Jake Lavin is fighting against the stigma surrounding mental health with his successful clothing brand — Happiness Project. Lavin founded the company in 2017 as a Junior in high school after one of his classmates lost his battle with mental illness. Through his heartbreak, Lavin created a brand that donates to mental health organizations, provides educational resources and fosters an environment for difficult conversations.
What spark sets Lavin apart from other 17-year-old boys with a passion and dream? A combination of his dedication and strategic public relations skills on social media.
The brand has grown astronomically since 2017 with more than 500,000 followers on Instagram and support from celebrities including Zedd, NLE Choppa, Louis the Child and Kendall Vertes. The Happiness Project’s social media posts highlight the brand’s products and resources related to mental health and facilitate positivity. For example, a recent post explained why individuals struggling with depression can’t just “snap out of it.”
Another post with more than 40,000 likes explored a scenario of how to support a friend who is struggling. The post had zero messaging geared toward selling its merchandise, which is part of why Happiness Project is successful. The organization continuously reaffirms its commitment to its values and mission by focusing on terminating the stigma rather than increasing sales. In addition, the brand puts its money where its mouth is by donating more than $150,000 to mental health charities including National Alliance on Mental Illness, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Canadian Mental Health Association.
I have supported Happiness Project since 2017, and I can proudly say this organization goes above and beyond in the fight to end the stigma. While being on campus, more than 700 miles from my hometown in the suburbs of Chicago where the brand was created, I’m thrilled when I see individuals wearing the brand’s clothing. It demonstrates the immense reach that Lavin is generating through social media and identifies allies who believe in the same cause as I do.
The indelible logo of a morphed smiley face and the brand’s name simultaneously increase awareness of the organization and mental health. Lavin found success by believing in the company’s mission to be more than just a clothing company and using social media to create a brand from scratch. Happiness Project achieved what most brands yearn for by focusing on its core belief — no one has to go through their journey alone.
In an interview with CBS Chicago, Lavin shared that the goal for the brand is to make a positive impact by saving even one life. Lavin’s ability to turn a brand into an entire movement highlights the power of social media, optimism and dedication.
Happiness Project presents an opportunity to support a meaningful cause and prompts empowering conversations that might otherwise not occur. If you are interested in supporting Happiness Project’s mission and Lavin’s vision, check out the brand’s vibrant merchandise at Happiness Project and become a part of the change.
Morgan Perkins is a Senior at The University of Alabama majoring in public relations and psychology. She currently is a writer/editor for Platform Magazine, an online, student-run publication at UA that is sponsored by The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. She also is a senior account executive for Capstone Agency and vice president of finance and fundraising for UA Dance Marathon. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.