How One Girl Used Her Personal Struggle To Turn A Penny Into A Startup

“Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do." - Steve Jobs

Twenty-year-old Northeastern student Ariella Sharf always knew she wanted to start some kind of business and change the world; she just wasn't sure how.

Whenever her mother would tell her that everything in life happens for a reason, she would roll her eyes and sigh.  However, if you were to say that to her now, she would most definitely nod her head in agreement.

If Sharf's remarkable story about how a penny saved her life doesn't make you believe that everything happens for a reason, I'm not sure what will.

Ever since she can remember, Sharf has always felt different from everyone else. After being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in high school, she felt a sense of relief as she finally had an explanation for why she felt so different.

Since anxiety is not a feeling that simply just disappears with the snap of a finger, it started to creep up on her again in college. In the fall of her sophomore year, Sharf began to struggle with the heartbreaking end of a relationship, feelings of dissatisfaction with her major and an overwhelming sense that she simply just had no idea who she was anymore.

All of these factors culminated and eventually left Sharf feeling depressed, confused and lost, until one day, she had a breakdown. She called her parents crying and begged them to take her to the emergency room.

"I just had no idea who I was anymore. I suddenly felt like I was stuck at the bottom of an endless ladder, as if there was no point in me trying in life anymore. I never felt so alone in my entire life," explained Sharf in an interview with The Buffalo News.

That afternoon, Sharf spent eight long hours in the emergency room until she was transferred over to a psychiatric hospital. The minute she stepped foot in the hospital, she knew she didn't belong there:

"I literally felt as if I was losing my mind," she said.

Once Sharf was all checked in, the hospital staff confiscated her belongings, including her phone, and put them away in lockers.

"They searched my bag for anything that I could of potentially used to harm myself with.. and they even cut the string off my Free City hoodie," she explained.

When Sharf was younger, she collected pennies she would find on the floor, as she was convinced they followed her everywhere. She recalls one particular moment in the psychiatric hospital when she glanced down hopelessly at the floor, and spotted a penny between her feet.

"It was a surreal moment; it was a reminder that someone was no doubt watching over me trying to tell me everything would be okay."

After being in the hospital for 12 hours, Sharf had her father pick her up and bring her home, as she knew she did not belong there. She took a leave of absence from school and stayed home to focus on herself. Little did she know,  her decision to take a leave of absence was probably one of the best decisions she would ever make.

"When I first got home I was very depressed. Even something as simple as going outside seemed like a huge activity and effort to me. As I got better and started feeling like myself again, I became so bored that I ended up finding little ways to entertain myself, such as teaching myself how to draw and build a website by watching videos on Youtube."

Meanwhile, Sharf noticed herself finding more pennies than ever before. One day she grabbed a penny from her collection, made a hole in it, put it on a piece of string and tied it around her wrist.

It was an instant hit. Her sister and her sister's friends were obsessed with her bracelet and asked her to make them a wish bracelet of their own -- and that she did.

"Then one morning I woke up with the idea of Heads Up For Charity, and I immediately wrote it down and brainstormed," she said. "That is how my company was born. Five hundred bracelets later, I had created what my Mom refers to as a monster."

Her company has since caught the attention of various bloggers and celebrities such as The Man Repeller, Danielle Bernstein of We Wore What and Sky Blu of LMFAO, just to name a few.

A portion of the proceeds from every piece Sharf sells goes to charity. She has since returned to school to complete her degree and has now sold more than a thousand bracelets, earning over $26,000, 25 percent of which has gone to charity.

When asked how the success of Heads Up has changed her life, Sharf responded that she always had this crazy idea that she could change the world, even if it was in the smallest way. She noted that it was really hard for her to believe that she could actually do it, until the day that she made her first bracelet.

From that point, the rest is history.

To visit the Heads Up For Charity official website click here.

Photo Courtesy: Facebook