got to go make this stuff.' [laughing]

Michelle:
And one of the stores is like, well, you've got to go to Market. And she introduced me to a showroom down in Atlanta. I came with my little table of a few products and I get, maybe, ten more orders. And I remember I got fifty-seven orders. I thought, 'there's something here. People like it.' That was the point that I was like, if there is a white space, for this look, in baby products, and maybe I can use the money to fund a memorial for my brother.

Harry:
What year was this?

Michelle:
2005.

Harry:
So, that was before really people were doing that kind of thing. I don't think businesses necessarily, in 2005, were thinking a lot about, 'if I make some money, I can do some good with it.'

Michelle:
I don't think so either.

Harry:
I don't think about the thing. I mean, that's pretty cool, already, that you were thinking that way.

Michelle:
Yeah, yeah. And I honestly thought, I'm going to do this. I had thirty $30,000 goal that I wanted to raise because I wanted to pay for the rest of my brother's doctorate to be finished. And I wanted to add some rooms onto a rescue mission and let more clients go through the program. Once that was done, I want to go back to my life.

Harry:
The life you had before?

Michelle:
Yes. This was just, let's let's start something in Matt's name. Let's get some closure. Let's get his name out there and something that's super meaningful. And then I'm going to go back to a life that--I'm going to start to try to rebuild. You know, life had other plans. So, within two years, Target reached out, GAP reached out--it really was an amazing opportunity.

Harry:
And you were doing apparel, though, right?

Michelle:
Well, we never did apparel. We did soft goods. So bibs, blankets, burp cloths. Literally, things that were squares because I could't sew. [laughing]

Michelle:
It was this growth pattern where I was making it myself, then the home seamstresses. Then I found small factories--fortunate to be in Carolina because that was a big manufacturing area. And, so, we found some small factories willing to take on small runs. Within the first five years, we had added five rooms to a rescue mission, We had given three scholarships to unwed teen moms. We had sent about ten people--clients--through a program we believed in. We did a huge event, raised $30,000 dollars in one night, to help launch a women's recovery program in Charlotte.

Michelle:
We were doing some really cool work. And it was certainly my passion project because it was all in my brother's name; every check that was written was the 'Matt Tunno Make a Difference fund'. We were selling these baby and children's products--it didn't matter what we sold; topiaries, tires, toilet paper--it did not matter. We were just raising money and his legacy was carried on and we were changing lives in some way.

Harry:
Incredible, yeah.

Michelle:
But then we realized, there's a pretty sizable disconnect when you're selling baby products and you're bringing new life into the world, and that new life, from a parent's perspective, is no doubt going to be the first female president or, they're going to cure cancer. And we're like, but we're going to help addicts get off the street by buying our product. There was just like ships in the night; nothing was making sense from our mission standpoint. In 2014, I came across some research that said there was a link between food insecurity in adolescence and addiction in adulthood.

Michelle:
And it's that scarcity-hoarding mentality. There's a psychological link there. I thought, 'that's it.' We are making feeding products for children, because at that point we had gotten really into the plates, and bowls, and spoons, and tabletops, and bibs. We can feed children because the need was insane, at that point it was 1-in-6 children, with the pandemic, it actually estimated to get to 1-in-4 children were hungry. Now, we're back to 1-in-6. It was 1-in-7 in 2019. It's been all over.

Harry:
Why did it get better during the pandemic?

Michelle:
No, 1-in-4.

Harry:
Oh, I have to think backwards. That's significantly worse.

Michelle:
Significantly worse. And that's, of course, schools are closing and that's one of the main sources. And food banks are shutting down because people can't come in and work. Anyways, we found that statistic and thought, 'that's it.' Behind the scenes, we can continue to do everything from drug and alcohol and scholarships and we can do what fuels us as a family and from a passion project standpoint, but forward-facing, we got to let our customers know the good work they're doing. And we're going to feed some kids.

Harry:
That's cool.

Michelle:
In 2014, we made it our mission to start ending childhood hunger here and internationally. Our our focus is: wherever the product is sold, that's where the meal goes. We partnered with Feeding America, on the national level, and the Global Food Banking Network, internationally, so that for every single product sold one meal goes to one child. We've donated 6.2 million meals.

