Who We Are
Linda Bak, co-founder
Linda’s first venture into animal welfare was volunteering at a fledgling horse rescue in California. Coming from a business and sales background, Linda knew that in order to get people to not only buy into the mission but also support it, the rescue needed better marketing and communication materials.
She designed a brochure for the rescue’s programs and shirts for the volunteers who wore them proudly out in the community. She started sending regular e-newsletters to volunteers and the local community with updates and heartwarming stories about the rescued horses. Together with the volunteers, she executed a large-scale mission driven expo event and attracted corporate sponsors, the horse community’s trainers and experts, and large donors. With that, Linda had found her calling – she would use her business experience to help homeless animals.
Over the next 10 years, Linda went on to become a successful Development Manager, Director of Development and Philanthropy, Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) and consultant for animal welfare nonprofits.
During that time, Linda realized that while most rescues and shelters were using similar programs to save animals, they operated their businesses individually without taking advantage of bulk purchasing, design or marketing. In 2019, Linda decided it was time to help more than one animal group at a time and was inspired to co-found Shelter Swag with her partner, Sharie Lesniak.
Sharie Lesniak, co-founder
While volunteering with protesters outside an animal circus and each person holding a different hand-made sign, Sharie knew their message would be more effective if they all “spoke” together with one strategic voice — just like the advertising campaigns she worked on while at one of the top five advertising agencies in the world. That’s where she honed her skills, enticing consumers to buy everything from Gap clothes to Nissan cars to Absolut Vodka, but came to realize her talents could also help animal advocates more effectively sell their message.
The dot-com crash was the kick Sharie needed to jump in and help animals full time as the Creative Director of a wildlife organization, crafting campaigns and building its brand. When the animal circus came to town this time, a multi-faceted campaign with a single, powerful image and strong message was there to greet them! From TV and radio ads, static and mobile billboards, newspaper ads and press stories as well as protesters all holding the same poster, handing out the same brochure and some wearing the same T-shirt — met the animal circus in cities across the U.S. And this time, their single message for the animals could not be ignored.
Sharie never gave up volunteering her marketing and creative expertise to help nonprofits, rescues, sanctuaries and shelters build their brands, promote their events and amplify their messages to help save animals. And that’s what Shelter Swag is built on, helping animal shelters and rescues build their brands and promote their messages for the animals — and do it in a creative way that puts the “wag” in Swag! This unique business model allows Shelter Swag to help spread the love between numerous nonprofits at once to amplify the voice of those who cannot speak for themselves.