Danielle: Welcome back to Dreamer’s Den. If you’re new here, welcome to Dreamer’s Den. It’s the place for Dreamers, Doers and Creative Entrepreneurs.
And today we’re here with Little Angels Inc. and the founder, Tammy Ruffin. We’re going to be discussing her non-profit. So you’re in for a treat if you’re interested in starting your own non-profit or if you’re looking for causes to become a part of. So, welcome Tammy.
Tammy: Hi! Thank you for having me.
Danielle: Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day to join in with us.
Tammy: Thank you. I’m happy to be here.
How to Start a Non-Profit
Danielle: So first of all. I want to know, or we want to know, what inspired you to start your non-profit.
Tammy: Okay, my story is going to sound a little unusual because honestly, I did not want to start this non-profit. I’m just going to be honest.
Danielle: Oh! [laughter]
Tammy: [laughter] And I promise, it’s not that I don’t like children. I love them, but I had my first taste into entrepreneurship as an independent agent with a financial firm back in 2010. And so from there that’s when I started thinking about moving towards entrepreneurship.
And so fast forward a few years, things just did not go as planned. Life happens and some things happen unexpectedly. I became a mother and was engaged and all that kind of stuff and I decided that I wanted to move back to my hometown. My fiance and I at the time— that was a mutual decision and in the midst of that, I found myself unemployed and with a new responsibility and that was just not ideal.
But in the midst of being a new mom and taking care of my daily duties and responsibilities, like going to the store to purchase items for my child, there were some things that I got to see that I never paid attention to before. Which was some parents, whether you are in the form of the biological parent or you are the legal guardian, they found— I witnessed them having to make some decision they may not have been proud of. But they were in survival mode, and so it just broke my heart to see that basic necessities were not readily available for families who just could not afford it.
And so I found myself getting sucked into wanting to help. I shouldn’t say getting sucked into. That sounds pretty bad, but my heart went out to those families and then I was just being obedient to the cause. So I was— I guess in a position to help, but it wasn’t ideal because I was unemployed at that time. And how am I going to help someone else when I could barely help myself? And I had the support of my family and friends to help me along the way and these families may not have had that. So that’s when I moved forward with Little Angels, so that’s how I got started!
Danielle: That’s awesome! That’s awesome to hear you— even with limited resources yourself, you found a way to help these families and that’s one of the things that entrepreneurship— no matter what form it’s in, that’s one of the things it’s about is working with the resources you have and finding a way to get things done and carry out that vision with the resources that you have. And so that’s awesome to hear and it’s great that you’re doing something to create such an impact on the community.
Now, there are— it seems like it’s so much mystery going around how to start a non-profit. Was that a challenge for you in the beginning, or what are some of the things that you would suggest for those wanting to get started?
Tammy: For me, it was not a challenge and that is because I have a huge support group and I was comfortable with sharing my ideas with those in my circle. And I started out with my friends just telling me, “okay, this is the direction that you could take”. And it saved me some money because a lot of people who want to start a business, there are things like creating that EIN number and getting your business recognized through the state and all that kind of stuff that you can do yourself, but many people do not. They find themselves paying a lawyer or something like that to get started, and I think that’s kind of a way to discourage you because it’s so expensive if you take that route.
But luckily I had some friends in place; Mrs. Beverly Cooper with The Cooper Foundation was one of them, Mr. Melvin Washington was another. They actually were able to share information, and these are seasoned business owners or individuals who had to lead an organization so they knew the ins and outs of what to do. I just held on to that advice and I moved forward, and they were with me every step of the way to get that going.
So my advice would be to start with your inner circle. They may have some information to share and if they don’t, they may be able to point you in that direction with someone who is knowledgeable within that area. And if you don’t have that, another avenue you could take is possibly your local Chamber of Commerce office or your local library. There are tons of resources that they have readily available that’s free that you could possible read up on and benefit from as a business owner.
Danielle: That’s great. I’m glad you pointed that out because a lot of times in this digital world that’s taking over and eating the world [chuckle] we forget about our local libraries and they are around. They still exist and they still have things that will help us that we forget about that we may not be able to find anywhere else.
Tammy: Exactly, and I still use them to this day.
Danielle: Right. And speaking of circles, I— word is that you recently teamed up with someone from your circle to release a special project, so why don’t you tell us about that.
Promotional Children’s Book Project with J.E. Tyler
Tammy:Yes! I have a long time friend who always, I remember when we were younger, he talked about writing books. And he was kind of on and off about that subject, but overall he started that vision through his poetry and he’s just a great writer. And in fact I probably went to him as one of my— I think I used him as a way of cheating through some things when it came to writing.
