By Jayson Bronkhorst
It didn't click for me until I heard a couple well-known artists talk about their work and personal lives. The interviewer asked the first how she balanced all her work with her family life. Her response was that to work, to create, she had to be in a state of play. All too often, with design and art work especially, I realized I get caught up in deadlines. It becomes dreaded, stressful work rather than life-giving joy to create.
The interviewer asked a second artist a similar question, as he had a wife and three children. His answer was equally simple: his work and home life often naturally mixed. He didn't take time away from his family to work, but for example, he often began the early brainstorm processes by building small Lego models with his kids. He gained fame from beginning to post short, 5-minute doodles that he did as he woke up in the mornings.
I realized I had lost both of these things with Valued, both my state of play as well as my work flowing through my life, thoughts, and experiences. As a result, Valued began to lose passion. I had to think back to the inception and the growth of Valued as a brand. It started as a college project, but it was always more than that, because I do really care about people. But where had that vision gotten lost?
Was it in maximizing the profit margins?
Or the pressure of picking a good nonprofit to donate to next month?
Or the jealousy when I looked at all the other brands around me?
I had become engrossed in the business and forgotten the purpose.
About half a year ago, I made the decision that Valued Clothing would give proceeds from every purchase towards a different cause each month. As an American, I am much more fortunate that many people in the world, and I believe that a core element of sharing value is doing what I can to help.
However, as Valued began to take a back seat in my daily life, it ate away at me. January passed, and I hadn't picked a monthly cause. Then February. Then March 1st.
I realized something important when I heard those artists speak: for Valued to succeed, it needs to be not just a brand or company that I run, but it needs to be part of me.
It needs to be something where every design that I produce, I do so because I love it, I am proud of it, and I believe it will help spread the message that every person has value. It needs to be something where I don't force myself into all the other clothing line molds, because I am not them. It needs to be something that flows out of my daily life and who I am as a person.
In my very first post, I wrote about my convictions that led me to take the beginning steps in the creation of Valued. At the root of it all is the principle of Christ-like love, and how I want to share that: spreading the message that every single person has value. Throughout the various design processes, social media posts, and shirt productions, I stuck to a rule I made: don't make anything openly Christian.
I wanted Valued Clothing to be a brand that anyone could relate to and support without hesitation, and I thought it would help the brand get popular faster. In reality, all it did was suppress my true convictions and passions, and in the process, Valued began to lose its conviction and passion.
I had to decide to no longer worry about that stuff, because I know that the mission and vision of Valued will not change. My passions and beliefs likely will not change, but if they do, Valued will change with them. And that's okay. Valued Clothing Company always has an always will be a company that focuses on spreading the message that every single human being carries value.
I consider working with youth one of the most important things I can do as a human on this earth. As an AG youth pastor, I have the privilege of being part of the most amazing youth district in the country.
Valued giving from the beginning of 2017 through the foreseeable future will go to Speed The Light, as STL is an extension of myself, and gives me life. Speed The Light is not a means to an end, but simply a step in the journey. I believe that every human has inherent value, and Speed The Light truly embodies that cause. You can read more about STL here.
I truly love and adore the heart and mission of every single person and organization that I have had the privilege of partnering with. Now, Valued is moving into a season in which I hope it will be give life to people as I am restoring life to it. I hope Valued Clothing Company will no longer be in stark separation from me, but rather a fruitful extension of my own life.
Valued will support STL from now on, but this isn't to say that we won't work with anyone different in the future. Maybe we'll partner with local youth nonprofit Fighting Chance again (love y'all). Or maybe we'll make a shirt with 100% of the proceeds furthering foster homes and orphanages. Or maybe we'll make a collaboration shirt for Winona State Chi Alpha. ;)
Exciting things on the horizon. If you're reading this, I'm real glad you've stuck around this long. Let's share some value with the world this year.