Prosper for Purpose
Hi, I’m Meg! As the newest member of #TeamProsper, I’d like to officially introduce myself. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area before heading to St. Louis for boarding school and college. I officially moved to Cleveland in May 2017 and I’ve been enjoying getting to know the area over the last six months.
My passion for purpose-driven business began towards the beginning of high school when I was a member of the National Leadership Council, a program that accepts 20 students each year to study and practice servant leadership both at home and on service trips. One of the most memorable experiences from the program was our service trip to Peru. We taught classes in Spanish in a rural mountain school and helped the community with building projects, including the construction of a community greenhouse.
Those few weeks in Peru completely transformed the way I saw the world and I came home convinced that I would work for nonprofits. During my freshman year at Principia College, I took a few introductory business courses and decided to blend my interests by studying the way business can have a positive impact. One of my favorite initiatives in college was founding the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, where students can collaborate on projects and budding ideas with the support of faculty and educational resources.
Over the last few years, my professional experience has included social media management, communications, marketing, design, photography, and writing — all of which come into play in the agency environment. One of my favorite internships was serving as the communications manager for San Francisco-based B Corp, Bixbee, which provides a backpack full of school supplies to a student in need for every backpack they sell.
When I arrived in Cleveland, one of the first things I did was search for B Corps in the area. I was delighted to learn about Prosper for Purpose and even more thrilled to officially join the team in September 2017 as the production coordinator for brand and operations! In just a few months, I’ve had the privilege of working on several interesting projects in a variety of roles, giving me more exposure to the many facets of agency life. Most importantly, I appreciate being part of a company where our mission is at the core of everything we do.
Whether I’m planning an event, creating graphics, or covering ground across Cleveland to implement our strategies, I love knowing that each project enables our clients to maximize their positive impact. It’s so rewarding to turn creative ideas into tangible results, and I’m excited to be part of it.
What I’ve Learned
The idea for Prosper for Purpose came from my desire to start a communications firm where I (and others) could do well by doing good. Fast forward four years and #TeamProsper has grown to include top notch employees supported by freelancers and strategic partners–all committed to doing business the Prosper way.
That’s not to say that it’s been easy. The saying that experience is a hard teacher is true. But every challenge is really just an opportunity. Here are my four top takeaways.
BUILD YOUR BRAND, BUT LET IT GROW
Branding is one of the key services we offer clients and it is the component that new businesses most often miss. You have to know your ‘why,’ be able to articulate what makes you special and have a visual presence (logo and website) to be taken seriously. I created Prosper’s voice and visual brand before I launched the company, hiring a graphic designer to create our logo (which I still think is perfect) and building our first website myself. Translation: you don’t need a lot of money to launch a small business, but you need to make some investment.
Over the past four years, our brand has become more clear and our current website (built by our friends at Go Media) and messaging reflect that. Of course I would be remiss not to say that no company owns their brand. You make a promise to your community, as evidenced through your messaging and visuals, but it’s how you deliver on that promise–from how you treat your employees and clients to how you engage in your community–that truly determines your brand. I am proud of how #TeamProsper delivers on our promise, through a culture based on servant leadership, stellar customer service and a Doing Good program that competes with the best philanthropic programs around.
WORK WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE
Prosper’s very first value is People, because if you’re not working with the right people, nothing else matters. In a small agency, people can make or break you. As Jim Collins says in “Good to Great,” you have to get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus. Sometimes the wrong people show up looking like the right people and saying the right things. You welcome them on the bus and then discover they’re not the right people after all. I have learned that the best solution, regardless of how far down the road we’ve traveled together, is to let them off the bus. Today I have any potential candidate meet with every member of our team. Different people see different things.
I have had one exceptionally ‘right’ person with me from the very beginning (okay, month three). Kathryn Perkins and I became friends after previously working together and she was present with a group of friends when I first shared the idea for Prosper. She serves as Prosper’s director of public relations, working with clients and on behalf of our firm.
The other critical people component is clients. Sometimes great projects come with difficult clients. Sometimes small projects bring great clients, and the scope grows into a long-term relationship. We have been fortunate to have mostly great projects and great clients, but we’ve had a few of the others as well. Life’s too short to work with people who don’t respect you, your process or your people.
