How three young entrepreneurs are using their gifts to empower others and change the world.
By Marianne Peters, Hannah Hawkinson, Marilyn Christine Cooper | Pictured: Olivea Borden | January 19, 2016
Dolls with a mission
When fifteen-year-old Olivea Borden traveled with her family to Nicaragua on a two-week mission trip, they were most excited about going to Ameya. Their church, Council Tree Covenant Church in Fort Collins, Colorado, had partnered with the community for many years, and they were eager to serve there. But as circumstances worked out, they were only able to stay in Ameya three days. Disappointed, they returned home, wondering how they could become more deeply embedded in the community.
A year later, they had packed up their lives in Colorado and moved to Nicaragua for six months. “It was important to us to serve as a family,” Olivea says, “so we said yes to things that we could all do together.” They served alongside Merge missionary Heather Carraway de Vega and her husband. They helped paint schools, volunteered with a lending library, and led art projects in rural schools. They lived in several different communities, and met all kinds of people.
“Basically, we prayed as a family every day, ‘Jesus, we’ve got twelve hours today, how would you best have us love?’” Olivea says.
Olivea, who was sixteen at the time, particularly noticed the girls. Many of the young women she encountered struggled with self-worth in a culture where men are still valued above women and where many girls have little hope for a secure future. Many of them had never owned anything of their own. Olivea began to imagine ways to bring smiles to their faces.
The second of five children, Olivea learned to sew at the age of eight, a skill she honed through her participation in 4-H. By the time she was eleven, she had started her own sewing business with a skirt made from recycled sweaters. The skirt was part of a project on recycling, which introduced her to the idea of reusing fabrics. In 2012, shortly before moving to Nicaragua, she stitched a doll made of recycled fabric in a school fiber arts class—a project that was promptly purchased by her delighted art teacher for his daughter after the grading period ended.
After she and her family returned home to Colorado, Olivea started sewing dolls for the girls she had met in Nicaragua. To help fund her project, she decided to sell some of the dolls, using the motto “Buy a doll, give a doll.” Called Oli-Bo-Bolly Dollies, each one is made of soft, huggable materials. “I wanted each one to be a personal gift,” explains Olivea. “They are each one of a kind, and they come with a message that says ‘You are beautiful, loved, unique, special, and created for a purpose.’”
And the name? “Oli-Bo-Bolly comes from Olivea (Oli), Borden (Bo), and Bolly to tie it all together,” she explains.
The dolls’ clothing is made from quality leftover material. “In my sophomore science class, I learned that 85 percent of textiles in our landfills are still wearable,” says Olivea. “That hit me hard. Why make new materials to use when we have these? I want to help decrease the expansion of landfills to perhaps give us a bit more time to enjoy the world we’ve been given.”
In February 2014, Olivea presented her Oli-Bo-Bolly business idea at the Colorado State Business School as a finalist in the Global Leaders Young Entrepreneurs Competition. She won. With the $1,000 seed money she received, she decided to hire someone to help her keep up with the demand for her dolls, which were selling in local stores and on her website. Placing an ad on Craigslist, she was contacted by an unemployed woman needing income. Olivea met her, told her the story, and gave her the supplies for fifteen dolls. She had her first employee. And just in time—the orders were coming in fast. With the increased production, Olivea placed her dolls in four local Colorado stores, changing her business model to “Buy a doll, give a doll, empower a woman by giving her a job.”
It occurred to Olivea that if she could hire a seamstress in the U.S. to help her sew her dolls, why couldn’t she return to Nicaragua and hire seamstresses there?
She did just that in the spring of 2014. She hosted three sewing workshops, eventually hiring six seamstresses and a project manager. The women who matriculated through “Dolly University” all received a diploma. “You should have seen their faces!” says Olivea.
A local tourist shop agreed to sell the dolls, and now all the dolls given to Nicaraguan girls are made there by women being paid fair wages. Currently, Olivea reports, her operations in Nicaragua are nearly fully sustainable. “Most months they are able to sell enough dolls to cover their expenses, which includes both their wages and materials,” she says.
Now a senior in high school, Olivea is hoping to major in math in college and plans to continue to help at-risk girls. In the meantime, she still balances school and sewing her dolls, with help from friends and family. Her dolls have been sent to girls in other countries, including Ecuador where Olivea was able to hand out her dolls personally when she participated in a Merge mission trip.
“Oli-Bo-Bolly Dolls have now made it to every continent but Antarctica,” Olivea says. The dolls always come with a message attached; not just in Spanish, but now in many languages.
Olivea is thankful that her dolls have helped girls feel empowered and have given women the tools to support themselves. “I think we each have our own little part to play,” she says. “It’s important to help people feel God’s love. You never know when it’s going to change their life.”
For more information about Olivea and her dolls, visit her website at
By Marianne Peters
Innovating for girls’ health
When Terra Burgoyne was sixteen, she stumbled across an ad for reusable feminine products online. “I had never heard of them before, and I decided to investigate,” she explains. She began to research, watching as many instructional YouTube videos as she could find. But the sensitive topic meant many women were uncomfortable talking about it, much less making a public video.
“My interest in women’s health started at a young age,” the high-school junior and member of Bethany Covenant Church in Berlin, Connecticut, says. “My favorite book as a little kid was A Baby Is Born. It wasn’t a child’s book. My mom had read it when she found out she was pregnant with my older brother. To other people it might have seemed too graphic, but I liked learning the facts. My parents never sugarcoated anything and I thank them for that.”
As she got older she realized that not all families were like hers. She discovered that many girls didn’t have access to the information they might need to allay any fears as they entered adolescence.
