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RAISING AWARENESS, REDUCING STIGMAS AND ENCOURAGING THOSE WHO FEEL HURT, LOST or FORGOTTEN.
Stand Up Speak Up
Unable to separate business from purpose, when Karla Stephens-Tolstoy and her son, Zach, launched Stand Up Speak Up (SuSu), a business story built on the cornerstone of advocacy almost wrote itself. Founded in 2016, SuSu is more than just a business venture. It’s a commitment to changing the world, one simple act at a time.
Karla – Co-Founder & CEO
Often described by others with words like, “fiery,” “sensitive,” “eternally curious,” “born entrepreneur” or “wise beyond her years”; if you ask Karla Stephens-Tolstoy what fills her life with meaning, she’ll simply say, “the ability to help others.” Whether bringing a voice to complex, underrepresented issues, or listening patiently to adults and teens as they describe personal journeys wrought with challenge, Karla believes the key to changing the worlds is taking action, one person – and one simple act – at a time. This often means bursting her own or others’ bubbles of judgment or preconception, by acquiring raw knowledge about life issues that seem uncomfortable to most – and Karla’s not afraid to do just that. Determined to be an example of her own philosophy, Karla believes it’s important meet people where they’re at – even if a little uncomfortable initially – as only then can a person truly understand another’s needs well enough to help them reach life-changing goals. Karla’s top-ranked SuSu podcasts provide a rare look into her empathetic process of connecting with people navigating all types of profound life challenges. Click here to listen to a sample podcast that will change the way you view Addiction.
As influential in the life of her child as parents are, Karla couldn’t help but pass on to her son, Zach, the creativity, tenacity and innate business savvy that have guided her through many stages of life. If you ask Karla, though, her parenting focus isn’t motivated by any of those things. It is inspired by the desire to teach her son to recognize his Love Privilege while understanding many others are born to fewer gifts or unique life challenges. Since his birth, Karla has modeled to Zach the importance of speaking up, and – more importantly – taking action when confronted with injustice or the opportunity to make a positive difference. Through the venture Stand Up Speak Up, Karla and Zach set out to create products that would inspire others to do the same.
Zach – Co-Founder & Spokesperson
Born in 2001 to fiercely passionate, socially conscientious parents, Zach Tolstoy was destined to be anything but ordinary. A Gen-Z’er with a unique perspective, Zach keeps SuSu progressing in forward motion as a clothing model, social media post contributor and idea generator. While a proud Stand Up Speak Up brand ambassador in his everyday life, Zach understands that a business is a serious undertaking, and passion alone can’t affect change, so he devotes personal time and energy into strengthening his impact by training in the areas of mental health, time management and more. A teen with a world of heart and a lot to say about personally impacting positive change, Zach is able to put fervor and words to action through his important role in Stand Up Speak Up.
Despite his extraordinary commitment to a meaningful business venture at a relatively young age; in many ways, Zach is an everyday teen who enjoys relaxing and pursuing personal interests. When he’s not standing up or speaking up, he can usually be found perfecting magic tricks or pursuing other personal interests, like: film editing, computer software, scuba diving, theatre combat training or improv acting.
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