The Power of 9 Happy People: If You Can Dream It, Do It!

From the Dalai Lama, to Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project, to Disney’s Magic Kingdom, an overstressed world is actively seeking happiness. And now, happiness has come to South Dallas thanks to Candice Quarles and Amrit Kirpalani, co-founders of 9 Happy People.

Founded in February 2015, 9 Happy People is a socially-conscious fashion brand. The model, based on Tom’s Shoes, is simple. Buy a t-shirt, create a job, and strengthen our city. How do they do this? 9 Happy People donates $1 for every $1 of revenue to help people in south Dallas get jobs though workforce training and job placement assistance. Quarles explains, “We believe everyone can learn. We teach people to fish so that they can be self-sustaining.” They hire their team members from south Dallas and they use south Dallas vendors. That’s a lot of happiness in south Dallas!

Why nine people, you might ask? Candice and Amrit started with nine people, helping them find happiness. If those nine could help bring happiness to nine others, 81 people will be happy. Take this to the 9th generation and we have a happy kingdom of 387,420,489 people, roughly the population of the United States—that’s the power of 9. “Amrit and I care about the community and the individual,” says Quarles. “Who listens to these communities? It’s so fulfilling to be a voice for the voiceless.

As with most start-ups, life isn’t all magic carpets and tea parties in the castle. “It’s a very new concept for many people,” admits Quarles. “People don’t understand why we are committed to giving away our profit. They want to know how we’re going to work with the nonprofit community. We need time to get started!” And, like a ride through Space Mountain, 9 Happy People is starting with velocity. They raised $10,000 in the first 12 hours of their Kickstarter campaign. Their goal is to reach $20,000 by May 9.

And, there’s an interesting twist to the story behind 9 Happy People: Quarles is a new mom-preneur. She left her job when Avery was born in August 2014 and met Amrit earlier this year, when he was looking for a partner. “Being a mom has really helped me clarify my goals,” beams Quarles. “I have to be a bigger person, a stronger woman, a better leader. I want my child to have a better world than the one I grew up in.

9 Happy People’s product line is limited to T-shirts right now. In five years, they plan to have their signature “9” emblazoned on an entire fashion line promoting positive messages. As the company grows, they have committed to investing at least 50% of their profits back into the community through grants and donations. They hope to put at least 200 people to work in south Dallas by 2020. And, they intend to expand their model to other cities, including Quarles’ home city of Saint Louis, Missouri.

What if everyone in Dallas were happy? Now, take a moment to imagine if everyone in the United States were happy. What impact would we have on the world? Impossible, you say? Consider that when Disneyland opened in 1971, investors thought it would be a financial disaster. Walt Disney’s mindset? “If you can dream it, do it!” In 2014, the Walt Disney Company was valued at $84 billion. Just happy food for thought. Now, go buy a t-shirt!

Gretchen Martens

A visionary leader and foresight strategist, Gretchen helps leaders consciously manage complexity as they transform their organizations and communities. Her approach is consistently transdisciplinary and systemic with a focus on emerging opportunities, national/global trends, and risk mitigation. As a trained anthropologist and educator, Gretchen brings a unique skillset to creating, managing, and aligning socio-cultural impact. A professional coach and challenge course facilitator, she has significant experience working with CEOs and executive teams. Her Ph.D. advisor described her as “one of the most intellectually gifted students" she ever taught. Since 2009, Gretchen, affectionately known as “the Veteran Lady,” has worked on future focused issues using America's resolve not to recreate the long-term outcomes of Vietnam as a catalyst to frame a new social contract that bridges the military-civilian divide, strengthens community, and enhances homeland security. She is a passionate advocate for the importance of community mobilization as the most reliable safety net to prevent America from losing another generation of young veterans and their families. She speaks and consults nationally with a focus on improving community systems to support post-9/11 military/veterans in transition in a way that strengthens community, saves money in local government, and creates economic growth on Main Street. MG James Kelley, U.S. Army (retired), once said, “Gretchen knows more about what it’s like to return home from combat than anyone I know who has never been in combat.” As a committed futurist, Gretchen is always open to new opportunities to nurture future global leaders and engaged citizens who recreate our grandchildren’s future through compassionate leadership, effective communication, relationships of trust, and interdependent teamwork.