Does your company have a mission? If you’re passionate about a cause, finding a way to link that zeal to your profits could be your secret to success. Even if you don’t have a charity in mind to champion from day one, don’t dismiss this strategy. You could end up finding it along the way.
That’s exactly what happened to the founders of Love Your Melon (LYM). The company’s founders discovered a devotion to fighting pediatric cancer after they came up with their initial product. Thanks to that mission and smart marketing decisions, like the savvy use of social media, their company became a force for good that brings in millions every year.
The School Project That Changed Everything
Brian Keller and Zachary Quinn founded Love Your Melon in 2012 as a project for their college entrepreneurship class. They didn’t know then that 1 out of every 285 kids in the U.S. is diagnosed with cancer before age 20. Originally, they decided to make knit beanies simply because of the cold winters in their college town, St. Paul, Minnesota. But it wasn’t long before childhood cancer was on the pair’s radar and battling it became their company’s mission.
Quinn told Inc. magazine that Toms Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie’s book, “Start Something That Matters,” made an impact. The book planted the idea of the “buy one product, donate one product” model in Quinn’s head. Inspired by Mycoskie, Quinn and Keller delivered 200 beanies to oncology patients at a nearby children’s hospital after selling their first 200. That’s when LYM’s goal of putting a hat on the head of every American child fighting cancer was born.
“One of the first kids we gave a hat to was Zach Sobiech, who was battling bone cancer. He was 18 years old and had grown up in my neighborhood. By the time we met him, he knew he had six months to live. He was an amazing musician; a song he wrote hit No. 1 on iTunes around the time he died. When I looked at him, I saw myself. That could have been me,” Quinn said.
The Beanie-Powered Rocket Takes Off
Powered by its charitable ideal, Love Your Melon’s sales skyrocketed. The company quickly met its goal of putting a hat on the head of every pediatric cancer patient in America. That amounted to more than 45,000 children. Instead of converting to a purely profit-driven model after that success, Keller and Quinn refocused their mission. They announced LYM would aim to raise $1 million for pediatric cancer research and families dealing with the illness. To do that, the company started donating 50% of its profits to organizations around the world that shared its mission. They donated to the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, the Boston Children’s Hospital, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, the Foundation for Cancer Care in Tanzania, and Designing Dreams.
With 12,000 college volunteers nationwide and an army of “Melon Mafia” ambassadors, the company crushed that goal as well. LYM has now donated more than 170,000 hats to kids with cancer and $6.2 million to the cause. It has also expanded its reach, funding “therapeutic adventures” for kids with cancer. These adventures include zoo trips, helicopter rides, and access to professional sporting events. The company also gives away beanies at pediatric hospitals across the country each year on National Superhero Day.
Charity Pays Off
Love Your Melon is a prime example of how a charitable mission can help a for-profit company grow. Since its founding, the company has rocketed up the Inc. 5000 list, ranking 106 in 2018. In 2017, it had 32 employees and brought in $31.5 million in revenue. And in 2019, Keller and Quinn landed on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List of social entrepreneurs. Love Your Melon’s annual revenue jumped to $40 million.
Today, LYM has gone beyond the melon, expanding into other apparel on its website, LoveYourMelon.com. They now sell T-shirts, tank tops, and pullovers in addition to beanies, ball caps, and headbands. Customers can even shop for dog sweaters and leashes, blankets, and sorority gear. The company also opened a new brick-and-mortar location in Minneapolis, the Love Your Melon Studio. The studio steps up the shopping experience with a creative lab, an influencer studio, and access to exclusive product drops.
2 Secrets To Love Your Melon’s Success
In 2016, Quinn told CNBC that he attributes LYM’s success to its authenticity and to the power of social media. Facebook considers the company one of its success stories. It points to one 2017 ad campaign on Messenger where LYM announced a new line of caps. The campaign earned a 14-fold return on its ad spending.
That’s perhaps no surprise. The company’s demographic is college-aged — formerly made up of millennials but is now made up of the even more tech savvy Gen Z. Much of LYM’s success can be attributed to choosing a particular demographic and shaping its marketing strategy around it. As 5W Public Relations’ 2020 Consumer Culture Report revealed, Facebook is the No. 1 social media platform used by millennials. Millennials also prefer brands with a mission. As Medium puts it, “Millennials in particular aspire to brands which reflect a fundamental attitude, a profound reason for being, a positive change which they want to see in the world.”
Quinn is open about the fact that his company has leveraged both of those preferences.
“A millennial generation has come up with this beautiful thing called social media,” Quinn told CNBC. “We wouldn’t be able to exist otherwise.”
To learn more about how you can leverage social media and other marketing channels to grow your business, click here.