By Heather Graves
SUAMICO – We’ve all seen the bumper magnets – Mommy AF.
However, it might not be as commonly known that Mommy AF – and its more than 70 subgroups, such as Dad AF, Married AF, LGBTQ AF, Aunt AF and Literate AF – was started right here in the Green Bay area.
“Though it originated in the Green Bay area, we have moms around the world in our groups,” Founder Andrea Fanta, wife, mom and self-proclaimed crazy dog mom, said.
Fanta said she founded Mommy AF in 2019, at a time when she needed a community to turn to for support.
“Back in 2019, my family went through some really difficult things,” she said. “I needed a support system, and I realized there were probably a lot of families that needed the same support. I created these groups, because people say, ‘It takes a village’ or ‘Let me know if you need help with anything,’ but then as soon as someone reaches out – poof, the village people scatter like cockroaches. I think we can do better.”
Fanta said since its inception, Mommy AF has attracted more than 12,000 members on Facebook and sparked 55 regional chapters.
She said her intentions with the group was to create a safe community where people could ask questions, get advice and share their triumphs and their disappointments.
“A place to connect with like-minded individuals, or gain some perspective from a completely different walk of life,” Fanta said. “Mental health is a huge struggle, but at the end of the day, we have to be able to pull ourselves out of it. I wanted to create a village to help do the heavy lifting.”
Never did she expect it to become what it is today.
“The Internet can be an amazing place,” Fanta said.
She said though the online connection is helpful, the group emphasizes meeting people in real life and getting out of the house.
“So many people struggle with social anxiety, and it leaves them alone and missing out on some really fun things,” Fanta said. “We do pretty regular events, and we always encourage people to show up even if they feel scared, because we will find somebody to adopt them at the door.”
It’s that desire for connection, Fanta said, that led to her new endeavor – Soul Purpose.
“I love collaborating with other people who want to make big changes,” she said. “I’m creating this store because I love creating jobs, creating a design, hell, just creating.”
Fanta said Soul Purpose, located at 2300 Lineville Road, Suite 106, will feature merchandise from the AF communities, as well as merchandise from other small business owners that rent shelf space.
“There are shelves and mannequins and racks available for rent by the month, and there’s a person in charge of running the shop – so our busy business owners can be out doing what they do best,” she said. “Soul Purpose is a place for small businesses to expand their networks and figure out their path. Mommy AF is a small business that sells merchandise inside Soul Purpose. A lot of small business owners have reached out interested in space, too. We want to help them expand their networks.”
Fanta said she believes in collaboration over competition.
“Hyping each other, not sideswiping each other,” she said. “I have made it my ‘soul purpose’ in life to help people see the sunshine – the silver lining. When life shoots a paintball at you, Bob Ross (it) and move on with the day. Because of my spirit and passion around collaboration and networking and finding your purpose, the name of the store is soul purpose.”
Fanta said everything in the store has a purpose including the inclusive rainbow wall mural she created with repurposed CDs.
“This is just one of our many music-inspired projects happening behind the scenes,” she said. “Music gives me the opportunity to take a little mind escape on a journey through someone’s lyrics. It gives my brain a chance to rest, and it feeds my soul. We love all of the arts, and music definitely has a place in our store.”
Fanta said each Monday at Soul Purpose will be known as Music Monday.
Three different CDs on the wall will be marked “Single: looking for soulmate.”
“If you bring in a matching CD, we will make a donation to that charity, or one of your choosing – aligning with our mission of inclusion, of course – in your name,” Fanta said. “As these CDs are donated, we are adding several tracks from each of them to a playlist that will be running throughout the day during our store hours.”
She said the creativity doesn’t stop there.
“The floor on the entire store is concrete right now and that is being painted by some local artists, and they’re teaching aspiring artists,” Fanta said. “It’ll be a mural.”
Fanta said one of the shop’s back rooms will include a rubber gym floor and climbing wall for “a drop-in space for kids, while parents are shopping or even just hanging out in the store.”
“We now have a little free library and coffee bar, too,” she said.
Soul Purpose will hold its grand opening party from 3-5 p.m., Friday, April 1.
Fanta said she has many more ideas for future projects.
“For the nonprofit (The Fanta Foundation), we are on the hunt for a giant commercial building to buy instead of lease,” she said.
Some of the ideas Fanta said she has in mind include a handful of creative, safe spaces for those of all ages needing an outlet.
“I think there is so much hurt and hate and darkness in our world right now, and I think if we just keep doing things that fill our cups with things that make our souls happy, so many more people will just be happier,” she said. “And there are a lot of different ways to do that, and my brain wants to think of all of them. But I have to finish this place before I dive into that one.”