World Changers aims to alter the way businesses give back
Martin Barrett and Monte Reiger founded their first company together seven years ago after realizing just how far a dollar could go to help others. Reiger, who had spent a year volunteering in West Africa with the international charity Mercy Ships, wanted to emphasize the importance of local giving. Barrett, who previously owned a winery in Oregon, saw an opportunity to help others through wine.
In 2010, the two launched Sozo Gifts, a cause-based company that supports charitable causes through the sales of high-end wine, chocolate, coffee, and other gifts. The company markets its wines and other products as gifts businesses can send to clients as thank-yous. After a business sends a bottle of wine or a gift box to a customer through the Sozo Gifts website, the recipient can then choose a cause to donate a portion of the gift’s proceeds to. Because there are multiple layers of giving at play, Barrett and Reiger define Sozo Gifts as “the gift that gives twice.”
Recognizing the positive response this type of giving had on recipients, the wheels began to turn for Barrett and Reiger, and, eventually, the two saw an opportunity to spread giving even further.
“A few things began to come together about a year ago,” Barrett said. “We were introduced at a gathering as, ‘a very generous company,’ and it bothered us. Not because it’s not true — it is true. We give away 50 percent of our profits. But something bothered us. And about two weeks later, it was one of those ‘aha’ experiences where we went, ‘Wait a minute? We’re not generous. Our customers are generous.’”
As Barrett and Reiger continued to think about the source of their own company’s generosity, more “aha” moments followed.
“We went down this road of, we have really good loyalty with our customers, and maybe it’s because we put them at the center of the generosity conversation with our Sozo gift boxes,” said Barrett. “And then about two weeks later we had another kind of epiphany and we just went, ‘Oh my gosh, (our customers) aren’t generous; their customers are generous.’ If their customers don’t buy a Lexus, buy a mortgage, buy a home, buy legal services, buy accounting services, or get insurance, they have nothing to start the generosity chain with. So, the real source of the generosity is our customers’ customers.”
By putting customers at the center of the story brands tell when they share how they give back, Barrett and Reiger saw a way to make giving back more meaningful and effective, and World Changers was born.
Launched last year, the World Changers platform allows businesses to create online dashboards that highlight what causes they care about, what causes they support, their missions, and comments and feedback from customers.
Through the platform, businesses can send out thank you emails to clients, inviting them to choose a cause they want to support. A company can even send Sozo gift boxes through the site, directing customers back to the business’ World Changers page, where gift box recipients can choose a cause to support, leave a comment, or learn more information about the company and its charitable giving.
For Denny Fitzpatrick, general manager of Willows Lodge, forging strong relationships and building brand loyalty is of the utmost importance. Through Sozo Gifts and World Changers, Willows Lodge is able to further strengthen the relationships it has with its clients, Fitzpatrick said. “I’ve been in the business 30 years, and it’s probably the most impactful, emotional connection to guests that I’ve ever used,” he said.
“It goes way beyond a gift,” Fitzpatrick added. “It becomes personal, it makes people have a smile on their face, and it makes them feel that they’re doing something more.”
Through World Changers, Barrett and Reiger aim to bring giving full circle.
World Changers currently works with businesses in the Puget Sound region, but is looking forward to expanding nationally by the end of the year.