When Pam McCarthy-Kern and her husband, David Kern, launched Because Collective, their Minneapolis-based marketing, communications and design services company, six years ago, they knew they wanted to use their marketing savvy for the greater good of their community and their clients’ businesses.
“We both had family members who owned small businesses and were hugely involved in the community,” says McCarthy-Kern, who has worked as a corporate event planner and publicist. Kern adds, “We want to help organizations find their way to doing better in the world.”
McCarthy-Kern ran her own event design company when she and Kern, a professional photographer for decades, decided to collaborate on a socially and environmentally-responsible marketing agency that combines brand strategy, web design and tech services with a specific emphasis on helping businesses find meaningful ways to give back. They handle the website design/building/coding in-house and collaborate with a team of independent graphic designers.
“Small businesses can give back in ways that are meaningful and make a difference,” says McCarthy-Kern, noting companies don’t have to be nonprofits or philanthropic powerhouses to partner with area schools that need tutors or pursue other local team-building volunteer opportunities. The secret to becoming greener or more socially-involved is simple, she says: Find a cause that resonates with your company’s mission and capabilities, then make it a priority.
Many of Because Collective’s clients are values-driven small businesses looking for ways to tell their story and promote their products in an authentic, transparent way. Jewelry boutique Max’s, in St. Louis Park, is one such example. Owner Ellen Hertz was already known for sponsoring community events, but Because Collective focused their efforts on touting the store’s unique offerings, like Article 22, a line of jewelry handmade by Laotian artisans from shrapnel left over from the U.S. bombing of Laos.
“We get to figure out what these stories are and create a narrative that is true to what they do,” Kern says of their branding efforts. “We focus on sharing that with people, and guiding businesses in directions so they have better stories to tell.”
Making a difference in the community and making a profit can often be a win-win situation. McCarthy-Kern points to their involvement with Cookie Cart, the nonprofit Minneapolis bakery that offers job training and leadership opportunities for teens looking for something productive and positive to do.
“I was doing volunteer work for a fundraising event for them in 2010, and in 2014 their original location underwent a renovation and we handled the media relations around the reopening,” she says. Because Collective does discounted work for a program every year, and they chose to work on Cookie Cart’s media presence and strategy. This past July, Cookie Cart broke ground on a new St. Paul location. “We’re big proponents of the local,” Kern says. “A lot of little steps get you to the same place as one big step.”
The couple works with a team of freelance designers and coders to help clients share their stories with customers, and they often hold client meetings at coffee shops near their home office in the Armatage neighborhood. “It feels good to connect with and support another independently-owned business,” McCarthy-Kern says.
“Quite often, something intentional is something local, sometimes just down the block,” Kern says.
Thanks to Sparrow Cafe (5001 Penn Ave S., Mpls., MN 55419) for letting us photograph at their location.