ESTABLISH SYSTEMS & PROCESSES
One of the first things we did as the agency grew was to subscribe to an online project management system. This allowed our team to create a process for each project, assigning roles, responsibilities and due dates to our initial team of four. Since we were a virtual agency for our first two years, this system allowed each of us to work on our own schedule, and enabled us to see who had done what. And then I met the process queen, Jenny Kelley.
Jenny was running her own business when we met, so to most people we were competitors. And yet, to us, we were potential collaborators, just waiting for the right time and opportunity to work together. That opportunity came in the spring of 2015 when, after collaborating on a client project for a few months, Jenny told me she wanted to merge her company with Prosper. Within a few months, Jenny had created systems and processes to enable our growth and I have often wondered how we ever managed without them. Jenny is a great example of the ‘right’ person in the right ‘seat.’
STAY TRUE TO YOUR PURPOSE (BUT BE ADAPTABLE)
Our mission is twofold: To grow a company dedicated to the development of our people; and to partner with clients to drive authentic engagement and purposeful action that supports a quadruple bottom line: people, prosperity, planet and purpose.
Remember when I said Prosper for Purpose came from my desire to do well by doing good? Well, that desire, as it turned out, is also my ‘why,’ my purpose. It’s enabled me, and the rest of #TeamProsper, to evaluate new ideas and opportunities through the lens of our mission (stated above) and our vision, communications for a better world. Technology changes, clients and employees come and go, projects end. We can adapt to these changes by staying true to our purpose, delivering on our brand promise, working with the right people, making process work for us and knowing when to pivot. Here’s to year five–we’re ready to rock.
P.S. A heartfelt thanks to our team: Kathryn, Jenny, Megan, Ashley, Olivia, Paula and Maggie; our families and friends, clients and colleagues. We consider you all part of #TeamProsper and look forward to sharing year FIVE with you!
The History of Coffee
According to the National Coffee Association, coffee has a complex history with no clear understanding of its exact origin. An Ethiopian legend says that a goat herder named Kaldi first discovered the potential of coffee beans in the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau. “By the 15th century, coffee was being grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia and by the 16th century it was known in Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey.” This resulted in the creation of public coffee houses.
The Coffee House
Coffee houses were started as a space for collaboration and conversation. Originally called qahveh khaneh, coffee houses began to appear in cities across the Near East. “Coffee houses quickly became such an important center for the exchange of information that they were often referred to as ‘Schools of the Wise.’ Coffee houses were quickly becoming centers of social activity and communication in the major cities of England, Austria, France, Germany, and Holland.”
One of our favorite TED Talks, Steven Johnson’s “Where good ideas come from,” says that coffee houses were a place where people would gather to share and discuss ideas. Many great inventions have coffee houses to thank as the place of origin for some of their early ideas.
We at Prosper like to think of our office as a coffee house. It’s a place where we come every day to collaborate with one another, with our clients, and with others in the community. We share ideas, brainstorm solutions and invent creative strategies. Thus, we thought it was important to have our own stock of delicious, invigorating coffee.
Our Crafted Coffee
As deep as our devotion to coffee is, we recently realized we still have a few things to learn. Did you know that the lighter the coffee the stronger it is? A few weeks ago we had a coffee tasting at our office to sample all of Heartwood Coffee Roastery’s heavenly varieties. Co-Founder Nick Edmundson broke the news that our beloved dark coffee is nothing more than burnt beans that have been overly roasted. Lighter blends here we come!
We asked Heartwood to create a special Prosper blend for us and voilà – Purpose Fuel was born. Co-Founder Jim Sanders told us a few more details about our new coffee:
“The Prosper for Purpose coffee is a Single-Origin coffee, meaning it comes from one single country, from several really great farms in Colombia actually. Purpose Fuel is roasted a little darker to bring out some really nice chocolaty notes and a great smooth body. The coffee itself is from a small group of producers in the Tolima and Huila regions of Colombia and is selected because of each farmer’s commitment to high quality hand-picked coffee. It’s really cool to see that these producers get rewarded for their insistence on only the finest crops. We, of course, are the beneficiaries of their hard work!”
