Starting a Cause-Based Company from Scratch

I found myself working at a company at the bottom of the totem pole in the midst of budget cuts. When I was laid off, I realized I wasn’t as upset as I would have been if I had loved my position. I immediately went back to applying for jobs that I would find meaningful and honestly couldn’t find an open, full-time position that fit my skillset at an organization I was really enthusiastic about. So, my husband told me it was time to pursue the idea that got me into graduate school- starting a cause-based marketing firm.

I thought he was crazy and in less pleasant language told him it wasn’t the time because I was too young, I wasn’t in the right city, and I didn’t have enough degrees or know the right people. I gave him a laundry list of what I saw as perfectly great reasons to not move forward. He didn’t buy it and told me to buck-up and write a business plan. When I showed it to some mentors and former employers, expecting everyone to come back with major red flags of why this was such a terrible idea, everyone actually thought my plan was great.

This past spring, I launched Loken Creative, a marketing agency for cause-based organizations where innovation, idealism, and expertise create opportunities for good. Loken Creative offers a wide variety of online and traditional marketing services for strategic assessment, implementation, and training. Working on short-term (read: non-retainer) contracts, clients can choose marketing services à la carte. We now have over a dozen cause-based organizations as clients, assisting each with strategic marketing; allowing them to grow, attract donors and volunteers, and to clearly and effectively communicate their messages to the public.

I worked hard and planned well, using the following tips, which I see as the reasons behind my company’s success, thus far:

1. Know diverse people in many social circles.

I grew up on the West Coast, went to college in DC, studied abroad in Asia, and then attended grad school in New York City, so I already had a geographically broad range of peers and mentors before I moved to Hawaii and eventually settled in Austin. I started interning my first semester of freshman year and never stopped trying new positions. In addition to working at different kinds of companies, I dabbled in online marketing, SEO, print marketing, green retrofitting, biofuel generation, energy conservation, educational school gardening, and city planning. At this point, I either know a few people in most major areas or know someone who does. Having this network at my fingertips means always getting great, directed advice from professionals who know their niche.

2. Start with a pilot program.

A huge factor in Loken Creative’s success revolved around doing a pilot program with two clients. We were very clear it was a pilot program and modified a couple of key ways we were going to interact with future clients in order to make it more manageable for both parties to participate. At the conclusion of the program, we were able to see what didn’t work as well as we’d hoped and adjust some processes to better facilitate our client’s needs. Having this initial feedback from clients was beneficial in order to move forward smoothly once we fully launched.

3. Create an advisor board, utilize mentors and seek advice.

When you’re the founder of a company, the buck stops with you. Although you can ask other company director’s about their thoughts, seek advice from friends or staff members, ultimately the decisions lie on your stressed out shoulders. Having an experienced, unbiased board of advisors/mentors allows for testing out of new ideas. If all the members agree it’s a good idea, it probably is.

4. Make your ideas and dreams into a concrete reality.

Never let your fears hold you back. You aren’t too young, you aren’t too inexperienced, and you will make it work financially. If any of these are issues, surround yourself with people who can help you in the areas you’re weakest in. I am horrendous at finances and terrified of taxes, so I have two CPAs on my board to make sure our policies are in good shape financially. Go forward until you see a problem and then work at a solution until you find one, or talk with someone who can help you find one.

In terms of next steps, I see Loken Creative continually expanding to help organizations around the country, in an affordable way. Being able to see the change we effect on the world, through the lens of our clients, is why I wake up every day excited to get back to work. We’re always looking for ways to improve. Please let us know if you have any ideas on overcoming your marketing challenges, particularly in the nonprofit world.

via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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