Harry:
Incredible. Yeah. And I know we were just talking this morning just about the number of meals that we've done just since we've been with the goodMRKT, which is already amazing to me. I want to jump in a little bit of that, how we got connected, because it was it's kind of a fun story for me. I'm anxious to hear from you--from your point of view, too. And then I want to throw in a great memory that I'll never forget about the first time we talked. I'll let you--maybe you want to kick it off and I'll throw some stuff into it.

Michelle:
Well, you know, I wasn't at the Market where you met my team. They came back and they said, 'We have to sign an NDA. [laughing] Vera Bradley wants to talk to us.' So you can imagine what's circling in my head--

Harry:
Well, you've talked to Target. I mean, it's a little bigger than Vera Bradley--just a little bit. [laughing]

Michelle:
I was super excited. Whatever it was. I was super excited. You know, the truth is, Vera Bradley--those were the bags I wanted to take to college that we couldn't afford. In my mind I'm thinking, "I'm going to get a bag!" I had no idea what it really was. Then when we got on our call, you started talking, and I shared this with you and with Rob, at one point, you start telling the vision for what you want to do. It was something that was so powerful. It was like--that is super exciting. That all these brands could come together--they all have this passion for what they're doing, but passion for social impact and purpose. And you start talking and your excitement was just contagious and the idea was just genius. It was something that--I didn't even know what the ask was, and I think I told you, "We're in." [laughing]

Harry:
[laughing] That's exactly what you said. You said, "I'm going to go talk to my CFO after. They're going to tell me all the reasons why we can't. But we're going to do it. We'll figure it out."

Michelle:
Exactly right. Exactly right. [laughing] The model was one we weren't used to but it didn't matter. We want to be a part of this. You only get so many chances in your life to be a part of "true good" that you don't have to make yourself. Someone else is making 'good' and inviting me to be part of it? Yeah, yes.

Harry:
It's great. We love it. And I think that's been kind of the fun stuff for us is that--so, even from the connection when we didn't meet the first time and were sort of going through the process of getting connected to you, I was talking to somebody from your team here, they said, "Oh, wait till Michelle hears that she's going to love it."

Michelle:
Yeah.

Harry:
It's kind of like taking off from there. Then, of course, you got to be with us in April when we opened the store. We'd love to be in Charlotte, so we'll keep working on that. Hopefully, we'll be in Charlotte.

Michelle:
We're going to make that happen.

Harry:
But I think it's been really exciting for us to sort of see how things have gone. And I remember well, like the first time we called I said, "Michelle, we got to have more stock. We almost sold out!" Which is fantastic because it's that many more meals and it's gotten even better and even better. It continues to be exciting for us to just see what's next. And we know there's some good things on the horizon. But I think that's that's been sort of fun for us. So long term for you, does your family still have your foundation that you're doing things back-of-house, kind of, if you will?

Michelle:
Yeah, absolutely. And we've taken it a little further. My daughter, when she was 11, with four friends, started their own 5013c called 'Laps for Love' and they support the local--it's a swimming event, she's not a swimmer, but she's like the marketing mind. They support the drug and alcohol recovery program. As a family we support that now too. But, don't you know it, those five little 11 year-olds, who are now 16, have raised $220,000?

Adam:
Whoa.

Harry:
And what do they do? How are they doing it?

Michelle:
You get sponsorships for laps in this huge Olympic sized pool that they swim in. They turned it into--I think they 500 people at the last event. COVID, we couldn't do it during COVID, so it's before that. But it's all kinds of sponsorships. Amazing companies that are supporting the kids but supporting the mission too. My family is still extremely involved in drug and alcohol recovery, but it is a little bit more of a behind-the-scenes, personal thing.

Harry:
So do you think she'll take over for you one day?

Michelle:
No, no.

Harry:
That's not what she wants to do?

Michelle:
She has an insane math and science mind. No, if you ask her right now, she's going to go to Stanford and take over for Elon Musk. You know, she's got bigger dreams than Bella Tunno. [laughing]

Harry:
My son is like that, he's the outstanding math and science mind. That didn't come from me. That's your mom. Good luck!

Michelle:
This summer, she's taking a calculus class that she chose to take extra. And I'm like, if I didn't have you, I would not believe you were mine. [laughing] I don't know. I don't know if she will. She likes to help. But she, um--

Harry:
That's cool that she's doing it. So do you have any other kids?

