There are many organisations trying to help better communities in the developing world by donating a small percentage of their profits. What you don’t hear about is companies giving back one hundred percent of all profits made and using creativity to make a change, to empower and to give back.
Frontier Collections is a one hundred percent non-profit company that was founded early this year by Jackson VanHarte. Originally from San Francisco, Jackson was inspired to start Frontier after travelling to Cambodia and Thailand and seeing all of the amazing and talented artists there.
‘Frontier Collections is a non-profit art gallery and the idea behind it, is to help artists in Cambodia and Thailand pursue their passions and at the same time give back to their communities by being able to help local orphanages there,’ Jackson said.
“I decided that if I really wanted to do something that is original and that makes me the happiest, I’ve got to create it.”
‘All the profits that we make go directly towards the orphanages from selling paintings and whatever artistic goods that we have on sale. The whole idea behind what I am doing, is to give people the opportunity that they deserve and to share their talents with the world.’
Travelling through Cambodia and Thailand, Jackson was inspired by the way people lived there. Having so little but being so content and happy with what they have, he felt they deserved more.
Jackson would travel to these parts of the world with a translated message that described his motivation behind what he wanted to do. When he found someone with an interesting or unique talent, he would show them the message.
‘I just walked up to them, they’d read the message that I had and they were 100% on board with it. In the developing world, they really value community and family, I think that is a reason why they came on board,’ Jackson said.
‘One woman was brought to tears because she herself had grown up in a children’s home and could identify with the struggles that thousands of children in South East Asia are going through. Growing up without any parents and not knowing what is going to become of their future.’
While on his travels, Jackson met a young man named Pheakday, an artist he is now collaborating with. When he was 10 years old, he was working in the rice fields with his parents because they were so poor they couldn’t afford food. While working, a landmine went off, killing both his parents and taking off his right arm simultaneously.
At the age of 10 Pheakday found himself with nothing, no family and no sense of what was going to become of him and his future.
‘For the next four years, he had a really hard time and eventually he found art and he taught himself how to paint with his left hand. People like that have a resilience about them, I think it’s something to really admire,’ Jackson said.
‘Most of the artists that I have met have similar stories to this, where there is some sort of suffering in their lives and they have used art as a means to pursue whatever they are passionate about and sustain their lives at the same time.’
Like many creatives who pursue their passions no matter the risks, Frontier Collections initially started out as an experiment and a really big gamble on Jackson’s part. After almost eight months, he has raised almost $3000 in total revenue. All of the profits have been donated to the Lost and Found Orphanage in Siem Reap in Cambodia.
Frontier Collections is about mutual benefit. Using a basic economic model that maximises benefit but does not prioritise profit. This gives Jackson the competitive advantage to play around with things and take his company further.
‘The reason I started Frontier was because I was having a lot of issues with depression and I was really struggling to find something that felt worthwhile and worth putting my time and effort into,’ Jackson said.
‘I decided that if I really wanted to do something that is original and that makes me the happiest, I’ve got to create it. That was a really big motivational factor behind starting Frontier.’
‘I am trying to make Frontier a completely sustainable entity so that it can be self-sufficient and hopefully someday get to the point where it isn’t contingent on my efforts to be successful and so a big part of that is talking to the artists.’
Communication is an issue when dealing with artists in Cambodia and Thailand. Jackson has Frontier Ambassadors that help him with the logistics of getting paintings shipped over to Sydney, paying the artists and everything else that he can’t do himself when he isn’t over there himself.
‘They help me do the shipping estimates, how much things will cost, the price the artist needs, I think communication is the most important aspect of what I am doing, to make sure everybody wins,’ Jackson said.
With there is a huge amount of corruption in Cambodia, finding an orphanage became stressful and a challenge. With communication being a problem and figuring out who could be trusted wasn’t easy.
Also, making sure that the orphanage chosen actually needed help and having the peace of mind that the funds will actually go back into the orphanage was no easy feat.
Jackson visited five other orphanages where the kids looked happy but the people running these orphanages weren’t encouraging or they just didn’t need the help. Eventually, Jackson found the Lost and Found Orphanage after going through 20 websites.
‘I met the founder of the Orphanage, Mr Sok, I spoke with him more than anyone else and seeing how happy the kids were and I saw a lot of potential. That is how I decided to work with that orphanage,’ Jackson said.
‘Mr Sok is one of the nicest people that I have ever met and I had a really hard time trusting people that I talked to. When he was an infant, his father and siblings were killed by the Khmer Rouge and his mother died when he was only 9.’
Mr Sok grew up on the streets, taught himself English, got a job in a restaurant in a hotel and now he is the founder of the orphanage and created an elementary school that teaches 300 kids. Hard work and persistence does pay off, as most creatives come to this realisation as they pursue their careers.
‘I really want to help these people become more significant within their communities. It would be the coolest thing if I could have all of these really talented artists really making a difference in the lives of the people around them,’ Jackson said.
‘Getting them recognition and admiration that they deserve for their talents and who they are as people because a lot of art comes from within the individual. Creativity is not valued because of the fact that people don’t get to experience the opportunity to be creative.’
“I want to work on things that really develop creativity because that enables people to perceive the world differently.”
Jackson believes more could be done to make this world a better place. The millennial generation have access to all of these resources yet they think they are entitled to a standard of living that they haven’t worked for.
He wants to inspire people his age to become a part of Frontier or inspire them to do something that is authentic and passionate and unique to them.
‘I believe there are two things that really motivate people and it is fear and love. I love what I do and the difference I’m making and the people I’m meeting and the art that I get to see, I love all of that, it’s what I’m passionate about.’ Jackson said.
‘I am also scared shitless of just becoming one of the many people that say they want to do all of these things and they just don’t do anything. I don’t want to see the world fall to pieces.’
Like many creatives, Jackson has found his passion and now the possibilities are endless. He has plans to take Frontier further and take it to a globally and introduce it to a global market. He not only plans to take Frontier further but he also wants to help these orphanages in more ways than just donating funds.
While he partially leaves it up to the orphanages to spend the money how they see fit, he wants to be able to provide the orphanages with resources to encourage empowerment and creativity.
‘I want to raise enough money to donate them a projector. A huge part of my childhood was watching Disney movies. At this stage in these kids’ lives, instead of going through all of that suffering, I think something as simple as buying a projector to watch movies, to laugh together and be happy, will have a big influence on their creativity,’ Jackson said.
‘I want to work on things that really develop their creativity because that enables people to perceive the world differently. I know my creative process helped me envision Frontier, I think it is really important for kids to have that.’
If you want to find out more about Frontier Collections you can visit the website www.frontiercollection.org or visit their Facebook and Instagram page to see where you can catch them. You can also catch the Frontier team making rounds at local Sydney markets, stop by, say hello and see what it’s all about.
Frontier Collections and Jackson have a really big year ahead of them. Jackson wants to have a global platform, where people in any country can buy whatever he has to sell. He wants to focus on product diversification and have a variety of artistic goods. And he wants to take Frontier into the second stage and get behind and support a variety of humanitarian causes at the same time.
Jackson has a big trip planned to find other artists to collaborate with in places like Kenya and South America and take his model there and work with some orphanages there.
‘My aim is just to make as big of a difference in this world as I can make because you never know how much life you have left,’ Jackson said.
‘You really have to live everyday with meaning. My aim is to live every day until my last with as much purpose as possible to help as many people as I can.’