He proofread my documents and stuff like that. And so he finally moved forward and got himself planted into that area where he can write books and he got his confidence and all that stuff going. So he’s an author of several books right now, and we had a conversation one day about some books and I think at the time I was talking about how I wanted to write a book. And that’s actually something that I’ve been working on on and off again. You really have to have that confidence to get that going, so I’m really proud of him for actually doing what he said he was going to do. And then some way, somehow he came up with writing a book that was representative of my organization.
Danielle: Awesome! So we have him on now. James Tyler. So we want him to discuss— or we want you to discuss a little bit more about this. And welcome, welcome to Dreamer’s Den!
J.E. Tyler: Thank you.
Tammy: Yay James!
J.E. Tyler: [laughter] Yeah, so kind of like Tammy already touched on, we’ve often talked about our dreams and talked about our aspirations. And I feel like even before her idea came in fruition, I feel like I was a part of it just by listening to her talk about her dreams. So as she started Little Angels, witnessing all of it come into fruition, it was just amazing to me. So I wanted to help, but I wanted to do it in a way where we could both benefit. So I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book. It’s always been something I wanted to do. I have a lot of little brothers and sisters and I’ve always loved children. So it was— it just seemed like a natural means to go. Like, it was a— her organization services families as a benefit to children. We’re doing a children’s book, so it just seemed like a natural step to take. And the story in itself is based directly off of what she does, or at least my understanding of what the organization is. And I think it’s a beautiful— I just think Little Angels is an awesome organization with a very beautiful aim. And because of that I feel like it made a beautiful story, so it was just— it was perfect.
Danielle: Awesome! It sounds amazing and I hope you guys go and check it out. Do you want to let us know how they can get their hands on this children’s book for themselves or/and their little ones?
J.E. Tyler: Yes
Tammy: Of course he does!
J.E. Tyler: Yeah, so the book is available on Amazon. I have a direct author page. amazon.com/author/jetyler, and that’s J E T Y L E R. Also, you can connect with me on social media. Instagram @scribboy. Also Facebook @scribboy and Twitter @scribboy. S C R I B B O Y And you can also get in touch with Tammy through Little Angels because [inaudible] together on this effort.
Danielle: Okay. And we’ll also…
Tammy: Yes, and all that information.
Danielle: Go ahead.
Tammy: I’m sorry. I was just saying that they can get information about the book through me on my website littleangelsinc.org and also our Facebook page, which is Little Angels, Inc which is I N C dot org.
Danielle: Okay, and we’ll also put those links in the description of this podcast so that you can easily access those. So thank you so much James for coming in and we’ll have to have you back again to discuss more about your journey as an author.
J.E. Tyler: Please, please. That would be fun. Yes, most definitely. Thank you. Thank you guys so much. Thank you Tammy. Thank you Danielle. Well alright.
Tammy: Alright James. We’ll be in touch!
Little Angels, Inc Annual Fundraisers
Danielle: And the book is just one of the things that you’re rolling out. You have so much going on, but do you have any other events that you want to talk about that you have coming up in the near future?
Tammy: Yes. Actually, we are having our second annual Little Angels Run and Kids’ Festival. This event will take place on March 31st from one until seven PM at the fairgrounds here in Mobile. And we will also have that information posted on the site for everyone.
Danielle: Okay. Little Angels Kids’ Fest. Did you want to tell us a little bit more about what they can expect.
Tammy: Yes. Little Angels— our event is actually a fundraiser. It’s a way for us to raise money to help us continue our mission throughout the community. And before I get into what that’s about, I have to acknowledge the students who created all of this. And my organization— we’re so grateful to have that opportunity to partner with this group of students from Saint Paul’s Episcopal School Community Innovations class.
This class is led by their instructor, Ms. Kelly Etheridge and it consists of a group of middle and high school students who are focused on solving real world problems and just positively impacting the community while they are developing their leadership skills. So, it’s a win-win situation on both sides. And our relationship with Saint Paul’s started last year through their selection process, which allowed non-profits throughout the community an opportunity to deliver a presentation to this group of students in hopes of gaining them as some form of help to basically help them solve any type of challenge that they’re dealing with in their organization.
And so for my organization, we conducted the presentation of course and they selected us, and they also selected us again this year.
Tammy: And basically the issue for… Yes, we’re so grateful for that because you have to present every year. And for us the issues was, how can we establish more of a presence within the community and talk to the community and inform them about what we’re doing and why it’s so important to have us in place here. And also, how can we have some type of innovative solution to the issue. And everyone is doing certain things, but we wanted to do something a little different.
