We love it when we see the next generation gearing up to give back, and Zeal Cares founder, Julia Sora, is way ahead of the curve. Our youngest social entrepreneur started her give back business at age 10!

Deeply moved by friends and family who battled cancer and experienced severe side effects from treatment, Julia began formulating her own lip care products with a mission to gift them to children in cancer treatment in the Houston, Texas area. Those early products have blossomed into a full blown lip balm business benefiting children’s hospitals across the country. Zeal Cares has attracted partnerships and custom orders from the likes of Victoria’s Secret and Kendra Scott, and Julia is dreaming even bigger. We had a chance to catch up with the busy (now 16-year-old) entrepreneur to learn about what drives and inspires her to change the world.

Zeal Cares


What was your inspiration for Zeal Cares? Is there a story behind the name?

When I was in 4th grade, I got to participate in a Montessori Model United Nations (MMUN) Conference in New York. I was a delegate of the Commonwealth of Australia and my topic was “Empowerment of Women through Education.” I was shocked to find out that close to half a billion women around the world were illiterate. I walked away from that experience determined to help make a difference. Shortly after MMUN, my parents told me about a close family friend who was battling Stage III breast cancer. While undergoing chemotherapy, she faced many side effects like nausea, weight loss and dry skin. Seeing her struggles inspired me to try and make a direct impact on children going through similar experiences with dry skin. I eventually came up with the idea of creating and gifting body products to cancer patients. It was really important that I formulated a safe, effective and fun product that pediatric cancer patients could use. Shortly after, I founded my business Zeal Cares. The word Zeal literally means “ great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective” and I thought that suited the kind of energy I was building my company with!

What Zeal Cares achievement or contribution so far are you most proud of?

I am most proud of how many hospitals and organizations I am working with around the country to provide my products to their patients. I am now working with over 30, and a few of them include MD Anderson, Dana Farber, and Teen Cancer America. I am excited that I have partners in 18 states, which allows me to reach thousands of patients.

Who developed your lip balm formula?

I developed my lip balm formula myself! I created and tested unique formulas in my kitchen at home, using all-natural, and antioxidant rich ingredients like Shea Butter, Argan Oil, and Jojoba oil until I found the perfect combination.

How did you start selling? Who were your first supporters?

When I first started Zeal Cares, I sold my lip balms to people at my school (including my teachers!) as well as family friends and neighbors. I also participated in local markets and pop-ups around Houston. After more people were introduced to my story, word spread and I put together a website, where I began to get orders from all around the country! Since day one, everyone from my close friends to complete strangers have gone out of their way to support me, but it was my classmates who first helped me spread the word about Zeal Cares. I have been fortunate enough to have mentors like Tom Nolan (president of Kendra Scott), Margo LaZaro (President & Chair of the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development at the United Nations) and more.

You are an active participant in the delivery of the lip balms you gift to children’s cancer treatment centers around your home state and beyond. What stories and memories from these experiences stand out for you?

I currently partner with more than 30 hospitals and organizations across the country in 18 states, and there are many memories that have touched my heart. At my very first visit to MD Anderson here in Houston, a mother came up to me and told me how excited she was that I was providing lip balms, because her child had been complaining about how dry his lips were that morning. Recently, I received a message from a mother thanking me for the lip balms she had received at one of my hospital visits. The raspberry scented lip balm was especially meaningful and exciting to her younger son because he had not been able to eat raspberries since his treatment started. Raspberries are his favorite fruit, however the common mold hidden in them was especially dangerous to his condition, so a raspberry scented lip balm was something he loved using. And lastly, I have received multiple emails from patients at my various hospital partners thanking me for my lip balms, and describing how helpful they have been during their treatment. Although a simple email may seem small, the patients are always incredibly grateful, and I am shocked to read about how much my small lip balms have made a difference to them during treatment.

What’s the biggest challenge Zeal Cares faces?

We face many different challenges every week, however, the overall biggest challenge is spreading the word and getting people to understand what our goals are. When you first glance at our lip balms, many people do not catch the wording stating that for every lip balm you purchase, another is gifted to a child or young adult with cancer. I am constantly working to improve my language and presentation not only on the lip balms, but on the signs that accompany my lip balms at the hospitals and in retailers.

How has the experience of starting a social enterprise company changed you?

This experience has changed me by teaching me that little things make a difference. I have learned that something as small as a single lip balm can make a big difference to cancer patients during their treatment. The genuine optimism and resilience of the patients I have encountered is what inspires me every day to grow Zeal Cares and make a difference much larger than myself.

“The word Zeal literally means ‘great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective’ and I thought that suited the kind of energy I was building my company with!”

What would you say to a brand considering incorporating a give back into its model or to an individual exploring a new social enterprise concept?

I would recommend that they form a simple but meaningful mission statement so that they never lose sight of what they are trying to achieve. Often, companies can get sidetracked from their original goals, so I think that having a main goal/mission statement is really helpful when they are trying to grow and give back to the community.

You stay busy when you’re not working on your company. Aside from being a full-time student, what does life outside of Zeal Cares look like?

