Changing The World Through Kindness: Interview With Lauren Paul & Molly Thompson, Founders Of Kind Campaign
Meet Molly Thompson & Lauren Paul, Founders Of Kind Campaign
In February of 2009, Molly Thompson and Lauren Paul met at Pepperdine University and bonded over their tragic and shared experience being bullied. They joined forces to create a new platform for girls to speak out against female bullying. What started out as a documentary film about this universal experience has since evolved into the Kind Campaign, an internationally-recognized nonprofit organization that brings awareness and healing to the negative and lasting effects of girl-against-girl bullying. We connected with Molly and Lauren to hear more about their personal experiences as well as their mission behind the campaign which has now reached more than 400,000 students around the world.
I know you were both affected by girl on girl bullying throughout your youth and I would love to hear a little bit more about the impact that had on you two growing up as well as the motivation to ultimately join forces on this organization.
Lauren: I went through a pretty traumatic experience with a group of girls in middle school. It really just started with a rumor that was started by someone that was actually a friend of mine at that time and just kind of spiraled out of control into two years of torture. This group of girls did whatever they could possibly do to make me feel alone and ugly and worthless. Whether it was starting rumors about me, throwing things at me at lunch, ripping up my homework before class, stealing things out of my locker—it just became this constant struggle for me.
As a result of what I was going through in my middle school hallways I ended up developing severe depression which turned into an eating disorder that I battled for a few years. I completely lost my sense of self-worth and confidence and my grades dropped and I got to the point in seventh grade where I tried to commit suicide as a result of what I was going through.
We think it’s so important to share this conversation with girls around the world. Molly and I went to Pepperdine together and we were both in film school and it was there that we kind of connected in the summer going into our senior year sat down and talked about what it could look like to make a documentary about about the topic which then turned into Kind Campaign.
Take us back to the filming. What did it look like producing a film that remains relevant to this day?
Lauren: So in October of 2009 we hit the road and Molly and I packed into a minivan with both of our moms and a camera man and we actually put our moms to work. My mom was handling the second camera from time to time and then Molly’s mom was working on audio and we just drove around the country for about a month and a half and interviewed girls all over the country. But while we were doing that we were test piloting this idea for the school program.
Molly: There were definitely a lot of challenges. On the road we had to connect with hundreds of different companies—car companies, hotel companies—trying to get things donated and trying to piece this road trip together so that we could just shoot the film. That was a huge chapter of Kind Campaign’s life; there were countless all-nighters pulled just getting everything prepped.
Tell us more about how you evolved from that initial project into the movement that it has become. What challenges did you face?
Lauren: When we started the film we had no intention of starting a nonprofit. It was really through those initial interviews when we were listening to these girls and the women on camera sharing their stories pouring out their hearts that we kind of looked at each other and realized wow this could be more than just a film.
We were both film majors and seniors at Pepperdine. We just sat down and considered what we would have liked to hear when we were in school. We asked ourselves what would have been impactful when we were 12 year olds not wanting to wake up in the morning and just sat down and hammered out original activities and curriculum. We were trying to create a program that would create lasting impact.
What does a day in the life look like for you two with this career? Give us kind of a peek behind the scenes!
Lauren: Molly and I do two tours a year where we personally travel and speak in schools. And then there’s hundreds of Kind Campaign assemblies that take place a year without us. When we’re on tour we may do two assemblies a day so we’ll drive straight from one school to the next—which is sometimes down the street or sometimes it’s a few hours away. After each assembly we usually stick around and chat with the girls.
I’m curious to hear how have you been changed by the movement that you started to change otherwise.
Molly: I love that question. I feel think I’ve changed in so many ways from this opportunity. I think it’s really unique for two founders of the organization to be the ones who are face-to-face with the people that they’re wanting to impact. I’m constantly inspired by these young women that we are meeting and constantly affected by the stories that they’re sharing with us and they’re just so motivating. I think it’s truly what continues to inspire us to do what we do and drives us to create new content and new programming and figure out ways to get this message into as many schools as possible.
We started when we were so young. I feel like we both have like a changed and evolved and grown so much as business women over the years. My whole life has been changed by starting Kind Campaign. Even just on a personal level as mothers now—I know for me when I found out that Laila was a girl, now when I’m in schools having conversations with girls I’m thinking about them in a different way than I did before I became a mom. Every aspect of my life has been changed.
Lauren: I’ve evolved so much as a businesswoman. I always kind of thought of myself as a creative—I was in school for film, I was a singer and wrote music and poetry. I never really saw myself as a boss, but it’s been such a cool discovery—I’m a really smart businesswoman and I didn’t really know that about myself. We’ve been faced with tough choices and made the right ones, but we’ve also of course made wrong ones and learned from those as well. But to see the success of what we’ve created and the influence it’s had on millions of people—it’s really a testament to the hard work that we’ve had to do.
From where I stand you’ve gone through this incredible transformation from bullied girls to very successful businesswomen. That said we’re all still human. What is one thing that you are still self-conscious about today? What do you still struggle with?
Molly: I love taking on new things. I always have my hands in a million different things, personally and professionally. Now that I’ve added motherhood into the mix, that’s something that I definitely feel self conscious about—am I spending enough time with my daughter? Am I spending enough time on my work? It’s constantly running thing in my head and it’s so challenging not second guessing what I’m doing and feeling truly confident in the choices that I make. I have felt very self-conscious about dropping the ball on my daughter or my business. It helps me to take a step back and give myself some perspective and remind myself that I’m doing the best that I can. And I don’t have to live up to anyone else’s definition of what juggling these things looks like.
Kassia Binkowski is a Contributing Editor at The Good Trade and the Founder of One K Creative. She grew up in Madison, WI and traveled her way around the world to Boulder, CO which she now calls home. Nestled against the Rocky Mountains, Kassia supports innovative organizations from Colorado to Kathmandu tell their stories of social change through writing, photography, and design. Kassia is an eternal optimist and forever a backroad wanderer.