And so the students, they are the founders of this event. It was their idea and all I did was kind of tweaked it, gave them some feedback and we made the necessary changes and moved forward with it. And this is our second year doing it.
And so at the event, we essentially have what we call the Angel Run. And this run, it’s a 5k. It’s for everyone, young, old— if you’re capable of running, we want you to participate. It doesn’t matter if you are a male or a female. We’re having that run, and then after that we’ll have our stroller walk. And it’s a fun walk and children, babies, their strollers, all of them are allowed on the trail. This is something that’s different. I haven’t seen this done before here in Mobile and so the students really took pride into creating this event. And then after that we’ll have our kids festival. It’s free, it’s open to the public. We’re just gonna have different events taking place at the festival for children to come out and have a great time and enjoy themselves for free. And then after that, we’re going to have our new added component to this year’s event. And we have partnered with Exalte’ Magazine, which is a local business here. They are conducting a Diapers on the Runway Fashion Show.
Danielle: Oh wow!
Tammy: And so here we’re going to have… yeah, we’re excited about that. We’re going to have infants and toddlers through the age of five participate in this fashion show and we’ve got some great surprises coming up at that event. So this will give children the opportunity to showcase their runway skills and possibly win a spread in the Exalte’ Magazine and other prizes. Danielle: [chuckle]
Tammy: And this event will also help us raise awareness and collect some funding for Little Angels as well.
Danielle: That sounds like so much fun! I can just imagine those little babies on the runway.
Tammy: Yes, we’re so excited! They’re going to be on the runway in their diapers and other things and we’re excited about that. [laughter]
Danielle: [chuckle] So you are outreaching to children of all ages in so many different ways because that’s a great opportunity for the children of Saint Paul’s to contribute to the community also. So that’s just fantastic.
Tammy: It is. It’s an awesome project and I’m so— I never imagined this, but you just have to move forward with what’s been on your heart and you never know. And as I said before, I could not imagine doing this or moving forward with a non-profit. My mind was on a for profit and doing what I needed to do to support my family. And instead I chose to just listen to my heart and be obedient to it and I’m touching other families. And it’s also filling my family as well because my family, they’ve been supporting me since day one and my friends.
Everybody’s been encouraging me, so that’s great.
Danielle: Right. Yeah, that’s— sometimes that’s when it comes together when you follow the plan that’s set out for you and what your purpose is. That’s when it comes together.
Managing Life as a Mompreneur
Danielle: Now, you have all this going on, and I know how it is as a mom. I’m a new mom and every— I’m going ninety to nothing every moment of the day until it’s time to go to bed, so I know how that is [laughter]
Tammy: Do you get to go to bed, really? [laughter]
Danielle: Right, with one eye closed. [laughter]
Tammy: Do you really get to go to bed? [laughter]
Danielle: Right [laughter]
Tammy: One open, one closed and then the baby is probably pulling that one that’s shut open so… [laughter]
Danielle: Yeah [laughter] So you know how it is and I know how it is. And you have all of this going on and you were— I’m approaching my one year mark of being a mom, but you’ve been doing it for a few years now and you were a fairly new mom when you planned and launched your organization, and you’re also a grad student now. So, just me saying this out loud like, I’m like wow! Like how do you balance your agenda and still do it all while being a devoted mother?
Tammy: Oh my gosh! It is so challenging, but it is possible and I definitely have to give all the credit to the man I serve above because I am a strong believer and I think being deeply rooted in my spirituality has truly kept me grounded.
Tammy: And in addition to that, just in the earthly realm, having that support system has been awesome. My family, oh my gosh. My family!
Tammy: Oh! [laughter] I cannot say this enough! I mean everyone was on board— and I mean, my mom.
Danielle: Shout out mom!
Tammy: Shout out to my mother. Hey mom!
Tammy: Shout out to her. She has been very instrumental— and I mean no questions asked. If I need a babysitter or whatever, I don’t even have to ask. She’ll just tell me and, actually I’m really just a surrogate because my little guy… She— I really think that’s her baby because he loves his granny to death and she is there for him.
Danielle: Aww… [chuckles]
Tammy: But I would say for me it’s just being deeply rooted into my spirituality and just having that circle of support from my family and my friends. So my mom, my dad, brother, sister, all the way down to aunts, cousins, everybody. And they’re not even— not everyone is local. I have family that supported me in different ways and they are living somewhere else.
Just picking up the phone saying’ “I’m so proud of you” or they’re sending a text, “don’t give up”. It’s just random things and different things that comes in different forms that I receive and it’s on a consistent basis. Not okay, this happened once and that’s it. I receive support all of the time.
Other than that, I really don’t even know if I could do this. I don’t think that it would be possible.