Aside from school and my company, I play Field Hockey and Soccer, and I take art classes. I love to participate in various clubs at my school, as well as bake sweets at home. During the sport seasons, practices are about 1.5-2 hours after school each day. I also love spending time with my family, I have 2 younger brothers, Jae and Alex. We play card games like Uno and board games like Monopoly!

What’s next for Zeal Cares?

I am currently working towards 3 goals:

  1. Providing safe, high-quality body products for pediatric and young adult (AYA) oncology patients, because their skin gets extremely dehydrated during treatment. I created an all-natural, effective lip balm and for every one purchased, I gift another to a child or young adult with cancer.
  2. Creating an ambassador program where children in the cancer community can work with local hospitals and organizations to ensure that pediatric and AYA oncology patients have access to effective products. I want to give children under 16 opportunities like these because there are minimal volunteer opportunities where they can see the direct impact they are making.
  3. Being a significant source of funding for pediatric cancer research. Pediatric cancer research is incredibly underfunded in the United States, and cancer is the number one cause of death by disease in children. Only 4% of the billions of dollars spent on cancer research each year are specifically for treating childhood cancer. Since 1980, less than 10 drugs have been created for pediatric oncology, compared to the hundreds made solely for adults. I have created a special lip balm flavor (Kay’s Wild Cherry) where 100% of the proceeds fund pediatric cancer research.

Make the world better every time you brew your morning cup of coffee! Generous Goods is thrilled to welcome Elevate Coffee Trading to our collection of Great Things That Give Back™!

To celebrate Black History Month, a team of professional graphic designers at PopSockets mentored four talented African American teen artists to create PopGrips inspired by their unique life experiences.

Pela Phone Case

Although we compost, recycle everything we can, and try to make decisions that reduce our environmental footprint, I know there’s much more my family could do to protect and preserve our planet. Take for example, all the plastic we buy to protect ourselves and our things. While many of these items don’t currently have an eco-friendly alternative, some do. Innovative brands like Pela, who developed the world’s first 100% compostable phone case, are leading the way.

Green and Generous

It may not occur to us that seemingly “necessary” things like phone cases are just another culprit in the plastic nightmare. My own awareness was certainly raised when our product specialist went looking for a new phone case that gives back. She found one that does that and more. Not only do Pela cases help fund conservation, they won’t contribute to landfill. That is pure genius, and for us it’s really the perfect embodiment of a Generous Good.

Small Changes Do Add Up

Since phone sizes are always changing, each new phone we purchase requires a new (usually plastic) case. Just in our household alone, that feels like a lot of unnecessary waste. In the world, it means over ONE BILLION plastic cases are sold every year. Wow. So, why not purchase a case that breaks that cycle? According to Pela, over 500,000 people have made the switch already, diverting nearly 300,000 pounds of plastic from being produced.

Spread the Word

Perhaps my favorite thing about these cases, though, is the way they ignite conversations and raise awareness. Let’s face it – our phones are always on display. Since the Pela cases are loaded with style and eye-catchingly cool, they spark comments and provide an opportunity to talk about the choices we make. Kudos to Pela for developing this beautiful and practical solution – and for giving us an opportunity to do (and share) more good.

The Goodness

5% of sales from Pela’s compostable case collections goes to their cause partners: Save the Waves Coalition, Surfrider Foundation, and Oceana. The company is also a member of 1% for the Planet. -LB

See Pela products featured on Generous Goods.

I was intrigued when the original Luci light flickered onto the retail scene several years ago, so I picked one up to take along on family hikes and boating trips. An inflatable, solar powered light – from a company committed to bringing solar light to people in developing countries around the world? Yes, please!

I must confess, I expected the little light to be more of a novelty to teach my kids about solar power than a piece of highly functional gear. I was completely wrong. It IS a novelty, yes, and darn cute to boot. But I can’t begin to count the uses my family and I have found for it. It hangs easily, offers multiple settings from dim to bright to blinking, and it will light an evening’s worth of activities after just a few hours in the sun. It is legit form and function in an ingenious and intuitive blend.

The Goodness

We at Generous Goods love the mission-driven giving model MPOWERD follows. The company reinvests a majority of their gross revenues to achieve sustainability, grow their reach, and ensure the fulfillment of their mission. When you buy one of their clever, clean solar light products, you help them provide the same products to individuals and communities in developing countries, either as a donation or at a dramatically reduced price.

A little light goes a long way. With over 3 billion people living without access to clean, reliable, or affordable energy, everyday tasks are made more difficult (and dangerous) than they should be. Access to clean energy can improve health, create education equality, and economic empowerment, all the while combating climate change – MPOWERD

MPOWERD also offers a “Give Luci” light ($10) that web customers can add to their carts to make an additional contribution to the mission. Through this program, they have given lights to over 3 million people in 100 countries. That’s a lot of goodness.

