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New York Called Elena and Rachael Baxter

Through their website and quarterly magazine, sisters Elena and Rachael Baxter, founders of Lifestyle + Charity, dedicate much of their time to telling inspirational stories about brands, organizations, and individual people that give back. Very recently I had the pleasure of contributing a story for their Autumn 2012 issue featuring handbag designer Joy Gryson. Since they've created a platform for other's stories to be heard, I found it fitting that I interview and tell the story of these two New York City transplants from New Jersey. The two, of three, sisters were raised by their mother who owned a salon. Their frequent assistance at the salon and weekly attendance at Sunday church laid the groundwork for both an appreciation for faith and entrepreneurship. "It was natural for us to start helping and serving others in different ways because of our upbringing," they said.Both Elena (two years younger) and Rachael attended King's college in New York. They returned to New Jersey after each parting ways with King's at different times. Not entirely sure of their career goals, they found office jobs. Eventually the two got involved with a non profit that focused on the fight against domestic sex trafficking. "We did our part to raise funds and awareness letting people know that this happens not only across seas but right in our backyard," Elena said. "Growing up we had dreams and if someone had taken that dream away from us we wouldn't be who we are. These kid's dreams are taken from them," Rachael said. The sisters spent a year and a half with this nonprofit charity until ultimately deciding to embark on their own mission.In the winter of 2009 Elena and Rachael had the opportunity to cover a show at New York Fashion Week in place of a blogger who couldnt attend. They interviewed the designer, makeup artists, stylists and models and were refreshingly energized by their experience. During this time, after working with the human trafficking focused nonprofit, Elena and Rachael had started their own social media company. The combination of their Fashion Week, social media, and nonprofit experience along with their passion for philanthropy and fashion inspired their decision to create a blog that combined these worlds. They minimized their social media work to sporadic freelance, moved to the city, and ventured into the blogging world.Their first step was creating a vision. Their mission was to help people make giving back a part of their lives. "We knew we had to first connect with people through lifestyle, like fashion, food and fitness, and then show how you can do all of these things and still give back," they said. So they approached their close friends with this vision in mind and asked if anyone would be willing to contribute. "We are the type of people who just decide on something and say, 'Okay, we are going to do this!'" said Rachael. While they don't necessarily recommend little preparation coupled with this abrupt form of taking action, they were confident enough in their vision to take a chance.Since this starting point back in 2010 they have been on a massive roller coaster of trial and error. Elena maintains a full time job while Rachael, as the Editor-in-Chief, keeps up with freelance social media on the side. What once was a blog is now a daily website and quarterly magazine. They have built their brand over the last two years, with three different attempts at magazine launches, along with a rebranding to their current title. Within the last 6 months they have grasped their full focus. Lifestyle + Charity now has a team of about 20 to 30 editors and event contributors focusing on beauty, fashion, food, people, behavior, and charity. In the beginning Rachael and Elena wore every hat but they are now very proud to have a driven team of impressionable and motivated people who cover events and tell inspiring stories for their publication. "When we first started we were asking for press passes to charity focused events and now it is the other way around and organizations are reaching out to us to cover their events," said Rachael. Their team is a major motivator in Elena and Rachael's push forward through highs and lows. "There is a team of people that believe in us and our vision and where we want to take this is important for the next generation," Elena said.They admit that starting their own business is intimidating. "The hardest thing about starting your own business is that you put your whole heart in it and if people dont respond to it you feel rejected," they said. They look up to brands like Warby Parker (Neil Blumenthal, co-founder, will be featured in their Autumn issue) who have taken eye wear to a fashionable, affordable level while managing to give back one pair of glasses for every pair purchased. "They all started somewhere and it takes time to establish yourself. We have gone through points where we have almost walked away but at the end of the day we just can't. We came up with this idea on a couch in our mom's basement and now we are doing amazing things," Rachael said.Moving to New York City has impacted their brand. While the city holds a reputation for a selfish, pretentious nature, there are constantly charitable events hosting inspiring speakers with great stories, not to mention the motivating competitive nature of the city in general. "I am repeatedly spotting people around me who had an idea and made it happen," said Elena. New York is a busy place but you don't have to sacrifice time to give back. I asked them how the average New Yorker, take a busy investment banker for instance, can give back without sacrificing time? "We hope to be that bridge so that people have the resources to help those in need. What are your likes? Are you into fashion? We will provide you with knowledge of the fashionable brands you can buy that also give back," explained Rachael.September is an exciting month for Lifestyle + Charity. At the end of the month the magazine will be available for the first time for purchase online. They have an incredible Autumn issue in store featuring a plethora of pages dedicated to conscious culture and inspiration. "We are meeting and featuring amazing people. Whether wealthy or not wealthy, in a big way or small way they have inspired us and others and have changed things in this world for the better," the two noted. The magazine varies from their daily website with more thoroughly executed editorials, photo shoots, themes and visuals. Long term plans include external funding, a possible pop up shop and a presence in 10 major cities to cover the various ways different cities give back to their communities. Of course, they will always have their New York headquarters...It was certainly a pleasure spending the afternoon with Elena and Rachael. These are two passionate people with the potential to make a real impact in the community and lives of people who really need it. And like they said--it doesn't take much. Stay tuned for the next couple weeks to check out my article in their Autumn issue on handbag designer Joy Gryson (pictured above), who donates a portion of the sales of her line IIIBeca to 3 different charities. You can help support their cause by purchasing a hard copy on their Autumn issue (coming soonhere) as well as become a fan on Facebook and follow them on Twitter to keep up. Make this your first step incorporating philanthropy in your life. You can also stay updated on Lifestyle + Charity via the Busy Signal.

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