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Niwot alum starts company embracing individuality and discouraging bullies

 

December 25, 2019 | View PDF

Every year, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators holds contests for up and coming illustrators. In 2017, the Rocky Mountain Branch recognized then-Niwot High School senior Anya Berlova for her artwork and published it in their annual calendar. Drawing on her love for artwork and her interest in business, she knew she wanted to find a way to combine these passions.

Thanks to the support of the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder, Berlova has created a start-up focused on anti-bullying and individuality. While there are many organizations that hope to mitigate the growing issue of bullying, her company "Anya Berlova" takes a unique approach to the issue.

"Our focus is on combating bullying through encouraging people to embrace what makes them unique...If you're confident about your individuality, bullying won't affect you," said Berlova.

She was very enthusiastic while talking about her company and its mission. It is clear that she has a passion for helping people feel more confident about taking a step in the direction they want to take their life.

Much of the hesitation holding people back, she believes, is a lack of self-confidence. Berlova explained that bullying during youth can lead to consequences in life later on, such as struggling with depression or even suicide.

She also stressed that bullying can continue into adulthood, so she hopes to prevent bullying when it often begins in youth. "It is important to show the world that young people can make an impact, (for example,) I experienced bullying when I started school and it inspired me to act now."

To accomplish her mission, Berlova has taken action in a number of ways. She spoke on the subject at various events, including in Tokyo, Japan, which focused on women entrepreneurs and in St. Petersburg, Russia, which focused on start-ups more broadly.

She also has hosted an event of her own, where she partnered with Boulder's Zayo Group, a technology company that supports many local businesses. There, she had a panel discussion around building confidence and displayed her company's product line.

The products include various t-shirts and tote bags, which came about after a teacher saw her drawings of a sheep and pug, that soon became the company's mascots, and said they'd be great merchandise. Her drawings were soon named Sheepers and Puggie and appear throughout Berlova's website, social media pages, and even YouTube channel.

"Sheep, in general, are always thought of as non-individuals...unlike this general idea. Sheepers is different, quirky, and likes to show their individuality to the world. Pugs are always made fun of for their unique look, but Puggie embraces what makes him unique," Berlova explained.

These characters are vital to her brand, because they are what makes it attractive to children and younger people-those who she thinks are best equipped to stop bullying for the future. The characters are also important because they bring a sense of connectedness to her company.

Berlova believes that bullying and individuality both impact people in different ways, so her company encourages uniqueness through a variety of mediums. Not only does she have her company and product line, but she also has a social media page, and is working on developing educational games and a short film on the topic to come out next spring.

By having her cartoon characters interact with consumers, she is able to spread her message of individuality. "It's taking on serious topics from an angle that is appealing and creative, in a way that people can connect (with the mission and company)."

This perspective on how to approach bullying is what makes Berlova's company unique. Instead of focusing on the act of bullying, she focuses on the prevention of it--and believes the best way to prevent it is to help people build confidence.

"I feel very passionate about the topics I'm trying to address...I'm really excited about sharing them and I hope to make an impact."

Berlova is still in the process of further developing her company and is excited about its future. Perhaps most exciting are the relationships she has made with various bullying and mental health organizations, even going so far as to donate some proceeds to research on bullying.

Ultimately, she hopes that through her work, she can help encourage people to embrace themselves for who they are.

One way to interact with Berlova online is to use the hashtag #ShowYourUnique™. You can also find her on Instagram at @AnyaBerlovaOfficial or visit her website, AnyaBerlova.com.

 

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