We invite you to stop by our coffee house any time! Conversation and coffee are our fuel and we’d love to share them with you.
Over the past three weeks, I’ve explained the Prosper for Purpose approach to business. I have written about the first three components of our quadruple bottom line: people, planet and prosperity. This week, I conclude our four-part blog series discussing how we #measurewhatmatters by focusing on purpose.
“Why did you start your own company?” is the question I’m most often asked. “What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?” is a close second. You would think by now I would have a simple answer to those different ways of asking the same essential question: “What was the motivation that created Prosper for Purpose?” As I approach the end of my company’s fourth year, I think I can finally answer that question. But the answer is not so simple.
I didn’t become an entrepreneur because I wanted to start a business. I became an entrepreneur because I want to make positive impact, and believed starting my own business could be my pathway.
Throughout my career, I had chosen positions in the nonprofit sector, followed by the for-profit sector and then back again. The missions and (most of the time) the cultures of the nonprofits resonated with me, while the ability to quickly put ideas into action in the corporate world also appealed to me.
And then, one day, my daughter asked, “Why don’t you start the company you want to work for?” It was the right time for that question. I was extremely unhappy in my job. For the first time in my 25-year career, I had neither a healthy culture nor the ability to put ideas into action. And I wondered, “What if I could have both?”
I spent two months planning Prosper for Purpose before it launched. I had never really been interested in becoming an entrepreneur, and I certainly didn’t know how to run a business. But I did have a purpose. I wanted to do well by doing good. And by naming my company Prosper for Purpose, I made a declaration.
I consider myself an activist at heart. I care about social justice and human rights; preserving our planet and protecting animals; securing various types of sustainability. Those concerns were top of mind when I started my company.
Siiri Morley, a founding partner of Prosperity Candle, wrote about achieving ‘social good’ impact. She said that “Business can create this type of impact, but it doesn’t do so naturally. Businesses need to be purposefully designed to consider their social and environmental impact as a key priority.” That is what I sought to do, and what I and the other members of #TeamProsper commit to continue.
In 2012, when I was planning Prosper for Purpose, there wasn’t a lot of public discussion about purpose. Now the word seems to be everywhere. And while I certainly encourage and applaud those who authentically pursue the principles of purpose, I wanted to take extra steps to differentiate my company from the others who might see purpose as nothing more than the latest trend to grab onto.
In January, Prosper became a Certified B Corporation. Last month, we joined One Percent for the Planet. We’re proud to make these commitments to be both socially responsible and environmentally sustainable. Joining these organizations not only helps validate our claims of prioritizing people, planet and prosperity, but it connects us to communities of like-minded business leaders. A community committed to using business as a force for good.
Running a business that measures impact in these ways is not easy. But it is important. And that is why we #measurewhatmatters.
So why did I start Prosper for Purpose? To build a company that could do well by doing good. Perhaps the answer is simple after all.
How we help our people, our clients and our company prosper
Over the last few weeks, I have been sharing how we #measurewhatmatters at Prosper for Purpose. I’ve referenced our quadruple bottom line as people, planet, prosperity and purpose. This week, I write about prosperity.
I chose the word prosperity rather than profit, the term used by most other organizations, because profit is only one part of prosperity. At Prosper, we view the notion of prosperity as inclusive of health, happiness and economic stability—in other words, general well-being. Why? Because an economic-focused view of prosperity will inevitably compete with health and happiness.
Causal effects between economic prosperity, health and happiness have been studied and documented. One famous study that advances the holistic definition of prosperity to which we at Prosper subscribe is the Legatum Prosperity Index, an annual ranking of 142 countries, developed by the Legatum Institute. The ranking is based on a variety of factors including wealth, economic growth, education, health, personal well-being, and quality of life.
Surveys have shown that increases in income do not lead to increases in happiness.
For example, moving up the corporate ladder may lead to an increase in economic prosperity, but the longer hours spent working may encroach upon time formerly devoted to exercise and family. In this way, economic prosperity is potentially achieved at the expense of health and happiness. That is not the kind of prosperity we want (does anyone?).
To ensure Prosper supports our team’s prosperity, each employee completed a personal development plan (PDP) this summer. The leadership team then reviewed the PDPs with each employee and made a commitment and a plan to move them forward.