Michelle:
Yes. Ella, Ella is my thirteen year old. She is the sweetest little thing. All heart. She's more the marketing mind. So she'll be at Market with me as soon as she's old enough--I think you have to be 15. But she's like--she's our walking advocate. People call me all the time and they're like, "Ella told me, I need to get a gift because it gives meals". She's our little mouthpiece for Bella Tunno. If anyone takes it over, it'll be her. And she's joining her sister's nonprofit. So she'll keep that running because, is going to graduate.

Harry:
So I'm going to ask you really quickly about the whimsical nature of the product, because I think that's part of what drew me into it was just so much fun. Funny enough, at goodMRKT, I know we've sold a number of the bibs that say, "Hey, Alexa, where's my food?" because that happened to be the mom's name in addition to the Alexa name. The first one that we sold was to this grandfather, who was the cutest guy came in and you just kind of hanging out by himself, got coffee, walked around it, and he brought up his bib. And I was like, "Oh, you've got to bib." He said, "Yeah, my daughter's name is Alexa and she's about to have my first grandchild." That's cool. So it's sort of that funny meaning. But where do those amazing sayings come from? Is that your head or is it a group effort?

Michelle:
Totally a group effort. Our team is super diverse in their personalities and their sense of humor and it just all come together. We we sit around and we crowdsource ideas and it's just this big laugh fest. And the things I think are funny, they don't. Actually I have the outlier personality of the group. [laughing] Fortunately, I have veto power, too.

Harry:
Are they are they comfortable to say, "Michelle, that's not funny. That's kind of dumb." [laughing]

All:
[laughing]

Michelle:
They definitely say that. 100%. Like there's a teether and on the teether, I'm like, we're going to 'bite me'. [laughing]

Harry:
I bought that one! [laughing]

Michelle:
There like, "Michelle, no one is going to buy that." Hey, it's in the top-5 teethers. So, sometimes I win and very often I lose. But it's OK, it's worth a go. We really love to present that personality. That's fun because parenting is fun. I mean your kids can make a mess, they're going to be times where you are just so overwhelmed with parenting, but if you look at your kid and they have the, 'Hey, why are you peanut butter and jelly?' bib on or the Alexa one, or 'It was me. I let the dogs out' or 'bite me'. It's funny. And you might as well just have a sense of humor with parenting because it's the best, hard job you ever going to have.

Harry:
Yeah, I agree. You mentioned earlier you talked about that you didn't want to be like ducks and gingham--that's so not what parenting is! Parenting is everything but ducks and gingham.

Michelle:
Yeah.

Harry:
And my mom is visiting us right now and she told my daughter a story the other day about me as a kid, which that's the only opportunity my kids get to hear about me as a kid. She was saying when I was a kid I took a whole bowl of spaghetti and turned it on my head and it all ran everywhere. My mom is kind of obsessive--she's a clean freak, everything has to be clean. But that's real life. By the way, I'm a clean freak too, so I'd never dump a bowl of spaghetti on my head today, but it worked then--it was a good thing to do. That was the start of my rebelliousness. The whole ask-forgiveness-not-permission. [laughing]

Michelle:
I like that about you actually. I like that a lot. [laughing]

Harry:
So Adam, I think we have a few--we're calling the goodBYE questions, right? That we would like to ask everybody and we're going to throw those over at the Michelle, too?

Adam:
Yeah. So, it's just a quick rundown of--really, it's for the guests that we're trying to get more out of--you have been very open with us. So, thank you, for everything that you've spoken about in the stories that you've been telling--

Harry:
But we do love these questions.

Michelle:
OK, yeah.

Adam:
So, the first one is: "What does 'doing good' mean to you?"

Michelle:
Oh, I actually love that. 'Doing good', in a short way, is just leaving every situation better than you found it; leaving every interaction with every person better than you found it. There's this quote I love, that I'll probably butcher, it's by Theodore Roosevelt. And he says, "One of the greatest gifts in life is the ability to work hard at work worth doing." I think that's 'doing good'. It's putting one hundred percent into everything you have for a greater purpose than yourself.

Harry:
I love that. That's great.

Adam:
Same.

Harry:
That's far better than I would have said! [laughing]

Michelle:
OK, let's quit! We're done! [laughing]

Harry:
It only gets harder from there.

Adam:
Next question: "What one word describes what you're doing at Bella Tunno?"

Michelle:
Heart.

Adam:
Did you say heart?