So she decided to start her own YouTube channel with her best friend, Bryn Condon. “Being a very open person I wanted to help educate girls about healthier and easier ways to handle their periods.” The videos she and Bryn produce address sensitive hygiene and health questions that young women might be reluctant to ask the adults in their life. Since she started the channel two years ago, her videos have received 200,000 views and she has more than 1,200 subscribers.
As their viewers increased, manufacturers sent them products to review, but Terra and Bryn found that few products were targeted specifically for young women. So they started making their own pads. “I really got into it,” Terra says. “They were quick and easy to make, but best of all they worked for me.” She perfected her patterns, and after a lot of work and planning she opened an Etsy shop to sell alternative menstrual products (AMPs) for women of all shapes and sizes. Period Attire, her dual venture into business and online video, was born.
Before Period Attire, few teenagers on YouTube were discussing AMPs. “Not only do we try and answer questions to the best of our abilities, but we encourage girls to talk to their moms about their questions and concerns,” Terra says.
When she and Bryn became aware that girls in developing nations missed a week of school each month because they had no means to manage their periods, they were shocked. They realized that it meant the girls were more likely to drop out of school completely, get married at a younger age, have more children, and never receive a formal education.
Eager to help, she joined the Pads for Africa project and donated 10 percent of her shop’s profits to companies who gave women in developing countries reusable and sustainable sanitary protection. Burgoyne strongly advocates the model. “Because reusables last for up to ten years, it makes much more sense to make these available to women rather than disposable products that are good for only one use and create more waste.”
In the fall of 2014, the FDA started classifying AMPs as medical devices, which meant vendors are required to obtain a license. The annual cost was about $3,000—far more than Terra earned through Period Attire in a year. As a result, she was forced to close her Etsy site.
But she’s still on YouTube. “I try to make fun and entertaining content for our viewers that relays the messages of what I’ve learned from this journey,” she says.
“I like to think that the pads I created and designed made women more comfortable, confident, and positive,” Terra says. “I would love to continue to help women in developing countries learn how to make their own sanitary pads,” she says. “Empowering and equipping them in this way would help them attend school, get a job, and make their way in the world.”
By Hannah Hawkinson
Building a school for Uganda
Kayla Feil started Girl Scouts in first grade. She loved what she learned and she loved volunteering in her community of Manistee, Michigan. Through Girl Scouts she learned leadership, courage, and self-confidence. “I wouldn’t be who I am today without being a Girl Scout,” she told her mother.
As an eighth-grade confirmation student at Faith Covenant Church, Kayla was paired with a mentor, Mary Griffiths. Their friendship would lead to opportunities for Kayla to develop her self-confidence and leadership skills to connect with children half a world away.
Mary almost passed up the opportunity to work with Kayla. When one of the pastors at Faith Covenant first asked her to serve as a confirmation mentor, she declined. She was planning a trip to Uganda, which meant she would be out of the country for two months of the six-month mentoring program. How could she participate, given her extended absence?
But she sensed that God would work out the details, so she agreed to meet with Kayla. During their mentoring sessions Mary told Kayla about her upcoming trip to visit her daughter and son-in-law, Rebecca and Chris Vogt, who were serving as missionaries with New Hope Uganda. “In December, Kayla heard about my preparations to travel to Uganda,” Mary says, “and when I returned in March, she heard all about my experiences. So while I thought I was doing her a disservice by being absent, God was filling her heart with love for another people and culture.”
Kayla began to pray to find a way to help Ugandan children. It made sense to begin with her participation in Girl Scouts. “The highest award you can get is the Gold Award,” Kayla says. The Gold Award requires leadership and planning by the student, a minimum of one hundred service hours, and project approval. She wanted her project to make an impact, so she emailed the Vogts to see if there was any way she could help them. “They responded by telling me I could build a school to replace their children’s center, which was now too small for their needs. I was shocked!”
With her father’s help Kayla spent the next few months planning—creating a budget, designing the floor plan, figuring out the materials needed, and scheduling fundraisers. Finally she submitted the project to the Girl Scouts for approval. They denied it.
“They said I was technically raising money for another organization,” Kayla explains. “I could see that, but they also said it was too big of a project for me to ever accomplish. Those words crushed me; the people who were supposed to tell me I could do anything were denying me the opportunity.”
But the more she thought about it, the more committed she became to the project. She decided to go ahead without the Girl Scouts.
The New Hope staff had been reaching out to eastern Uganda in a reconciliation movement to help former child soldiers and others who had been victimized by Joseph Kony’s terrorism campaign. They were focused on building a school for orphaned children in Kobwin.
The goal was $15,000. So, with the support of her parents and her sister, Kayla began fundraising. She sent letters to every Covenant church in Michigan and some in Illinois. She sold t-shirts in schools, set up promotional tables at community events, and spoke with various organizations. She collected pop cans.
But progress was slow. After nine months, Kayla’s bank account showed a balance of only $4,000. She admits, “It was frustrating. I honestly don’t know what kept me going.”
Undaunted, Kayla collected more pop cans and wrapped Christmas gifts with her family for a donation at church. She also spoke to the congregation at Faith Covenant during a ministry moment.
Eventually the fund grew to $10,000. “I can’t even explain how it happened,” Kayla says.
With Kayla’s funds, as well as other donations and grants, a new vocational school, barn, and work area can now be built. Plans for construction are underway.
“I hope this school will help heal those who were affected by Kony and will shine light into their lives,” Kayla says. “Education is important, but the sense of community that will be created will have the biggest impact.”
She adds, “Our generation needs to realize what’s happening in the world, to be informed about causes and organizations that are invested in helping the world, and to step out of our comfort zone and get involved. A verse that has been speaking to me is 1 Timothy 4:12, which says, ‘Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.’”
Kayla is currently enrolled at North Park University, where she plans to major in nonprofit management. Her goal is to focus on developing countries.
By Marilyn Christine Cooper