“Don’t be afraid to scream and shout about issues that excite you. And don’t be afraid to ask for help or a donation.” – Daniella Labat
I had the privilege of meeting Daniella Labat while volunteering at SOVA Food Pantry. Her passion for people and making a difference is the first thing you notice. What stands out about Daniella is that she doesn’t just listen to your story, she takes action. She is generous with her time, resources and friends – volunteering to help before you ever would consider asking.
If I had to describe Daniella in one word, vibrant comes to mind. She is bright and bubbly and possesses a kinetic energy that draws you in and convinces you that you, too, possesses superpowers capable of changing the world.
Combining her vibrant personality with her passion for giving back, she spends her days as the PR + Events Manager for Cheeky, spearheading experiential marketing + PR efforts nationwide. There she focuses her time and energy into strategically planning and executing activations + brand partnerships and getting Cheeky in the hands of brilliant people doing amazing things. Her favorite part? Getting to represent the cause internally at Cheeky HQ and planning volunteer opportunities for the whole team!
As this week’s #WCW Spotlight Feature, Daniella shares where her passion for people came from and what inspires her to keep fighting for things that matter.
Me: What is your earliest memory in your life as a dedicated philanthropist?
Daniella: As a kid I always loved talking to strangers, much to my parents dismay, because curiosity ruled my little mind. Both my parents were born and raised outside of the U.S., and I was fascinated by their stories of life in Peru and Sub-Saharan African countries.
My fascination with those countries transformed into an early understanding of the tremendous social and economic inequalities that run deep in developing countries.
At first, I couldn’t comprehend that other kids my age didn’t have water or food or how we could help. However, I did understand that they didn’t have toys and I did. So, at four-years-old I told my mom I wanted to share my toys with the kids that didn’t have any.
Me: I love the story you shared with me about your dad telling you to save your money and not give it all away. How has this sentiment changed over the years, as you have dedicated your adult years and career choices to giving back? Has he gotten on board?
Daniella: He’s gotten a lot better!
I think in high school I was a little out of control. Every month I hosted an array of activities: club meetings, rallies, assemblies, fundraisers, car washes, film screenings, and advocacy sessions. My dad was worried I wasn’t focusing enough time on my schoolwork and too focused on global problems that were out of my control. Instead of slowing down I sped up. I kept my involvement a secret, stopped asking him for money, and kept my grades up to avoid blowing my cover.
Once I went off to college, I decided to stop hiding it. My first internship was with the non-profit charity: water (an internship that lasted about 3-years), I concentrated my studies in international politics and economic development, and continued to fundraise and volunteer my time for causes I cared about. Once I proved to my dad it wasn’t a phase, and I could turn my passion into a livelihood, he came on board.
But I do think he’s really happy I went the social entrepreneurship route instead of non-profit!
Me: Clearly giving back and helping others is something ingrained in your personality. Do you remember an exact moment when you realized helping others was going to be a central focus in your life? Or has it always been innate choice and something you’ve never had to spend time thinking about?
Daniella: I never had to think too hard about it. I always wanted to help people, I just didn’t know how. Was I going to become a diplomat? Would I join a non-profit?
The more I learned about the bureaucracy that comes with politics, the less appealing it became. Then I was extremely spoiled at charity: water. Learning from one of the most innovative (charity) brands out there, was a blessing and a curse. It set the bar really high for non-profit work.
I was in high school when TOMS launched. One day I complimented a classmate on her shoes, and she goes, “Dani – how haven’t you heard about TOMS. It’s so you.” I didn’t quite understand social entrepreneurship, but I liked the idea of it. The more I learned about it, and other brands such as Warby Parker, the more interested I became.
Me: What are your favorite giveback brands of the moment?
And of course I have a closet full of TOMS, and more Warby Parker pairs than I need…I’m such a sucker for products that give back. It’s incredible to see all impact these brands are making!
Me: You spent some time working for charity: water. What was the biggest life lesson you learned during your time there?
