The Water Bearer Foundation raises money to fund scholarships in marine biology, raise awareness about conservation, and educate people about marine life. The founder and CEO, Kimberly Evans, took time out of her busy schedule to talk with the Work Life Balance Protection Agency about her mission.
KE: The idea actually came from my then 13yr old son, Demitris. We both have a love for the ocean and marine life. We were having a discussion about college. He wants to do something with the ocean or become a marine biologist. He asked me, “How people become them?” I informed him that college was necessary to go into this field. Which lead him to ask me how will he get into college? I told him “I was saving for his college through a college savings plan and that he was very lucky to have a grandma that would help as well.” We had a long talk about the usual way of one gets into a college or university. We talked about getting good grades, volunteering, and parents saving for their child’s college funds. Which lead him to ask “What if a person isn’t lucky enough to have a parent to pay for their college?” This is where I explained well there are two other options scholarships/grants or them having to work and pay for it themselves.
He then said “Well can everyone get a scholarship? “I told him” No, they have to qualify and there are only so many for different areas.” He goes on to say, “Well that’s not fair! What if someone has the answer to helping our oceans and because they are poor or aren’t lucky enough to get picked, we miss out on their help! We need to help them.” I laughed at him and said “Are you crazy? How in the world can you and I help other people afford college? That is a nice idea but, I am far from rich! “ My son Demitris tells me, “Well there must be some way to help them.” I said “Really, you want to try? “ “I would have no idea where to start let alone I am a single parent raising you! “ So I said” Let me think.”
I have always told my son since he was little that you can do anything you want in life as long as you try and the most important thing is that you are happy. I had to be an example. How could I tell him this and just say it’s too hard and we can’t do it. We had to try. If we failed at least we attempted to get it done and I had not failed as a parent or an example. So, I got out my notebook and just started brainstorming. Different ways of fundraising, what can I offer to raise funds, and how the heck do you set up a scholarship? Google was my best friend that day. I finally settled on getting t-shirts and decals made. Then trying to figure out what to put on them, what to name our business or make kind of logo to have, how to get a website built, marketing and setting up a business on my own! For this I enlisted some of my family and closest friends in different fields to call upon for advice. I have never been so happy to have so many diversified friends in my life to network with until that moment.
So, in the beginning and end my son, Demitris Kontakos, was the motivation for the Water Bearer Foundation! I love his great big altruistic heart for setting us on this path! He helps me all the time. I let him tinker with the website, show him how everything works. Every time we get a sale in another state we mark it off on a map! I tell him this is your idea and it’s working! Slowly, but it is working.
WLBPA: That’s wonderful! Our kids can be a constant source of inspiration if we take the time to listen. You guys make a great team. Where are you going next? What are your top five goals with the organization?
KE: Goal #1 of course is to raise enough funds to award at least one scholarship a year. I know realistically that the 1st one will not be huge. I am essentially doing this on my own. I paid for everything out of my own pocket without a business loan. While working a full-time job, using my own paychecks and savings, I didn’t want to start in the red. So I saved my money to start this whole adventure crossing my fingers that it would work! I would like to eventually fund a full ride scholarship, but that will be further down the road. Baby steps for now. Even if we only get to change or help one life, it’s one life that can pay it forward. An ocean of ripple effects so to speak.
Our second goal is to raise ocean awareness. Inform people of the just how much marine life and the ocean itself affect our day to day lives. Then, we want to each and educate others on ways to help our oceans. We unknowingly harm marine life and pollute the ocean. People need to know alternatives to things we already use, like green or eco- products. Perhaps we’ll do school assemblies or different events to inform others. Eventually, I would like to work and network with other charities or foundations. I believe in combining forces for a greater good is necessary. Together everyone achieves more.
Finally. we would like to be creating, funding or helping with marine programs or summer camps for children or teens. If we have our own, we could offer internships or volunteering for current college students. Perhaps we could work with other local programs that are already set up and funding their tuition. I would like to help children with disabilities so they can participate in these programs too.
WLBPA: Starting a foundation or nonprofit can be very difficult. What was your biggest obstacle?
KE: My biggest obstacle was how? Do I need an attorney or can I do it myself? Is it going to cost me a fortune? I am a single parent doing this all on my own! Just trying to prove to my son anything you want to do in life is possible. I did a lot of research and found it would be easier to do it as a foundation. So I called one of my best friends, Gilbert Feliciano, who runs and sets up businesses, to see what my options were. I explained the idea and what I wanted to accomplish. He helped me immensely. He helped register my business and did all the tax papers for me. I will be forever grateful to him. I know I am very lucky to have a friend like him in my circle or this would have been a lot harder and cost a lot more to set up. Luckily I only had to buy him dinner. He’s like family.