Harry:
H-E-A-R-T. Not hard. [laughing]

Michelle:
Not sure what you heard! [laughing]

Adam:
Yeah, no heart. It was either heart or art.

Michelle:
Oh! Well, that works too. But, no. Heart. I think everything we do has so much heart and love and passion and intention behind it.

Adam:
Love that. "If you could say one good thing to someone, what would it be and to whom would you say it?"

Michelle:
Oh, my Gosh! No way, y'all. No way! I think it would be to my husband. And I would tell him that he is so incredible and so selfless. And the best father. And the best husband. And I just don't tell him that enough. I, if---I take him for granted. I just do. So, there you go; out in the open!

Harry:
Good advice for Adam, the newlywed.

Michelle:
It is because it's an easy thing to do to get into this routine of "that person"? I mean, I'm gone for two weeks back-to-back, and I don't have to have a concern about my kids--he's just amazing. But, I don't tell him that. So, I would take that opportunity.

Adam:
Yeah, I'm sure he's going to love hearing that now.

Harry:
We have a recording, now. You can just take that [laughing], you don't have to say it. "Listen to my podcast, listen again!"

All:
[laughing]

Michelle:
I know! And then I can test him to see if he listened.

Adam:
You can set it up to send to him once a month just so you can cover your bases and let him know.

Harry:
The first of every month, auto-send.

Michelle:
I love that.

Harry:
Adam, I know you got one more. Do you get to do the last one? You're going to do one more, but I get the last one?

Adam:
The last one we have was the quote. So, if you want to do one other? I really like the Teddy Roosevelt one that you spoke about. If there's another one that you think about often, we would love to hear that.

Michelle:
Oh, I do! I think it was Mark Twain. "The two most important days in life are the day you were born and the day you find out why." That speaks to the journey of finding your purpose. And so many people think that your purpose is going to be wrapped up with a bow. One day you'll open your front door and you're like, "Oh! Here's my purpose." And that's not how it works.

Michelle:
Purpose is, not what you would pick. Purpose sometimes finds you, and sometimes it's, dark. I know for me, I ran away from my purpose for so long because it wasn't what I wanted my story to be and it wasn't where I wanted my life to go. But when you truly figure out why you are put on this earth and what your impact is meant to be, you just come alive. And I love that. I love that quote. Really, that's my hope for my kids. I hope they find that purpose. And I hope that they grasp it early. And I hope they make a big impact in this world.

Harry:
That's so great. Adam and I just wrote an article about--I hate to sound braggadocios, but it was about me. And somebody had asked me to write an article about sort of my journey to goodMRKT, loosely as a bucket list item. I have a hard time--I can talk--but, I have a hard time putting my words on paper. So, Adam helped me write it, and the title of it was, "Passion for a Purpose." To your point about that, I've had a pretty exciting, pretty cool career. But all things that I want to do, "I want to do this, I want to do this or this," my life worked out in a great way--not without a tough childhood before it--but made me a different person now.

Harry:
I had always wanted to do a store, but it never--for the right reason. This came along, goodMRKT came along, out of nowhere. I like to say we were kind of one good pandemic away from actually changing the world. When you really step back and say, 'yes, six hundred thousand people died in the United States, millions of people die around the world'. I mean, I lost my father-in-law to COIVD. But, when you actually step back from that and say, 'OK, what good is happening now?' After we all got that time to reset ourselves, it's allowed me to really find my purpose in a way. So it's exciting and inspiring to hear you talk about purpose, because you're right--when it hits you, you don't even realize it. It's just there.

Michelle:
Anyone that gets to spend time with you, sees that in you, and feels that when they're around you, and it's a gift. And it's contagious! It really is! Like, you're on fire for this. And you're making it happen. And that's why everyone wants to be a part of it.

Harry:
It's exciting. Somebody said to me the other day, "how'd it happen?" I don't even know how things happened! We're just doing stuff. And I imagine that's probably part of what it's been with; things started rolling and things fall into place and you don't know. You just know that it's right.

Michelle:
I agree.

Harry:
Adam, anything else on purpose? You helped me with that purpose thing. You were the purpose-meister.

Adam:
Michelle, I really love that you made a call out to the fact that sometimes it comes from a really dark place and I think that the pretty traditional narrative around purpose is that it's something that you find and it's something you you discover as you go along. But, for a lot of people that I know, it something really bad happened, you know? Or something pretty dark happen; something that that was very unexpected and very difficult to grapple with.