Because we also care about the prosperity of our clients, we measure that too. From our kick-off session through planning, ideation and implementation, we tie our milestones and measurables to the overarching goals of the organization. In other words, we’re not happy unless our clients are successful. We work by choice with purpose-driven clients in both the business and nonprofit sectors. This means that when our clients do well, their communities prosper.
Finally, we care about the prosperity of our company. We do well by doing good. And the more we prosper, the more good we can do.
Want to help us #domoregood? Then tell your favorite Northeast Ohio charity about our new program, the 12 Months of Giving.
In last week’s post, we talked about a disruptive approach to business; one that embraces social and environmental factors along with economic ones.
Why do we measure these things? Because at Prosper for Purpose, we are all about impact. Impact that enables us to do well by doing good. We measure impact in four areas: people, planet, prosperity and purpose. We call it our quadruple bottom line.
This week, we look at planet.
Walk into our office and the first thing you may notice is the absence of trash containers. No wastebaskets under desks. In fact, there is only one wastebasket in the entire office and it’s at our print and coffee station. We fill and empty it only once a week. How? Well, we work towards a goal of being a paperless office. We share and store our files online. We print contracts for signatures and documents for meetings and that is, essentially, it for printing.
But that’s not all. Here are some other things we do to measure our impact on, and stewardship of, our planet.
The Prosper for Purpose Planet Strategy:
- We recycle. Our single garbage can contains two bags: one for trash and one for recycling. Nearly every Friday, both are emptied, meaning our recycle to trash ratio is roughly 1:1. We’re working to improve that ratio.
- We use a programmable thermostat.
- We work at desks and tables made from reclaimed wood.
- Each desk has a high-end LED desk lamp that uses minuscule amounts of energy.
- Our main walls are made of glass, allowing for natural light throughout the day. Not only is natural daylight a free source of lighting for the office, it has been proven to improve worker productivity and satisfaction (as well as boost sales in retail settings).
- Our flexible environment helps minimize our carbon footprint.
- We’re working with B Corporation to incorporate an environmental management system.
- We became a member of 1% for the Planet!
Because we believe that health and wellness come from the environment, that business is responsible for positive change and that we can leave this big blue planet better than we found it, we joined an organization that is based on these beliefs. As a member of 1% for the Planet, we commit even more to our mission of doing well and doing good. After recently becoming a certified B corporation, this partnership will allow us to amplify our positive environmental impact.
Stay tuned as we share more about our work with B Corporation to create an environmental management system, and our developing relationship with 1% for the Planet.
Next week, we will look at prosperity.
In a business world that measures success by profit, a disruptive approach has slowly emerged. This approach embraces social and environmental factors along with economic ones. It is called a ‘triple bottom line’ and is built on a belief that I embraced when starting Prosper for Purpose–the belief that companies can do well and do good.
The triple bottom line philosophy holds that a company should combine traditional metrics of financial success with those that measure social and environmental impact. It is sometimes referred to as the 3P approach — People, Planet and Profit.
These three metrics are measurable and transparent; indeed, when our company became a Certified B Corporation earlier this year, we shared evidence of our metrics with B Lab, the company that provides the certification.
At Prosper for Purpose, we add a fourth component – Purpose. Less transparent and measurable than people, planet and profit, purpose is, for us, the thread that holds it all together.
Over the next four weeks, I will share how we approach our quadruple bottom line. This week, we look at People.
In addition to being the first component of our quadruple bottom line, People is Prosper’s very first value (you can see all our values here) because, as we say, if you’re not working with the right people, nothing else matters. This value is the lense through which we consider the clients and partners we work with and, perhaps most importantly, the people we invite to join #TeamProsper.
The first half of our mission statement is devoted to our team, “To grow a company dedicated to the development of our people.”
We look to hire incredibly talented people who also happen to be passionate about making a difference and believe that work is a great place to start. It’s that shared philosophy that inspires us to transcend traditional approaches, blending innovation into best practices and throwing in a generous dash of audacity.
This is our culture. Here are just a few of the programs it inspires:
The Prosper for Purpose Work/Life Integration Strategy:
- Our employees can work away from the office when they need to. This ‘need’ may arise from caring for children, travel, or needing a quiet space in which to write, plan or think.