More Light to Love

MPOWERD has upgraded their pioneer product (now selling as the Luci Outdoor 2.0), and the new version is even longer lasting (24 hours on a single charge) and more durable. They’ve also expanded their line to include inflatable “candles” that flicker, colored lights that suit any mood, and sweet string lights that bring a portable party. They also just released a task light with a flexible, adjustable arm. We can’t wait to see what’s next from this generous brand. -LB

See more MPOWERD products featured on Generous Goods

I can’t recall when I purchased my first glassybaby votive candleholder, but I do recall the buzz the company created back in the early 2000’s. Their first location was within walking distance of my home in Seattle’s Green Lake neighborhood. By the time the company opened a retail store at high end University Village shopping center, I already had a small collection.

There’s a glassybaby for That

As they have for so many Seattleites and people around the world, glassbabies became for me the perfect gift or excuse to treat myself. Beautiful to regard and satisfying to hold, glassybabies were also doing good long before social entrepreneurship became popular. With each color bearing a meaningful name, they are a unique and lasting way to share a sentiment. Whether you wish to convey inspiration, courage, sympathy, solidarity or joy, there’s a glassybaby for that.

The Best Gifts – Personal, Meaningful, Purposeful

When my sister, a teen psychologist, opened her solo practice, I got her a translucent sea blue glassybaby called Safe, knowing that’s how her office would feel to her clients. When my second son was born, a friend gave a smoky gray-blue one called Brother. When my stepfather started his cancer treatment, my mother gave all of his children and stepchildren a Day One glassybaby so we could symbolically join in his care. And when he lost his valiant battle, another friend gave me and my mother each a warm red color etched with a heart and entitled, simply, Love. Over the years, I’ve received colors with touching or humorous names ranging from Seattle Sunset to Master of the Universe from people who knew they would make me smile.

When glassybaby expanded their line to include artfully crafted wine “drinkers” that fit perfectly into the palm of your hand, my sister-in-law gave me the first of what became my favorite wine glasses. Now friends request their favorite color when they come over. 

The Goodness

Three time cancer survivor Lee Rhodes founded glassybaby in Seattle in 2001 with the core mission of helping alleviate the struggles of patients who could not afford basic needs during cancer treatment. Since that time, the company has expanded its giving to include a variety of causes and charities, all of which share glassybaby’s mission of hope and healing. $3 from the sale of every glassybaby is donated to the glassybaby Foundation, which makes grants to organizations that align with its mission. Since its inception, the company has given over $10 million to nonprofits around the world that offer hope and healing to patients, children, families, veterans, wildlife, the environment, and more.

One of the Original Great Things That Give Back™

When we were in early planning stages for Generous Goods, glassybaby came up frequently as a brand to feature and a model for socially responsible businesses to follow. By the time we launched, glassybaby had announced hitting $10 million in total giving to date. Together with their supporters, shoppers and loyal fans, the company has been able to make an incredible impact in just 18 years. glassybaby knows how to put on a good (and generous) party, and we can’t wait to see how they celebrate. Even more, we’re excited to see what their next chapter of goodness will bring! – LB

See glassybaby products featured on Generous Goods.

Learn more about the glassybaby Foundation and their mission to fund hope and healing.

Every year, outdoor gear and apparel brand Cotopaxi hosts a series of curious sounding events called Questivals. Their photos looked amazing, and the mission seemed on point with ours. Megan (our fearless product specialist) and I had to check one out.

Questi-what?

Housed in a former airplane hangar, the kick off event was boisterous, entertaining, quirky and wholesome – just like the Cotopaxi brand. Part adventure race and part “random acts of goodness” challenge, the Questival focus is on getting out in your town, spreading kindness, and having good, clean fun. We loved it.

Generous Goods at Questival

24 Hours of Goodness

At the heart of Questival is a massive task list that amounts to a scavenger hunt for goodness big and small. Assigned different point values based on the challenge level, the tasks range from a 10 minute beach clean up to greeting a stranger with a warm smile. Teams of 2-6 people (often in costume) complete as many tasks as possible in 24 hours. They upload photos featuring themselves, perhaps a local landmark, and a little Cotopaxi “Do Good” flag into a user-friendly app. It makes for a pretty fun evening.

Megan and I did a “lite” Questival this time around. Our children’s busy weekend schedules (and possibly the 20 years we had on most of the participants) called us to bed far earlier than the die-hard 24 hour race teams. But we got a great taste for the experience nonetheless. We had a blast checking off good stuff of many flavors for points in the Questival app and visiting some favorite haunts around our hometown. Brainstorming clever ways to spread kindness and rack up points became rather addictive!

Questival Highlights

  • Sending a message to the oldest living member of my family to tell him how much I appreciate him (shouldn’t we all do that much more often?).
  • Trying to station myself just so on the very windy deck of a Washington state ferry so that Megan could capture a pic of me with the Seahawks stadium in the background.
  • The surprisingly exhilarating process of selecting my one-of-a kind Luzon 18L Del Dia pack (included in the event registration price). SO many beautiful options, but the line moves fast and you must choose quickly.

Cotopaxi Luzon Pack

Cheers to Cotopaxi for hosting these unique experiences around the country and raising the profile for their fun, colorful, generous brand. Look for a bigger GG presence at a Questival or two in 2020! – LB

Read more about Questival and find a race near you.

See Cotopaxi products featured on Generous Goods.

 Do Good