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Moms On An Eco-Mission

The "a-ha"moment came in the school parking lot one hectic Friday afternoon.  Friends Debbie Zinman and Alison Smith stopped to say hello when Smith suddenly realized she had forgotten to buy a birthday gift for a party the next day.  The two lamented that rushing to buy a present for young child had become regular routine and often felt like a big inconvenience...not to mention an unnecessary waste of wrapping paper, boxes, plastic, etc.

"I thought the gift would probably be under-appreciated and I thought it would probably end up in the re-gift pile," explains 39-year-old Smith, who formerly ran a children's clothing design business.

The Toronto moms felt there had to be an eco-friendly way to save parents time while teaching children real life lessons about generosity and gratitude.  Their sentiments propelled the development and launch of last November.

The party planning website combines the ease of an e-vite with a green and socially responsible way for guests to mark the occasion.  When guests receive an ECHOage on-line invitation to a child's birthday party, they can make a donation to the charity of the Birthday Boy or Girl's choice.  A portion of the money is pooled for one collective gift for the honoree and the rest goes to the charitable cause. 

"To save a mother time, is one of the greatest rewards," explains  38-year-old Zinman.  The former high school teacher and mother of two says she and Smith worked on the business plan after their children were asleep, often brainstorming until 1 in the morning.  "To be businesswomen on this scale and to be full-time moms is a tremendous challenge," she says. 

So far their passion and hard work seem to be paying off.  ECHOage parties have caught on in at least 3 Canadian provinces and in several states in the US.

It's an idea that could have only come from two moms who've both thrown and attended dozens and dozens of birthday parties.

"It was truly borne out of a need that we witnessed as mothers," says Smith, who also has two children,"There is a way to make this a meaningful experience and a way we can impart our values to our kids and make the world a better place."

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