- Team members stay home when they’re ill because sick time is given as needed. Those paid days off do not count against PTO.
- Speaking of PTO, ours starts at three weeks. We also throw in 10 holidays. All of this time out of office is paid for our full-timers.
Training and Personal Development: As a commitment to our value of lifelong learning, we provide ongoing training opportunities to all members of #TeamProsper. From association memberships to access to webinars and conferences, we are committed to the personal and professional growth of our team members.
Future Prosperity: We help employees save for their future through our Future Prosperity retirement program.
Parental Leave: A company that is truly committed to its employees must demonstrate commitment to their families. That is why we added a parental leave policy to our employee handbook earlier this year.
Purpose in Action: Prosper is committed to supporting activities that serve and enhance the communities in which we live and work. Therefore, employees are encouraged to become involved with local community service efforts. Each full-time employee is entitled to three days (24 hours) paid time off per year to volunteer their time to a nonprofit organization of their choice. Each part-time employee is entitled to 1 ½ days (12 hours) paid time off per year to volunteer.
In these ways and many others, Prosper fosters change that cultivates wellness and abundance through relationships rooted in shared vision.
I sought to create the company I wanted to work for. The result of that effort is the team of people I am grateful to work with.
In our next post we continue to #measurewhatmatters with Planet.
Think you might like to work at Prosper for Purpose? Go here for more information.
What’s at the heart of fulfillment, the key to managing your time and secret of owning your life? Purpose. With purpose, life feels more meaningful, time is more focused and life proceeds in the direction of your dreams. And while much can and has been said about purpose, here’s a very personal account of how I found mine, and a few exercises to help you find – and get fueled – by yours.
Step 1: Find your purpose.
Remember the story of the professor who illustrates the importance of priorities using a jar and some rocks? Let me refresh your memory.
A professor stood in front of his class and said “Time for a quiz.” He had everyone’s attention.
He pulled out a mason jar and set it on the table in front of him. Next he took about a dozen rocks and, one by one, added them to the jar. When no more rocks would fit inside, he asked the class, “Is this jar full?” Everyone answered “Yes.”
Next, the professor reached under the table and pulled out a container of pebbles. He added the pebbles to the jar of rocks, shaking the jar and causing the pebbles to fill in the spaces between the rocks. Then he asked his class again, “Is this jar full?” Now the students weren’t so sure. Again, the professor reached under the table and, this time, brought out a container of sand. He poured the sand in, shaking the jar so that the sand filled the spaces left by the pebbles. Once more the professor asked, “Is this jar full?”
By this time the class was on to him. The professor lifted a pitcher of water and began to pour the water into the jar until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and explained that the jar represents life. The rocks are the truly important things, like family, health and relationships. If all else was lost, life would still be meaningful. The pebbles are other things that matter, like work and school. The sand represents the small stuff and the water is symbolic of the things that get in our way. The professor said, “In life, remember to put the rocks in first or you won’t have room for them.”
I first heard this story at a time when I was questioning my goals in life. Some I had achieved, but others were less measurable. I wanted a successful career, but I had not found fulfillment from positions that ‘looked’ successful. I wanted to make a difference, but donating and volunteering didn’t feel like ‘enough.’
And so I created my own interpretation of the rocks story. I began to think of the jar not as my life, but as my life’s purpose. I asked myself the following four questions:
- What was I passionate about?
- What did I feel I was really good at?
- What does the world ‘need’ that I can give?
- What are the skills I have that I can use to make a living?
It was at the intersection of these four answers that I found my purpose: to have a positive impact through the field of communications. I stopped looking for the organization that would fuel my purpose and decided to build that organization instead. In January 2013, I founded my company, Prosper for Purpose, on the concept of doing well by – and for – doing good.
With my jar as my purpose, and my company as the real life representation of that purpose, I carefully selected my rocks. First in the jar were my values, because when we don’t put our values in first, we may find there is no room for them later. This can lead to compromises we’d rather (and should not) make. You can read about Prosper for Purpose’s values here. Next came my goals, because goals provide direction.