Danielle: We need that and people don’t understand how much it means, and like you said it’s just those encouraging words and just not being a doubter or a naysayer. You don’t know how much of a difference it can make.
So, you hear that family and friends? Support entrepreneurs and aspiring ones because you never know what it’ll turn into.
Tammy: You never know. You never know. That’s right.
Danielle: Okay so speaking of inspiration and motivation, what is a motivational or inspiration quote that just gets you going and helps you get your day started or just keeps your in the right spirit?
Tammy: Well I have so many different devotional readings that I read on a daily basis, and other different quotes that I read but there’s one that I stumbled across on— I think it was a social media outlet. And I’m not sure who it’s from, but it really resonated with me earlier last year. I forgot we’re in 2019.
Tammy: Earlier last year [laughter] and it still is relevant to me right now as we speak, and that quote… It says:
“Many times in life your first step is merely a crawl. Do it anyway because the most important thing you can do is start”
And that is still true to me because I doubted myself for a long time regarding graduate school and “can I really afford to add something else to my plate?” And “I have motherhood” and never have I been a mother before. I really didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how demanding— I had an idea, but it’s so different when you’re in it and you’re experiencing it for yourself.
Danielle: Absolutely! Totally different.
Tammy: And so it’s easy to want to go hang out and your friend had a baby and you’re like “well you can’t get a babysitter? Why you can’t get a babysitter?”
Tammy: And now it’s like, I don’t want to get a babysitter. I want to be here with my baby and you have to have that trust in others. It’s not that easy to get a babysitter because there’s so many things going on, and you want to make sure that your child is being taken care of even when they’re not in your presence.
So there are a lot of things you just can’t explain. You have to experience it for yourself. So when I became a mom, that’s when I realized, “oh, this is what some of my friends were going through”. I feel like I was the last of the group to have a child.
Tammy: [laughter] I think all of their kids are like in middle and high school and I’m with a toddler. It’s like, dang! They’re out of the woods.
Danielle: Oh, we’re in the same boat! We are in the same boat.
Tammy: Yeah [laughter]. Yeah, we’re in the same boat. I’m like “good grief”. And now I think I’m jealous of them because they get to hang out and I can’t, but it’s fine [laughter]
Danielle: [laughter] Right. They’re like, “I’m going to my kid’s graduation. I’m like “Okay. We’re graduating from potty training.” [laughter]
Tammy: [laughter] And I’m like what? I gotta go through this. Potty training and finally getting past this stage where they’re following you everywhere you go. Oh my gosh! I can’t even go to the bathroom. I see little, tiny hands going under the door. Or I’m like, “would you please leave me alone you precious angel? Just let me be for five minutes”. [laughter]
Danielle: Right [laughter]. Right. Hiding in the closet to eat my cupcakes.[laughter]
Tammy: Crying and yeah, we’ve [laughter] we’ve been through that.
So I think that’s what it is. It’s just xc vgetting started and not douting yourself. So that quote really helped me to move forward with the application process and just knowing that I came this far. I still had the same support then that I have now and there was no better time. Why put it off. It may take a little extra work, and Lord knows I can’t fathom giving up another hour or two of sleep that I barely get, but I understand that that’s what it’s going to take to get through this, but I have the support system.
And so I’m utilizing it and my family, they’re definitely on board with that. So I’ve had that conversation with them and said this is what I want to do. And my mom was like the first one. “Yeah, you better go on and do it because he’s younger now and you don’t have to worry about so much school work on his end because once he gets into grade school, he’ll have projects and things. So take it from me, go ahead and move forward with it. We’re here. We’re going to support you. We’ll get him on the weekends.
I mean, she was the one just blabbing out everything. Not me. And I think I probably just hung up and cried because “oh my God! I’ve got all this support and why am I doubting myself”.
Tammy: So that is how, for me, that is how I’ve been able to move forward in this— with juggling so many different projects. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy because I have that support as far as my mom or whoever—my family having my baby when I need them to keep him so I can have that time to focus on whatever project I’m focusing on. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy because there are days where I don’t have an off day.
Tammy: I would, instead of being off on the weekends and kind of getting a few hours of sleep, I have to take advantage of the fact that my mom has my baby and so now I have to get up and study or whatever I need to do within Little Angels. Create these Facebook posts so they can be scheduled and be delivered next week on social media. Whatever it is, my time is constantly— right now— consumed with different projects. So I just don’t have any off time, but I do have support with my child.
Tammy: And that makes it easier.
One Last Bit of Advice
Danielle: Well, it helps when you have that vision and it’s something that you’re passionate about. And you have your inspirational quote to keep you going and that keeps urging you to step out on faith.
