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 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.
philanthropy can be
traced back to joining
Board as a high school
freshman. “It was hands down
one of the most
I was involved with in
high school,” she said.
I appreciated how
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
wishes that she had
had more champions
and support as
a budding young
or connections, so that
she could increase her
“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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