Change Makers Spotlight: Backpacks with a Purpose

Backpacks with a Purpose, or B-WAP, is a line of adult backpacks that supplies backpacks for people in need. For each backpack purchased, B-WAP donates two child-sized backpacks to a domestic or international nonprofit working directly with people in need. B-WAP started in 2002 when the Urban Mission in Oklahoma City needed high quality, affordable backpacks to distribute through their back-to-school programs. SInce then they have donated more than a million backpacks. We sit down with B-WAP co-owner Lauren Cross to see how they did it.

b-wap backpacksbackpacks with a purposetwo little boys with backpacks

  1. What is Backpacks with a Purpose? We are a socially minded give back company that donates two bags for every bag purchased. We are a buy 1/give 2 business model. 
  1. When/why did it start? From the beginning, it has been Backpacks with a Purpose®’s mission to meet needs when they find them. The first BWAP® backpack was made in 2002 as a direct response to the needs of the Urban Mission in Oklahoma City. They needed high-quality, affordable children’s backpacks with a classic design to distribute through their back-to-school programs. Since then, through partnerships with hundreds of nonprofit organizations, over 1 million Classic BWAP backpacks have been distributed to students who need them most.
  1.  What did you do before you started Backpacks with a Purpose? My parents and I came up with the idea of B-WAP when I was a child. Together we grew the idea as I grew into an adult. Throughout college I worked with a number of different non-profit organizations and discovered my abundant love for giving back. As soon as I got my degree I came on full time to B-WAP!
  1. How do you determine who you donate backpacks to?  Every year B-WAP chooses an International and Domestic non-profit organization. Our main mission is to involve our customers in the giving process by allowing them to choose to give back to something they are passionate about. We had an existing relationship with this year's partners (The Maisha Project and The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma) and enjoy working with them. The Maisha Project backpacks
  1.  What need is your business filling? Providing children with the tools they need to pursue an education. Our hope is that in that process they will follow their calling and  find their purpose.
  1. What is the biggest challenge for Backpacks with a Purpose? Our biggest, and most recent challenge is expanding our reach throughout the United States. Just recently we began partnerships with stores in Colorado, Nebraska, Oregon, and several online stores. We are in the process of pursuing new retail stores that are passionate about our cause and to carry our bags.
  1.  What has the most inspiring part of Backpacks with a Purpose?  Seeing our recipients receive their bags is the most rewarding part of our jobs. Many of the children receiving backpacks have never had a bag of their own, and many walk miles to school every day.  It inspires us to pursue our own purpose in life to give back to others.  We also love to see our customers get excited about our cause.
girl on bike with backpacks with a purpose
  1.      How do you get the word out about your          
  2.     business? When you find out…… Let me know!!  
  3.     Just kidding. But really, social media is our main       outlet.

  1. What does Live with a Purpose mean to you? This question is one I find myself thinking about often. I was reading these questions aloud and my co-worker Mica said “To me, live life with purpose means taking time every day to think about where the choices you make are leading your future self.”  I agreed. I began thinking about what it meant to me. I thought it meant to find something that was special to you, and pursue it. Then I realized that each person has a different idea of what it means to have a purpose. That’s why it’s so important for everyone to find their own purpose, because each person can change the world in a different way.
  1. What piece of advice would you give someone who wants to make a difference, but does not know where to start? It’s a bit of a cliché but I would have to say put yourself out there. It’s hard to do it on your own, so find someone who is passionate about the same things. I visited the Maisha Project, and instantly knew that it was something I wanted to be a part of. I evaluated needs that could be met, and realized that B-WAP would be the perfect fit. Find something you love, and don’t let go of it.

For more information about B-Wap visit their website at They are also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest