Seattle Foundation Blog

Next Gen Philanthropist Zoe Mesnik-Greene

Seeds of Zoe Mesnik-Greene's Social Entrepreneurship Sowed with Youth Grantmaking Board


August 27, 2018

By Kristin Dizon. Read this story and more in Volume 5 of Seattle Foundation's Heart & Science Magazine.

Zoe Mesnik-Greene was at a juncture in 2013 as a sophomore at the University of Washington. Would she continue as an elite pole vaulter, who had trained at the U.S. Olympic Training Center? Or would she put her considerable energy into the cause-based business she started in her dorm room to make high-quality lip balms that support global farmers and fund cleft palate surgeries for children in the developing world?

Lasting smiles lip balm

Lasting Smiles products

Mesnik-Greene, 25, chose social entrepreneurship and never looked back. “I literally breathed, slept and lived this. It became my life.”

As the founder and CEO of Lasting Smiles, whose tagline is ‘Nourish Your Lips, Nurture the World,’ Mesnik-Greene wanted to create a philanthropic tool for change that is accessible, affordable and replenishable.

“For our generation, the word philanthropy can seem unapproachable. If I bring it up with friends, a lot of people think it’s for the very wealthy, and how can I be a philanthropist? But, of course, when you look it up, it means love of man. So anyone can be a philanthropist in their own life,” said Mesnik-Greene, who calls Lasting Smiles her life’s purpose.

Made with organic and fair trade ingredients like coconut oil from India and cocoa butter from Peru, Lasting Smiles is sold by national retailers including Whole Foods, Target and Nordstrom, and has been enjoyed by millions. Getting the product on shelves was entirely a result of Mesnik-Greene’s determination and single-minded focus.

With earnings saved from a Microsoft summer job and loans, she started Lasting Smiles to blend conscious consumerism and global good. Business was entirely new to her, so she taught herself all areas – supply chain, manufacturing, marketing, distribution, sales and more. Her scrappy marketing led to Lasting Smiles being featured at New York fashion week, by online influencers and in a New York Times article.

Mesnik-Greene’s commitment to philanthropy can be traced back to joining Seattle Foundation’s Youth Grantmaking Board as a high school freshman. “It was hands down one of the most influential programs I was involved with in high school,” she said. I appreciated how Seattle Foundation empowered youth and taught us real tools to succeed in grantmaking.”

Her experience on the board developed skills that she uses today: how to develop key criteria, analyze processes and use site visits to evaluate a program. “It helped me connect the dots to see how grant money is really being used and leveraged to solve problems,” said Mesnik-Greene, who also interned at nonprofits including Wellspring Family Services, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and the Olympic Training Center.

Through the Foundation, she also met Heide Felton, a mentor and philanthropist whose deep compassion had an impact on Mesnik-Greene. Felton recently passed away.

Her Lasting Smiles sales have funded surgeries for 250 children around the world, enabling them and their families to have better lives.

Although she’s received many accolades for her work, Mesnik-Greene wishes that she had had more champions and support as a budding young entrepreneur, including capital, partnerships or connections, so that she could increase her impact.

“I hope to get the business and philanthropic community invested in this opportunity to be a tool for change. Great impact can happen when even a small fraction of sales is donated to education, health, environment - any cause you can imagine,” she said.

So Mesnik-Greene is thinking bigger and risking more. Her next plans are ambitious: to increase scale while disrupting the standard distribution and sales model by cutting out middle men and inefficiencies. That would translate into Lasting Smiles touching more consumers and doing more philanthropic good.

Bet on her.

Heart & Science Magazine

Read Volume 5 of Heart & Science magazine for more on how philanthropists, community organizations and Seattle Foundation are working to address basic needs and create vibrant communities.



Learn more about our Youth Grantmaking Board. Interested in making your giving more impactful? Connect with one of our expert philanthropic advisors.

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