Samantha Gaston’s been a fan from way back, when Butterfly Effect Founder Tasha Wahl was spearheading Butterfly Drops as part of her microphilanthropy effort. When Tasha began the Social Butterfly installations, Samantha wanted in.

“I love doing any art projects, big or small. After looking at the butterfly and seeing how big of a change it can make, I love the idea that just one picture of a butterfly can make a difference, even just a $1 donation, or $20 donation, and how it can evolve into this giant thing,” Samantha said, “For ours I didn’t really know how big it was going to be, and already we’ve raised upwards of $3,000. So it’s been amazing just seeing that.”

The next step for Samantha, a 21-year-old University of California, Santa Barbara, student studying French and biology, was to figure out a good place to put the butterfly, so she went about contacting local businesses. “I found one that was super excited about the project and let me have free rein with it, which was super cool. They were so amazed with it and they loved it, and now they want it all over the U.S. It was a dream come true, it’s awesome,” she said.

That corporation was Paseo Nuevo Shops & Restaurants, an open-air, Spanish-style mall. “What drew Paseo Nuevo to the Butterfly Effect was its mission: The opportunity to inspire our community to give back to causes near and dear to them, and the ability to harness the power of social media to do so,” said Marina Satoafaiga, marketing and events manager. “We are living in the age of experiential retail and take social responsibility seriously. So the opportunity to install a piece of art that probed engagement and promoted giving was something unique and intriguing.”

Participants who take a selfie in front of the butterfly and post it can raise money for charity. Of all the Social Butterfly installations throughout the world, Paseo Nuevo has raised the most, with more than $3,000 going to various causes chosen by the participants. “Which is really the beauty of the project, is it encourages people to get passionate about something,” Samantha said.

Business Benefits of Having a Butterfly

Marina says that reaction from customers has been overwhelmingly positive. “I can still remember the curiosity and enthusiasm of shoppers who passed as we were installing Paseo’s butterfly,” she said. “We have altered our social media calendar to include ‘Wing Wednesday’ where we feature about a dozen photos of guests using the wings and tagging our center or checking in.”

And it turns out that people are catching Samantha’s passion—other locations in the Paseo Nuevo family heard about the Butterfly and want one of their own. “We couldn’t keep the good news to ourselves,” Marina said, adding that Pacific Retail Capital Partners (PRCP) is one of the nation’s premier retail operators of large open-air centers and enclosed malls, and Paseo Nuevo’s parent company. It will be rolling out Social Butterflies at each of its shopping centers in March of 2019 in honor of National Women’s History Month. Proceeds will benefit local women’s businesses and causes in each community.

Marina says she hopes that people leave feeling like they’ve experienced more than a shopping trip. “Here at Paseo Nuevo, we are much more than shopping, we are an experience. If we can encourage conversation, community, and culture through our commerce, we are doing something right. Giving gives you wings.”

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