Adam:
And through that darkness and through that that tragedy, they found something that you--they weren't going to find any other way. And it's the thing that drives them now. Whether that's a very deliberate choice--like the way that you're doing with Matt's foundation to help with recovery and addiction and things like that--or, if it's just 'I saw this happen. And so I live my life a certain way and I live my life towards a certain purpose.' I just really love that, that there's a call out to the fact that things aren't always rosy and perfect and fun. Life doesn't necessarily have these really clean lines involved.

Adam:
And I think that does speak a lot to what you're trying to do with recovery and addiction, because it's a dark topic. It's hurt a lot of people and a lot of different ways. But, it doesn't have to be hidden. It's something that enough people talk about--or, enough people go through and suffer through--that we all experience it one way or the other. The more that it's open and we can talk about it, the better it's going to get for everyone involved. Definitely.

Michelle:
Absolutely.

Harry:
Addiction and recovery is a dark topic-- childhood hunger, it's horrendous to think about it. When you think about how you grabbed a cookie and ate half of it threw the other half away and there's a kid that actually that could have been their only meal for the day.

Michelle:
You know, go into schools. We go into. What in Charlotte are called a Title I School, which means the school is mostly free and reduced lunch. We would take in healthy snacks and do a reading program. I remember the first time I went in, I took clementines and granola bars.

Michelle:
And one little kid is looking around and he's holding it, and a few little kids are looking at him, and all of a sudden he takes the clementine and he bites right into the peel. In Charlotte, North Carolina! He had never seen an orange or orange-type product. Then the little kids around him were like, 'OK,' and they bit into it, too. I said, 'Y'all, let me help you." I showed them how to peel them. That literally was a moment where I was like, in my city, kids are hungry and they don't they don't even recognize fruit because hat's not what they're getting.

Michelle:
Then, a few of the kids didn't eat their granola bars. And I'm thinking, 'you kids are really hungry, why are they not eating?' I asked one, "Do not like chocolate?" He said, "I'm going to save it for dinner." It's that moment where these kids who have enough worries going on should not have to worry about one of their three basic needs. It's actually horrific. And what happened with the pandemic has made it so much worse. Two out of every five visitors to the food bank--the first time visitors. They were the working poor that were making it happen and they just can't anymore.

Michelle:
So, it is it is a worthwhile cause that we are really excited to be part of. But there's so much more work to do. It's unbelievable. I'm glad you brought that up, because I would love to just shine a light on that and encourage people to get involved. It's an easy thing to get involved with--not everyone can work with addicts. Not everyone's heart is there. Everyone can do something to help donate meals and feed children.

Harry:
That's so true. So we'll leave you with one more question, which is my favorite question. Everybody has a story to tell and a goodMRKT, obviously, we love storytelling--it's half of what we do. Adam wrote the phrase, "the products on the shelf are only half the story."

Michelle:
I love that.

Harry:
So, "If you had to have someone tell your story, who would tell your personal story and why?"

Michelle:
So many answers are going through my head, but maybe not for the right reason! [laughing] I really wanted Jennifer Garner, just because I've always wanted to be best friends with her, but probably not the right reason. You know, Oprah, is an obvious one, but, that's not going to do it for me. You know, not to get a little too deep, I want my kids to tell my story. I want to make them so proud that they want to say, "Look at my mom did." For so many reasons--I would love for them to tell my story.

Harry:
That's beautiful. Good, good.

Adam:
I love that answer. In my head we're always expecting a celebrity or some famous musician. But then--that's why we have the questionnaire; to get to get really great answers like that one.

Harry:
And usually we get those really great answers, which we love. Cool.

Michelle:
Thank you.

Michelle:
Well, thank you, Michelle. It's great talking to you today. Always great talking to you. Not just today, but it's great to see you in person today. Talk to you today, Adam. Always a blast with you, sir.

Adam:
Yes. Had a great time. Michelle, thank you for your honesty and also for doing what you're doing. It's incredibly helpful to a lot of people and you're an inspiration, for sure.

Michelle:
Thank you. I'm thrilled to get to work with you all, it goes both ways.

Harry:
Cheers to 10 million meals, right?

Michelle:
Cheers. Let's do it.

Harry:
That's that's our our short term goal.

Michelle:
Very short term!

Harry:
All right. Thanks so much!

Michelle:
Thank you!

Adam:
Bye!

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