My pebbles are the people and organizations I choose to work with. If an opportunity presents itself that doesn’t fit in with my values, it doesn’t go in the jar. This has translated into people I have chosen not to work with and paid opportunities I have chosen not to accept. Sometimes a pebble has made its way into my jar, but over time I see that it really doesn’t fit. That pebble goes.
It is not easy to say no to revenue-generating opportunities. It’s even more difficult to part ways with a colleague. But it’s my jar. And I can only fill it with the rocks and pebbles that fit my purpose.
The pebbles currently filling my jar are gems. They are the people and the organizations with whom I work. They shine and enhance my values. The sand is the work that we do together, and the things we do to keep us charged and focused. Some of these pebbles will leave the jar; employees may move on, client projects will end. These pebbles will carefully be replaced by other pebbles. And the water, when it gets in at all, finds that there’s not much opportunity to move me from my purpose.
So, now it’s your turn. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are YOU passionate about?
- What do you know you are really good at?
- What does the world need that you can give?
- What are the skills you can use to earn a living?
Step 2: Manage your time.
Annie Dillard, in her book The Writing Life, says, “How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.” When we focus on time in terms of days, we manage ourselves hour by hour to see how efficient we can be. We judge ourselves by how much we accomplish in a day. This is tragic. Hours, days, even years can be spent doing things that don’t further our purpose.
But when we look at our time in terms of our lifetime, we are better able to invest in activities that fuel our purpose. With purpose, goals are easier to set and measure. With purpose comes direction. Purpose helps us set goals and priorities and, in turn, manage our time.
Once you’ve identified your purpose and your values, set your goals and only ‘pick up’ pebbles that will help you fuel your purpose. This means there will be many pebbles you don’t pick up. Just as I learned to say no to people and opportunities that didn’t fit my purpose, so can you. Time is precious. Make it count.
A great thing about the purpose exercise is that it can also be used at work. If you are fortunate enough to work for an organization that is true to its mission and values, the jar is the mission (purpose) and the rocks are the values and goals. The pebbles can be the people and tasks you do to further that mission. Choose them wisely.
Step 3: Own your life.
I started my company nearly four years ago. My life is busier than it has ever been, yet I feel more excited and engaged than ever. Purpose provides me with energy and inspiration.
You don’t have to start your own company to live your purpose. Most people don’t. Instead they have jobs that enable them to find purpose through their work.
Occasionally, very purposeful people work jobs that don’t fuel their purpose directly, but instead enable their purpose. Some of these people are coaches, others volunteer walking dogs or feeding the homeless. Some earn a stipend, others nothing at all. Many retired adults attest to finding more purpose in their volunteer efforts than in their former jobs.
In the end, what is important is that you find and follow your purpose. Honor your purpose by choosing the rocks, pebbles and sand that belong in your jar.
“Innovation is change that unlocks new value.” – Jamie Notter
We love our new website—we hope you will, too. But before we tell you why we love it, let us tell you why we created it.
As we went through the process of becoming a Certified B Corporation, we took the opportunity to review our brand and revisit our values and messaging.
When Lorraine Schuchart launched Prosper for Purpose in 2013, she was intentional about every aspect of the brand, even though the company was, at that time, only an idea.
*The Prosper name is based on the philosophy that mission (purpose) is the foundation of success (prosperity).
*The overall circular shape of our logo, exemplifies a connection to the world around us. Each shape within the circular frame has meaning as well.
*Gray font was used to symbolize the behind the scenes nature of public relations work.
It was easy to see that our values were unchanged; in fact, they had paved the way for us to achieve B Corp Certification. However, we did find that we are now able to more intuitively communicate our passion and our purpose. We decided we wanted our website to reflect that.
We found a great partner in Go Media, a Cleveland-based web design firm. Now, after months of hard work, we are thrilled to announce the launch of our new website!
So, why do we love our new website? Here are our top five reasons:
1. Our new site overall is more visually pleasing.
2. The site better reflects Prosper’s culture, values and passions.
3. The new portfolio and case studies sections more comprehensively showcase our work.
4. The site is more intuitive and user friendly for our visitors.
5. It gave us a chance to partner with Go Media!
If you have any questions, comments or feedback about our new site, please do reach out to us!