When Liz Powers and her brother Spencer started a Boston company in 2013 called ArtLifting — it sells artwork made by homeless and disabled people — they identified three ways to make money: e-commerce, corporate sales, and licensing deals.
The first is going nicely through online purchase of prints, smartphone cases, and greeting cards. The second has also been a success, with companies like Bain & Co., Microsoft, and Staples buying ArtLifting’s wares for their office decor.
Now ArtLifting has its first licensing deal, collaborating with another firm to sell its products and share the profits.
Its partner? Leesa Sleep, a Virginia mattress company that, like ArtLifting, operates as a “profit-with-purpose business” that aims to not just make money, but also have a positive impact on society.
ArtLifting, which works with 72 artists in 11 cities, tries to financially empower artists by giving them 55 percent of the proceeds from each sale; Leesa donates one mattress to a shelter for every 10 it sells.
Blending those two goals, Leesa has begun selling mattresses that have images of ArtLifting artwork woven into their fabric. It will also be shipping all its mattresses in boxes imprinted with ArtLifting designs.
And at a combo art gallery/mattress store (the Leesa Dream Gallery) in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, ArtLifting art is for sale, with Leesa mattresses doubling as viewing seats. Artists will get a percentage of each designer mattress sold, and ArtLifting will receive 50 cents for every box shipped.
“Before we existed, the option for these artists was standing on a street corner and selling originals for $20,” says Liz Powers. “Now they can not only make money by selling their work online and having it featured in offices, but they can also make unending amounts of money through licensing deals.”
Big ideas at SharkNinja
SharkNinja has emerged as one of the biggest private companies in the Boston area. The Newton company’s namesake Shark vacuum cleaners and Ninja blenders are so popular that it changed its name from Euro-Pro in 2015. Annual revenue rose about 10 percent last year to $1.7 billion.
But there are downsides to such growth. Finding room for everyone can be tough. That’s why the company is opening a new headquarters next year, to put its 400 Boston-area workers under one roof in Needham.
The more vexing issue, though, is ensuring that ideas still flow smoothly through the company, which employs more than 1,000 worldwide.
To that end, SharkNinja hired IDEO, a Cambridge design consulting firm, to help host a “hack week” at the Hotel Commonwealth recently. More than 100 employees gathered to work on 13 projects — narrowed down from a list of more than 900 submitted by workers — to take from conception to prototype.
SharkNinja president Mark Barrocas says he was surprised by the response. He figured he might have 50 ideas kicking around, not close to 1,000. He expects the company to adopt all 13 finalists in some form.
The event, he says, prompted a cultural shift at SharkNinja, with people realizing how to get ideas through development more quickly: “We’ve got to find the right balance between managing the day-to-day and thinking about what’s possible for tomorrow.”
New ad campaign, minus The Hoff
Wacky cardboard cutouts have paid off in the past for Full Contact.
The agency has used cardboard signs featuring the smiling mugs of David Hasselhoff and Tedy Bruschi to boost the fortunes of Cumberland Farms and Papa Gino’s, respectively.
But when it comes to Cambridge Savings Bank’s new ad campaign, Full Contact partner Tim Foley decided to show off his agency’s serious side.
A campaign that kicked off Monday features radio and television ads, billboards, and train station wraps. But there’s nary a cardboard cutout in sight.
There’s a new logo, with a focus on the bank’s initials, “csb.” (Employees and customers were already using those letters as shorthand to refer to the bank.) And there’s a new tagline, “Always you,” to emphasize the bank’s commitment to customer service. New signs went up over the weekend at the bank’s 17 branches north and west of Boston.
The bank, unsurprisingly, isn’t saying how much it’s spending on the campaign. But chief marketing officer Lisa Rodericks, who joined the bank from Santander, says it’s Cambridge Savings’ biggest marketing push in more than five years.
Rodericks says she enjoyed working with the folks at Full Contact because of their sense of humor.
But she says she didn’t think customers would appreciate an off-the-wall approach: “They want to make sure we’re serious about them and their finances.”
A conversation fit for a gala
Another gala bites the dust.
Like many other nonprofits, Boston-based Health Care for All has traditionally held a fund-raising gala each spring, replete with mass-produced food and glossy programs.
But now, fed up with the high cost and high tedium of those events, it’s joining the un-gala movement.
Tuesday night’s Health Care for All spring fund-raiser will have no sit-down dinner, no auction, no printed programs. The crowd will be smaller — 250 to 300 people, versus 550 — and only drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be served. Tickets will be cheaper, too, at $150 a seat (down from $250).
And here’s the big twist: Attendees will be encouraged to participate in small-group discussions about health care issues. They’ll be “guided conversations” led by bigwigs.
“Conversation starters” and “discussion moderators” will include notables such as Community Catalyst COO Jacquie Anderson, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts CEO Andrew Dreyfus, Iora Health CEO Rushika Fernandopulle, Health Policy Commission executive director David Seltz, and Dr. Joel Weissman of Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“No one will be waiting for a meal to be served or enduring a two-hour stage program,” says executive director Amy Whitcomb Slemmer.
That’s music to gala community ears.