Daniella: That’s a hard question – what didn’t I learn from charity: water?!
I was 19 when I started my first c:w internship and 22 when I finished my last and third c:w internship. I learned the importance of how brand consistency and innovation in design can be a key differentiating factors that resonate with your audience. I also learned the success of a brand doesn’t rely on one person, but a team. Taking risks and getting creative as a team can take your brand to whole other level. A lot of thought, research, and time went into projects, events, and program development. At times it was hard, but seeing the final results and impact our work had on our donors, fundraisers, volunteers, and partners was rewarding.
Me: Why did you make the move from the non-profit sector to the for-profit sector?
Daniella: I graduated from college in 2014, and as much as I loved New York, I was ready to go back to California to be closer to family.
I was sitting at home looking for jobs in Silicon Valley when I was connected to Alexa, the Director of Marketing at Cheeky, through a friend of a friend. We get on the phone and she tells me about this amazing new concept, not-so boring paper plates on a mission to help end hunger in the U.S. I felt an immediate connection to the story, and knew I had to get involved. Two weeks later, I packed up my car and moved to Los Angeles to start working at Cheeky.
When I arrived at our temporary Cheeky offices, a shared workspace at a tech company, we still didn’t have a tangible product. Seeing the brand come to life online and in stores at Target has been an unbelievable ride!
Me: Going from the non-profit world to the for-profit-yet-still-philanthropic world must have been an interesting transition? What was the biggest surprise you experienced?
Daniella: In all honesty, it doesn’t feel too different. At Cheeky, we’re less than a year old and still in startup mode. We’re scrappy and forced to get innovative and efficient with we’ve got, which is very similar to my experience of working at a non-profit. I love that culture. It forces you to think creatively and out of your comfort zone. We’re also doing an incredible amount of good.
Me: Cheeky recently reached 3.6 million meals donated to Feeding America, I can only imagine how excited and proud everyone at Cheeky must feel. How does your team celebrate each milestone?
Daniella: We hoot and holler and then get back to work. We’re extremely motivated to keep our momentum up. The truth is 49 million people are facing hunger in the U.S., that’s 1 in 6 Americans. There’s a lot of work to do. We’re lucky to be doing it with the leading hunger-relief organization in the country – Feeding America.
But we did throw a party to celebrate our first million – that was a lot of fun.
Me: In addition to the financial contributions Cheeky makes to Feeding America, you guys also donate a lot of your time volunteering with them. Why is the volunteering component equally important to the team?
Daniella: We do!
Feeding America’s network of food banks, pantries, shelters, kitchens, and centers relies heavily on volunteers. Over 3.3 million people volunteer annually throughout the Feeding America network. In order to get a real grasp of the issues at hand, we felt it was necessary to integrate volunteering into our company culture and gain personal insight.
Seeing how hunger affects our local community in Los Angeles first hand motivates us to work even harder.
Me: You also spend a lot of your personal time volunteering as well, on top of the time you spend volunteering with Cheeky. What motivates you to donate so much of your personal time as well?
Daniella: I sincerely love helping out. If there’s work that needs to be done, I’m always down to get my hands dirty. I also enjoy meeting new people and you meet amazing people when you volunteer!
Me: What is the one piece of advice you would want to share with someone who wants to follow in your footsteps of using their own unique voice to give back?
1) There’s not a right or wrong way of making a difference.
If you want to raise awareness, fundraise, advocate, volunteer, or do it all – do what’s right for you! Once you find a cause that you connect with do your research, look into different organizations supporting the cause, and get involved!
2) Don’t be shy.
In my experience, people are excited to help and learn more. Don’t be afraid to scream and shout about issues that excite you. And don’t be afraid to ask for help or a donation. It never hurts to ask!
3) Stay on it!
Also – keep an eye on upcoming trends in the charitable giving and social giveback world. Staying on the cusp of what’s new and what’s to come allows you to be successful in your giving and outreach!
Connect with Danielle to keep up with her adventures on Instagram.