Bay Area company sets out to break the cycle of poverty, one backpack at a time

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When tragedy strikes, every act of kindness and show of support can mean the world, can help in the healing process and sometimes can spur on the desire to pay that kindness forward.

It’s something Lafayette resident and preschool teacher Krista Cain knows well.

In January, Cain’s husband and the father of their two children committed suicide.

Their world had been shaken to the core. There was no way to make sense of what had happened, but one thing that Cain knew for sure was that her main focus and priority were her children.

Cain found herself a single parent on a part-time preschool teacher salary, faced with raising two girls alone.

She began exploring ways to make ends meet with a job that would allow her to be there for her daughters.

“Two girls that needed me emotionally did not allow me many options,” Cain said.

That's when friend Courtney Brockmeyer stepped in and asked her to join Sydney Paige, a company that has set out to help as many low income children as possible by equipping them with necessary tools so they can succeed in school.

"She could not afford to pay me much but she did,” Cain told KTVU. “It's a job that gives back," she added.

Brockmeyer is the founder and CEO of Moraga-based Sydney Paige.

The company’s business model is driven by the buy one, give one donation strategy.

For each backpack the company sells, another is donated to a child in need.

The backpacks are filled with age appropriate school supplies and the company says the donated school bags are the same durable, high quality products as the ones it sells, not a lower cost, lower quality alternative.

The idea is that quality leads to dignity and in turn can build confidence with the ultimate goal of inspiring kids to stay in school and graduate.

Formerly with Nestle, Brockmeyer left the corporate world so she could put her efforts toward that goal.

During her time with Nestle, she headed an initiative to create food and beverage solutions for low-income consumers.

Part of her work required research on how low-income families budgeted and shopped for their meals.

Through that process, Brockmeyer said she saw first-hand how hard it was for these families to make ends meet. 

She also noticed something else: Children were coming to and from school carrying books and binders in their arms or in trash bags.

In the instances when families did have backpacks, often times they weren't being used because the quality was poor and the bags would rip easily.

Brockmeyer said those stories stuck with her.

It was clear that for the families that were living in poverty and struggling for food and shelter, buying school supplies was low on the priority list.

Then one day, the direction of Brockmeyer's life changed when her eldest daughter came to her with a question. It was a simple question from an 8-year-old child who wanted to know why her mother worked so much.

Brockmeyer said she started to give an answer and then realized she did not have a proper response that could justify why she was spending so much time away from her family.

So it was that moment she decided she needed to make a change, redirect her purpose, and she set in motion plans to launch Sydney Paige, which she named after her two daughters.

Since its inception, the company has donated thousands of backpacks and other school supplies.

Sydney Paige says it has worked with numerous non-profits and corporate sponsors, offering an opportunity to empower those more fortunate to help break the cycle of poverty.

Actor Matthew McConaughey’s and wife Camila’s non-profit, The just keep livin Foundation partnered with Sydney Paige to donate 2,400 backpacks.

Cain said that Brockmeyer is driven by the pure desire to help those less fortunate than herself.

"She's never paid herself a dime,” Cain told KTVU.

Cain also said that through Sydney Paige, she too has found a new purpose and drive, and her children have gained a first-hand understanding of what it means to help others as she sometimes brings them to work with her. 

The mother said she's now on a mission to show how a community can come together to make a difference.

Along the way she hopes to spread the story of how one woman came to the aid of another woman during a time of hardship and need.

“She helped me... and in turn we can together help as many children as possible,” Cain said.

If you would like to learn more about Sydney Paige or to make a donation, you can go to the company's website by clicking here.