Social entrepreneur Bush Lauren ’06 shares experiences

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Lauren Bush Lauren ’06 at a FEED benefit party in October 2011. (Photo: © Nick Stepowyj)
From college student clueless about her post-graduation life to successful social entrepreneur, Lauren Bush Lauren ’06 chronicled her career journey in a Feb. 23 talk at Frist Campus Center sponsored by Princeton’s Office of Career Services.
 
An anthropology major at Princeton, Bush Lauren credits Peter Singer’s ethics class, which she took her sophomore year, with encouraging social responsibility among students. Assigned to do a paper on hunger, she traveled to Guatemala with the UN World Food Programme and saw firsthand “kids whose growth was stunted. Hunger became real,” she said. “These children should be active, but they were passive.”
 
The hopeful part of her trip was “school feeding,” she told the audience of about 70 mostly female students. She saw that parents in Guatemala sent their kids to school just to get the free lunch, and she began “to wrap her head around the idea” of feeding children as her social mission. She eventually had her “aha moment” — the “simple idea of the FEED 1 bag. For every bag sold, [the proceeds] would feed one child for a year,” she explained.
 

Bush Lauren, whose family includes two U.S. presidents and who recently married the son of fashion icon Ralph Lauren, shared the pitfalls of starting a business from scratch. There were shipping mistakes that cost thousands of dollars and problems with customs. Even worse, her targeted purveyors of FEED bags weren’t interested in selling them.
 
But her persistence paid off, her business took off, and, she proudly related, an order for 420,000 bags from Whole Foods eventually enabled Bush Lauren to feed the entire school population of Rwanda for a year. Her original line of canvas bags made from organic materials has expanded to include T-shirts, backpacks, and bracelets, and Bush Lauren now produces a women’s clothing line — Lauren Pierce — that buys authentic crafts from women artisans in the Congo.
 
“Being a social entrepreneur is so invigorating, to have a tangible impact is so rewarding,” she said.