By Kelsey Wong, Cofounder of CO-OPhx
If we haven’t had the pleasure to meet yet, my name is Kelsey Wong and I am a firm believer that life is what you make it and where you live doesn’t dictate your level of happiness, you do. I’ve heard a lot of ranting about this gem of a city. I personally can’t speak for all of Phoenix, but I can speak to where I live and love, downtown, the heartbeat.
Yes, it exists and here’s what we’re doing to revive it.
We started CO-OPhx in my backyard last February, to bring community together in a meaningful way. We decided to host events that went beyond the bar scene and the college campus. My personal motivation for doing it was that I was 3 months into a shopping sabbatical. I started this to cleanse myself of my shopping-addiction (yes, one year without buying clothes, shoes or accessories). During that time, I started giving things away and it felt amazing. I thought a Clothing Swap would be a great way to show people how good letting go and giving felt. An added perk was that I could pick up a couple new items without buying anything, brilliant.
We started with the first Clothing Swap on a sunny Sunday afternoon amongst 35 friends and neighbors. I remember the joy I felt at seeing everyone make the event their own. Chris who worked in retail wowed us with his merchandising skills, Jake who’s gifts are truly in beautifying spaces, did just that, Gitzel, a journalism rockstar at Cronkite used a flipcam to capture the special moments, everyone contributed.
Friends shared stories and new connections were made. On the surface, all we did is trade our old clothes, but it felt like so much more. Everyone felt loved and happy in this positive environment, you couldn’t quite describe it or why but you knew it felt good. What was most amazing was that it wasn’t my event, it was everyone’s and it was then that CO-OPhx was born.
The mission at that first event still rings true today, a year later, with our 5th swap coming up next Sunday on April 21st. We still yearn to show people that not only does community exist in Phoenix but you can create it in your own backyard. There ARE things to do here and if there isn’t something that speaks to you, well damnit, get out there and create it yourself! Who knows where it will go. If you build it, if you believe it and if you put yourself out there, people will come. You’ll be surprised of what you can do and who will want to help you.
People ask me if this is a business to make money. Quite the contrary, ticket sales (usually donation based and now $10) go towards the cost of putting the event on and if there’s anything extra, towards the next event.
Starting this did lead to a job opportunity and a way for me to create my own professional experience but that’s not why I did it. I do it because I love it, because every time I get to planning and imagining the joy I’m going to create, I get this crazy adrenaline rush.
The team at CO-OPhx does it because we have boundless energy, potential and passion and we want to put it towards something that matters.
My favorite part about the Swap’s and other CO-OPhx events we do (ART CO-OP and Cooking CO-OP) are the people I get to meet. I get the excuse or opportunity rather to connect with boutique owners, bloggers, anyone who looks awesome I see on the street. I plug them in either as a partner, collaborator or even better our SWAP TEAM. I’m pretty lucky that I’m not afraid to talk to anyone (it used to get me in trouble in school all the time) but you got to use what you got.
Because of starting CO-OPhx I have been able to actively put my energy towards creating the city I want to live in. I believe if you’re not doing something about it, you have nothing to complain about. Through CO-OPhx I have gotten to work with Frances, Smeeks, Phoenix Style Collective, Phoenix Fashion Week, Superstition Vintage, GROWop, Cellardoor Vintage, Roosevelt Row CDC, Local First Arizona, EVB Live, Phoenix New Times, Channel 5 the list goes on.
Collectively we have donated over 2000 lbs of items, met over 500 amazing Phoenicians all in our 5 events. We’re not stopping either. The Spring Swap is coming up and this time better than ever, I’m most excited about the 4 style tutorials from local style leaders.