Founder’s Story – Grace Lu

I have always had a passion for running. It takes in your soul. For what you might call a boring activity, the falling repetitive steps of motion I take towards a destination unknown to man is a grounding and relaxing experience. Starting in middle school, I used that passion to start my own business in hand designed sterling silver running jewelry containing different charms with motivational messages such as “never never never give up”, “me vs. me”, “she believed she could so she did”, and “run like a girl”. These jewelry pieces were intended to motivate and inspire female runners to feel more powerful and confident by wearing them and having them as a constant reminder to and persevere through their challenging runs.

My business quickly grew and became popular among women seeking inspiration to keep running from all over the world. As of today I have a combined total of over 230,000 followers on social media accounts (@myfavoriterun on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest).

Everyday, I post motivational running content, varying from real-life womens’ running stories to inspirational quotes, to my Facebook and Instagram accounts in order encourage my fellow female runners to continue to persevere through running. Women have responded to my posts and stories by telling me how they didn’t feel like going for a run that day, but ended up changing their minds and finding inspiration to run after viewing my posts.

Additionally, I have used My Favorite Run to benefit non-profit organizations by donating my jewelry products to be used as prizes for finishing racers in the races that they organize. One remarkable organization that I donated to was The Association for Individual Development (AID), which provides programs for over 5000 special needs children and adults in 46 communities, and my necklaces went to benefit their Color Burst Run/Walk/Roll in June of this year. I felt connected with this cause because they believe that all children, despite their imperfections, deserve to have available learning opportunities. Another memorable event was the Chris Kyle Memorial Run, a veteran non-profit focused on raising awareness for veteran’s issues and raising money for veteran’s charities, where more than 4,500 runners got together to run honor and remember our country’s brave veterans. Using my company to benefit these non-profit organizations really made me feel like I was utilizing my jewelry for a good cause, rather than just for profit, and making a difference in significant issues.

Recently, my growing business and increased interest in running after joining my school’s cross country and track and field team inspired me to start my own non-profit organization that targets a key issue in my community. I realized that high school students in my community were so focused on academics that that they were willing to sacrifice their health by frequently engaging in unhealthy habits such as skipping breakfast and not getting enough sleep just to keep up with school. My non-profit organization, called Healthy Lifestyle for Youth, goes beyond just running and is focused on encouraging children and teens in the area to maintain good physical and mental health by exercising more, eating better and practicing positive thoughts. Our team is all about girl empowerment and is made up of all girls who want to give back to the community by raising awareness on the importance of having a healthy lifestyle. We have done this by hosting several events in our community (Primo’s Run for Education, The Arts and Winds Festival) where the girls and I interact with the youth of our community by discussing healthy habits in hopes of spreading awareness about their importance, as well as selling my running necklaces and donating the proceeds to other local non-profits.

Healthy Lifestyle for Youth has sponsored and partnered with local organizations, including the San Ramon Valley Education Foundation and the Contra Costa Crisis Center.  Because we are a non-profit organization, I use funds from my personal business, My Favorite Run, in order to support our events and support our partners. At one of our more recent events, the annual San Ramon Run for Education, we raised over $750 through selling the hand designed motivational running necklaces that I designed from Favorite Run. All of the proceeds for this event went to the Contra Costa Crisis center, a non-profit organization that supports mental health and suicide prevention in our country.The money we donated will help fund their various programs, from a 24 hour suicide hotline to different counseling and grief programs. At our event, I was able work with the girls and inform customers about the story behind my running necklaces, as well as spread awareness to people in our community, especially young girls, about the importance of mental health and keeping healthy habits.

A few of Healthy Lifestyle for Youth’s most prominent programs that I started are the Heart & Sole Youth Running Club and the Shoes that Inspire Program.

The Heart & Sole Youth Running Club meets every weekend at the local sports park to run together through neighborhood trails and parks. The goal of this running club is to engage youth in the community to exercise and maintain an active lifestyle by making running what it should be- a fun and enjoyable activity instead of a dreadful punishment. We accomplish this at the Heart & Sole Run Club with our high school coaches and volunteers who strive to make running as fun as possible for kids by playing running games such as Freeze Tag, Lava Monster, Sharks and Minnows, and stopping at neighborhood parks during the longer trail run workouts.

Shoes that Inspire is a meaningful program where Healthy Lifestyle for Youth partners with local schools and gives brand new running shoes to low-income students in need at various locations. All of the new running shoes are purchased with money raised by selling my hand-designed running jewelry products at local events and generous donations. After the kids receive their pair of brand new running shoes, they will attend a 5-week after-school running program where they will extensively run 3-5 times a week and improve not only their fitness levels, but also their confidence levels and academic performance. They will make new friends in this positive environment and get to display and admire their progress at a 5K race at the end of the training session.