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An Interview With Bridge2Act Co-founder Hitha Palepu

December 15, 2016

I’m really excited to share today’s interview with you, especially as the craze of the holiday gifting season is in full affect!! Hitha is one inspiring mama! She’s the co-founder of Bridge2Act, an author and blogger. Read on to see how Hitha’s career path changed over the last few years from working in biochemistry to founding a start up that makes giving donations a breeze. You’ll also learn about her NO GIFTING philosophy this holiday season — that is instead of giving physical gifts make a worthwhile donation in your recipients name. I also love her parenting hacks!

First off, tell us about your background and Bridge2Act.

I graduated from college with degrees in biochemistry and history, and joined Cisco Systems’ competitive Sales Associates Program right after graduation. I worked as an account manager for pharmaceutical companies and enjoyed it, but my goal was to work IN the industry (versus supporting it). In 2009, my father’s own pharmaceutical company was growing rapidly and he needed someone to help manage all the projects and growing partnerships. I joined the company as a project manager and later oversaw our operations, portfolio, and business development efforts. I also began my blog at the same time as a creative outlet (an all-too-familiar story, but it’s true), and my constant business travel inspired a lot of the popular packing/travel content that I’ve published on Hitha On The Go.

After 5 years at SciDose, I was ready for a change and my best friend Samira approached me with an idea to connect digital content creators and nonprofits to enable action. I loved the concept and the early team she assembled. We founded the company in November 2014 and have been hard at work since.

Have you always had a desire to do something like this with your life? Is it where you thought your career would take you?

Not at all. My ultimate career goal for a while was to become a CEO of a major pharmaceutical company. I didn’t anticipate joining a smaller company (SciDose), or start my own (B2A). That said, it has been the best decision for me and my family. I work more hours than I used to, but the flexibility in planning my days around spending time with my family, taking care of myself, and traveling is invaluable.

How has co-founding a startup affected life at home with a toddler?

I found out I was pregnant a month after I joined Samira and Anil at Bridge2Act, and got approached about writing a book the day I came home from the hospital with Rho. I call Rho, How To Pack, and Bridge2Act triplets since they were all born around the same time!

So, I don’t know what life would be like if I was running the company without my son underfoot. I will say that motherhood is the best efficiency hack – with my time being so limited, I’m a lot more focused on whatever I’m working on at the moment.

I do drink a LOT of coffee, though.

Tell us about NO.GIFTS

NO.GIFTS was inspired by Rho! Right around his first birthday, I kept getting asked “what can I get Rho for his birthday?” I kept answering “no gifts, no gifts.” I ended up making a B2A donation link and shared it with everyone who asked about gifts. We raised over $2000 for some amazing children’s charities, and it was a light bulb moment. A quick google search revealed that NO.GIFTS was an available URL, and the platform followed quickly after. Through NO.GIFTS, we’re able to help you forego gifts for donation through custom donation pages, and also help you gift impact (rather than physical goods) to your loved ones.

Any advice for a parent trying to instill a no gifts or maybe just LESS gifts approach to the holidays this year?

Rob Lieber’s The Opposite Of Spoiled (which I highly recommend) talks about the importance of speaking with your kids about giving back. To echo him, I think it’s best to go about it in two ways:

1. Do what you say (i.e. forego or limit your own holiday gifts, make physical donations of items you no longer wear or use).

2. Talk about the importance of giving back regularly, in terms your child can understand. Rho’s still young, but we pack up old toys, clothes, and gear in front of him and explain that they’re going to a child that doesn’t have warm clothes or toys to play with. Jury’s out whether he actually understands any of it at 21 months, but it’s more about us getting into this habit of talking about it.

We have a 3 gifts rule in our home for the holidays – 1 big gift, 1 surprise gift, and 1 book (new Christmas pajamas obviously don’t count). We also each select a nonprofit and make a larger donation on New Year’s Eve to end the year on a high note.

How can you get kids involved in the no gifts mentality ?( IE are there any activities or suggestions you can do with your kids to help teach them the meaning and significance of this movement)

I love the idea of using celebrations (the holidays, birthdays) to get your kids to make gifts of their own, by donating their old toys or clothes. It’s important to make it fun – play some music, decorate the box that you place the goods inside, and talk about the items you’re donating and how it’s going to make another child so happy. I’d also encourage parents to create a NO.GIFTS page for their child and select a charity (or charities) together, based on your child’s interests.

The best way to get your kids excited about giving back is to show your own commitment to doing so. When you make a donation online or drop off items at Goodwill, do it with your children and talk about why you’re doing it. The more they see you do it, the more they’ll want to do it themselves.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?

I go through my morning routine (which varies in time depending how early I wake up):

• Write in my 5 Minute Journal

• Meditate (anywhere from 5-10 minutes using the Samsara app)

• Read The Economist Espresso

• Write – either morning pages, or a draft of a future blog post

• Exercise. If I’m crunched for time, I’ll do 5 sun salutations and a 1-minute plank and hop in the shower. Otherwise, I’ll change into workout clothes before my morning routine and work out after my writing session.

I try to be done with my workout by 7:30, around the time Rho wakes up. I spend the next couple of hours with him and get ready for the day after his nanny arrives.

Favorite book to read with your son?

HUG. Even though the book contains 3 words (hug, mommy, bobo), I act out the entire thing to get a giggle out of my son.

One beauty product you always splurge on?

It’s not a product per se, but I can’t live without my weekly blowout at Drybar and monthly facial at Heyday.

Favorite way to unwind after work is done and your son is in bed?

A glass of wine, and a great fiction book or a jigsaw puzzle.

How do you stay organized with work & personal life?

To be honest, I’m still trying to find a system I stick with. I’m constantly texting myself reminders and try to schedule everything (when I write, when I tackle e-mails, etc) in Google Calendar. Those two habits have helped me stay on top of everything, but I’m convinced I’m always forgetting something or falling behind…

Best parenting hack you’ve discovered so far.

I have a few!

• Snapchat filters will occupy your kid for a solid 10 minutes.

• Season your baby’s purees when you introduce solids. I credit this tip (from my mom!) with Rho being a great eater.

• Have a go-to song you play or sing to calm your kid down. When Rho is visibly upset about something, I’ll sing Adele’s Hello and give him a cuddle and it calms him down. If he’s throwing a tantrum, I sing You Can’t Always Get What You Want while holding his hands and looking him straight in the eye.

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