Giving Your Best Gifts to Giving a Voice to Animals

Since part of Experience Life’s definition of whole-life health includes the notion that people are happier and healthier when they follow their dreams and live a life consistent with their values, I wanted readers to meet Kevin and Kelli Rutherford.

They’re the featured “RevActivists” in this month’s Revolutionary Act newsletter because we believe they exemplify “Revolutionary Way to Be Healthy, #88: Give Your Best Gifts.” At different points, they each decided to make career changes that allowed them to leverage their passion for animals as well as utilize their years of experience in sales and marketing.

Here’s a bit more from the Rutherfords on how and why they decided to give their best gifts to helping give a voice to animals.

EL: What were you two doing before starting My Voice, and why did you decide to shift careers? 

Kelli Rutherford: Before starting My Voice, I worked for SC Johnson for 17 years.  I started in sales moving around the country holding different sales positions.  I moved into HQ in Racine, Wis., for a Customer Marketing role, which is when I met Kevin.  From there I made the move over to Brand Marketing working on new product development and brand expansion projects for our personal care business.

When we moved to Minneapolis for Kevin’s job at Caldrea, they offered me a great job that I could do from home, but that’s when I decided I needed to help animals. Instead of taking the job, I quit. The rest is history!

Kevin Rutherford: I believe that all of us should follow our passion and work toward creating our dreams. We underestimate that we have much of we need to start creating that dream right now. Life and careers are not direct paths but rather more of a learning journey.

I love the philosophy from Clif Bar on “taking the white roads for the adventure vs. the red roads that you see on a map.”  So the step of leaving Caldrea as the CEO (I was the self-proclaimed Chief Eternal Optimist!) and becoming a business partner and entrepreneur with my life partner Kelli was filled with many mixed emotions.

I look back at what we accomplished as a team at Caldrea with so much pride.  At the same time, I knew I could make a bigger and more positive impact on the health and happiness of our fellow earthlings (animals) in addition to helping make humanity and the planet healthier by helping grow My Voice.

There are several paradigms that we must shift as a society. As a vegan, I believe that if we could move more people to a plant-based diet that our collective compassion and respect for animals would grow exponentially while making — and our planet — all of us healthier.  So what better next step could there be but to join forces with Kelli to create My Voice to raise awareness about the issues and celebrate the benefits of a plant-based diet.

EL:  When did you start My Voice and how did you come up with the idea?

Kelli Rutherford: I created My Voice in July of 2011, but it officially launched in March  2012.  I started the company because I needed to do something to help animals. I watched the documentary, The Cove and was so disgusted and upset over our treatment of animals that I felt the need to speak for them and help people understand that animals are not ours to do with as we please. So, I chose to start a for-profit company, selling items that give animals a voice with a mission to give back a significant portion of profits to organizations that are on the front line, helping animals every day.

I’ve always believed that animal rights is a very passionate subject — for people on both sides of the debate — so I wanted to speak for animals in an approachable way vs. preaching.

We chose to create our designs from the perspective of the animals, in essence, communicating what they would say if they could speak, but by using humor or a play on words to send the message. The goal is to have people to see our shirts and get them to think about the issue rather than simply keep walking.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been walking through an airport wearing one of our shirts and notice people reading the message. They’ll either smile, give a thumbs up or actually make a comment. It brings tears to my eyes when someone reads the shirt and says “I didn’t know that” and then asks a question to learn more about the issue. At My Voice, we dream of a world where every animal can live their life safe, happy and free. By doing our part to help spread the word about the issues animals face, we hope one day that dream will come true.


A sample My Voice design.


Here I am (left) sporting my awesome “Dogfighting: It’s the Pits” t-shirt.

EL: How do you decide which non-profit organizations will receive donations from the sale of your t-shirts and how do you find them?

Kelli Rutherford: The organizations generally are all or mostly volunteer run, smaller/regional non-profits and have a direct hand in saving and/or giving animals a better life. They tend to be sanctuaries, rescue organizations and foster networks.

We find the organizations via our own research, recommendations from colleagues and our customers and even through social media. We have not donated yet to any organization that we have not visited personally. We also meet with a director of each organization to “interview” them so we can get comfortable with their mission and how they run their organization.

Thanks to Kevin and Kelli for their efforts to make the positive changes they want to see in the world!

What are YOUR best gifts? Are you ready to use them to make your dreams come true or create the change you want to see in the world?


Heidi Wachter is the Community Engagement Specialist for Experience Life magazine.