And when you step out on faith with your business, what is— in learning and going through that process, if you could like share a piece of advice for a newbie on something that you would do differently. Like if you could start over from scratch, what would be that thing that you would do differently if you could.
Tammy: I would kind of tone down the— I had a sense of anxiety and a sense of urgency. I felt like, “oh my gosh!
There are babies out here waiting on me who need my help. I have got to roll this out. And I think for me, I was overly excited. And I just started making a presence within the community without a great sense of what my business model would be like. And so I found myself not having a method to screen individuals within the community who truly needed the services.
And so of course if you roll something out that’s—quote on quote— free, everyone is going to want it. Or who’s not going to jump on that opportunity to get it and so that sort of created an issue for me in the beginning with not having a clear understanding of what my business model should look like to help minimize disappointments. Because you may get those that are thinking, “well you said it’s free”. On the other hand, I’m thinking “it’s for the ones that are in need”, but you can’t assume that the public will take it in that way.
Tammy: You would hope so. You would hope that if a person is truly not in— they know best if they are truly in need or not. So you can’t really—unfortunately you can’t always leave it up to them. So I didn’t really have any guidelines in place or rules or anything. I was just so excited and enthusiastic about launching and getting my services out there because I had a taste of a recipient of the services. I literally teared— I mean, I was so happy that I was able to provide the services for that young lady and her children.
Tammy: And that just pumped more excitement and energy. It’s like “oh my God”. I’m helping these families, so I just want to continue to do that. Not even thinking about, “oh someone will take advantage of it” or… and that’s taking away from the families who truly need it.
Tammy: And so that’s what I would say is to kind of take some time to do some research or talk to some seasoned business owners if they would allow it and see what you can do to kind of close those loopholes in what you’re trying to do.
Danielle: Awesome. Yeah, that is helpful when you can have a mentor or someone who has gone the route or a similar path that you are going if they are, like you said, willing— if they’re willing to share some of their experiences or something with you or critique what you’re doing.
Danielle: So, but it’s good that you were able to identify that and now you are refining it.
Danielle: Is there anything else you want to share with our listeners today?
Tammy: Yes, I’m going to say that it’s a new year. It’s 2019, so just move forward as the quote that I mentioned earlier. You have to take that step. Nothing is going to change if you don’t take that step. We can have the ideas in our bones, as they say in the South, “I feel it in my bones!”
You can have it in your bones, you can have it in your mind, you can have it on paper or saved electronically since we’re not really doing a lot of paper stuff now. Whatever or wherever you have this information or ideas stored up, if you’re not actually moving forward and taking the steps to get yourself out there because you are afraid, then you’re just doing a disservice to yourself and to those who need you.
Tammy: So, I would say to do what’s necessary to build your confidence whether it’s to connect with a partner or open up more to your friends and—so you can get what you need out there. Get it done.
Don’t let 2019 pass you by with should’ve, would’ve, could’ve. Go ahead and get it done. Move forward, be afraid. You are going to be afraid, but move forward in fear. Still move forward. You have to move forward.
Danielle: Absolutely, and I’ll share with you that I had this plan or this idea of interviewing entrepreneurs— I’ve had it in my Evernote notes for a while now. Well, at least five year maybe. I may have almost put it out there a few times and then I went back into my shell . But as— similar to what her quote is saying and you know I’ve already shared with you what my favorite quote is, but this— in Dreamer’s Den, everything is centered around making your dreams come true but the dream is— it’s only still a dream if it stays in your mind. And like she said, you don’t share it with anyone, you don’t help anyone and you do them a disservice by keeping it to yourself. So you’re actually— you should feel obligated to move forward.
Tammy: Yes. Exactly.
Danielle: So, I appreciate you stopping by to Dreamer’s Den, and as I said I’ll put in the comments all the information about Little Angel’s Inc and… Share with them how they can contribute to the cause and to everything that you have planned for the Little Angels.
Tammy: Yes! So, you can contribute in many different ways. You can share and like our page. You can also donate items to help us keep our inventory up to par with diapers, wipes and other items that we have listed on the website. You can also become a volunteer. And you can contribute financially as well if you are unable to be present. So feel free to visit us at the link she puts at the end of this podcast. All the information is there for you to participate or contribute in some kind of way that’s suitable for you.
And if you would like to be a vendor— if we have some business owners out there who are looking for vendor opportunities, we will have that as well at our upcoming event on March 31st and that information will be there as well on the website.
Danielle: Awesome. Well thank you again for stopping by. Thank you to all the listeners. And as we say here in Dreamer’s Den, “dream until your dreams come true”.