Ryan Beshel and Jennifer Wisniewski have a full plate.
They run two businesses together. As SIX4 Creative, they’re publicists who specialize in restaurants; and as DEKA Productions, they do photo shoots, styling and consulting. They also are involved in several separate business interests. Jen is co-owner of the restaurant Bread and Wine, most notably, while TV viewers know Ryan from his frequent role as an arbiter of fashion.
And yet, for all that, a recent experience launched the two friends on a new journey together: foundation creators.
As Wisniewski, a single mom, tells it, she’s someone willing to take business chances. But when one recent risk didn’t pan out, she found herself in the vulnerable position of wondering how the heck she was going to pay that month’s rent.
And she worried about more than money. Her “warrior spirit,” she says, took a beating.
“It dissipated, disappeared,” she says.
We are a society that puts such an emphasis on success that even a temporary setback can make one feel like a total failure. Think about the way people present themselves on social media: when does anyone ever show themselves having a less than perfect life?
Luckily for Wisniewski, her brother-in-law stepped in, calling her after sending the money she needed. Getting that cash, she says, was “somebody saying he believes in me.”
“The next day I was able to fight again,” she says.
It was that support, not so much the cash – although that certainly did allow her to give a sigh of relief – that got Wisniewski to thinking and then hashing out with Beshel the concept for their foundation, A Leg Up (https://www.alegupfoundation.com/).
Here’s how it’s going to work. Single moms who find themselves short of the rent/mortgage can apply to the foundation for a one-time payment. Once chosen, Beshel and Wisniewski hope that the recipients will soon afterward find themselves able to pay it forward and donate $100 to A Leg Up.
The idea resonated with Beshel, triggering memories of his mother, who after a divorce worked long hours in restaurants while raising four children.
Beshel says he understands the weight of responsibility that a woman raising kids alone feels when there is no other adult to lean on in tough times. If he can give a child “one day with a relaxed, relieved mother,” he says, that’ll satisfy him in a way words can’t describe.
Wisniewski and Beshel candidly admit they’re on the lookout for single moms much like themselves, people working their butts off, yet who find themselves one month – despite their efforts – unable to cover the housing bill.
They are still working out the details of the foundation, but they know they want to hold events to raise funds as well as get the recipients together. They want to create a community in which single moms have someone much like themselves to bounce ideas off, possibly to support one another’s business endeavors.
They envision a community in which the women give one another support and let each other know it’s OK to fail sometimes. Once you’re down, there’s no place to go but up, right?
As word has spread about A Leg Up’s debut, Wisniewski says she has heard from women wanting to tell their own similar stories, ones they’d never shared before. The same has happened with Beshel. And that tells them they have struck a chord.
They feel they’re doing this at a good time, with women and their rights so much in the news.
“People are paying attention” to women’s issues right now, says Beshel. “We want to get in there and help.”
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