One day, Valerie Lecoeur led her three children on a treasure hunt along the beach. Only they found more trash than treasure—including discarded beach toys. "Why not make toys that will biodegrade in a few years when washed out to sea?" she thought.
Her beach toys, made from a corn-based bioplastic, were picked up by Pottery Barn. Best part? Toy testing with her then two-year-old daughter, Sophie, on a sandy beach. "It's good to remind oneself that sometimes—most times—simple is still the most fun," she said.
Pamela Diedrich's desire to capture every moment with her two dimpled boys—from summer park outings to birthday parties—led to her career as an event photographer. "When friends saw my scrapbooks, they'd ask if I could make one for their kids," she said.
Now, as co-owner of White Peacock, an event styling and planning firm, she attempts to create those magical moments for her clients' children—only she adds in a charitable aspect, like donating gifts to Operation Gratitude.
"It's not about what you receive in life, but what you give," she said. "And you're never too young to learn how to give back."
Writer Catherine Friend was a city girl until her partner, Melissa, convinced her to raise sheep and cattle on a small, sustainable farm in southeastern Minnesota. "I've had to find reasons to love farming myself, since supporting a spouse isn't enough of a reason to totally build your life around animals," she said.
Farm life reminds her to explore her environment like a child—through her sense of touch. Sinking her fingers into the warm, soft fleece on a sheep's back invigorates her. "I'm happy to spend an hour sitting on the ground, letting a lamb sleep in my arms, or scratching an ewe's head," she said.
Filmmaker Maggie Betts lost two uncles to AIDS in America. After traveling to Africa with UNICEF and learning about their Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission program, she understood how she could lend her artistic talents to help in the fight against AIDS.
She spent four months in Zambia shooting The Carrier, a documentary about an HIV-positive woman trying to prevent transmission to her unborn baby. "I discovered so many new things about people and the world we all live in—both the good and the bad," she said. "It makes me feel like an eternally curious—and eternally humbled—inspired student."
The ritual of pouring a morning cup of coffee inspired Julia Dean's pottery line. "A personal relationship is built with our cup," she said. "Our day can benefit from this near sacred time we give ourselves."
It inspired her to launch Babiators, aviator sunglasses that protect children's eyes from harmful rays, along with Carolyn Guard. When customers send in pictures of their kids in Babiators, Fienning and Guard are reminded of their own carefree childhoods—splashing in pools, digging in the sand on a beach, or riding in a sled.
Emine Sandi believes children should be as stylish as their parents. But while shopping for her unborn son, she couldn't find any baby clothes that felt soft against her skin and appealed to her tastes.
Now with Klever Kids she designs clothes that are both soft and stylish—and influenced by her own childhood. Like the white silk dress in her couture collection. "It reminds me of the pride I felt as a flower girl," she said.