Second obstacle–getting a website set up! I thought I was going to have to pay someone thousands of dollars to do that for me! Luckily another friend came to plate for that! Eric Ehrhardt, the CEO of Luxury Group International. He runs websites for his businesses for a living. I asked him where I could get a good designer or if he could help? He led me in the direction of building my own site! When he told me I could do it myself I was a little skeptical. I know a fair amount about computers, just not enough to build a site. Before I knew it, he had given me enough tools, options, and a path that I actually did! If you had told me a year before I would be creating my own website and learning the ins and outs of hosting or domains, I would have told you that you were crazy! My degree is in forensic science not computer / website design. I was learning to code at night through YouTube and other sites. Saved me tons of money. When I asked him how I could repay him for his help, his answer was being able to help someone so that can help others is payment enough. He told me, that he wishes me success and that was all!
WLBPA: That’s they hardest part of being an entrepreneur. You have to learn about everything rather than focusing on your own strengths. How do you keep the momentum going?
KE: I have become a social media marketing guru! At least that’s what I joke about with my friends. I have had to learn so many social media apps that before I never even looked at. I have found that social media and word of mouth are my best friends. I looked into a lot of articles on SEO, entrepreneurship and marketing. I have been teaching myself through this whole process and learning as I go. It doesn’t hurt that I am a very energetic person. Always on the go, and going from here to there. I like it that way. I get bored very easily.
WLBPA: Lat’s a lot to balance with work and life. What’s your secret?
KE: Well, I juggle the foundation with my full time job, my son’s life, and trying to have a personal life! I am a planner and scheduler by nature. So that attribute definitely helps a lot. Once I am done with my day job, I fulfill orders and answer emails. I then head to the gym because if I don’t take care of myself and health I could fall apart. I have always believed that our personal health is our greatest investment. I love exercising and grew up an athlete. Working out, doing martial arts and all other forms of activity– I love. That helps center me and relieves stress for sure.
I create ads on the weekends. I schedule posts throughout the week. I have done a lot of research on apps to make my life easier for marketing! One of them is awesome IFTT (If This Then that). I post to one social media outlet and it automatically posts to all of them at the same time! That saves a lot of time going into each one individually and posting content. Once I am done creating ads, scheduling articles, and mail orders on the weekends I am free. So I can spend time with my family and friends on the weekends. Thank goodness for smart phones, because it’s like bringing a portable office with me everywhere I go. So I am always an email away from anyone who wants to ask me question.
WLBPA: If anyone is thinking of starting their own foundation, can you warn them about any business mistakes that you made? What’s something you learned during this process you would encourage others to do differently?
KE: I don’t really know about mistakes yet. We are a new foundation. I know that networking, research and just talking to other people have helped me a lot. I get new advertising ideas or different avenues to possibly venture off to from people I know. I learn a lot from other’s mistakes or by asking them how I might go about something I want to do. For example, I eventually want to do vendor booths at different locations. I mentioned it to a friend who does something similar for their business. I was inquiring how and where to find a reasonable canopy/booth that could have my logo or business name on it. The ones I had looked were at least $400.00. He told me just get a cheap canopy tent and get banners made to zip tie on them. He explained different ways to hang them at various heights to maximize advertisement. This would be almost half the cost of what I was originally looking for.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice! That is one thing I have learned. It has proven to be priceless. Certainly cost effective. If I can do this without a business or marketing degree then you can too! It only takes a lot of research, time, and dedication. We are our own worst enemy. So don’t live your life with cant’s and what if’s! Live with I can and when! We can accomplish anything we set our minds to and live with passion! Do what your passion is and that will make you happy.
WLBPA: Speaking of signs, I love your logo. What is the story behind it and how did you choose the name?
KE: When I was pondering how to come up with something to put on a shirt or decal I was brainstorming like crazy. I was writing everything down. All the way from jumping dolphin, waves, fish, random words, anything that had to do with water. I was just racking my head! I wanted something that meant something to my son and me also to tie into the marine life and ocean.
So, I was just relaxing one night and it came to me. It wasn’t anything I wrote down. My son and I are both Aquarius! The Aquarius sign is also known as the Water Bearer (even though it’s an air sign). I shot off the couch and was like, “I got it!” It ties into the water and it represents this adventure that he and I were taking together! So the normal image is of just a man/woman pouring out water. I was like, “What if he was pouring out the ocean and it flows back into him like a continuing circle or a cycle?” So, once again, I called upon someone I knew, my son’s uncle, Alex, who is a graphic designer. He also happens to do pop culture t-shirts for himself. I told him what I wanted sent him some examples and he emailed me the logo a couple weeks later. I was totally blown away. It was exactly like what I wanted.
WLBPA: I love it when things come together like that. Inspiration can strike at the craziest moments. What’s the next project on your horizon?
KE: Next on the horizon is getting different types of shirts, tank tops, and other merchandise to help us raise the scholarship funds. We want to grow and make this a full time adventure for my son and me. Working with and networking with other organizations around the world, I really can’t wait to see where this takes us and who we can help. I want to thank everyone who has helped me make my son’s dream a reality! I want to also thank everyone who has supported Water Bearer Foundation! Thanks helping me show my son that his ideas matter and he along with a little tiny bit of my help can make a difference.
To support the foundation, buy a T-shirt or decal here.