Creating a Mission-Driven Company with Zachary Quinn at Love Your Melon

Creating a mission-driven company is much more than giving money away. Mission-driven has become a buzzword in today’s business. The ones that do it right have seen benefits that go beyond philanthropy. Creating a mission-driven company will help you gain customers and even align employees in a way that drives the business forward. Today’s guest is Zachary Quinn, Co-founder of Love Your Melon. Zachary shares with me how the company became mission-driven and the cycle of mission-driven. He shares how you can look at mission-driven strategies.

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Zachary Quinn: The Transcript

Target Audience: He is the President of Love Your Melon. Love Your Melon is an apparel brand dedicated to giving a hat to every child battling cancer in America as well as supporting nonprofit organizations that lead the fight against pediatric cancer. Since its beginning, Love Your Melon has aimed to improve the lives of children battling cancer by giving them a warm beanie or bringing them on superhero adventure.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Zachary Quinn
So now today we give away half of our profit every year as well as giving a hat to every kid in the country that needs one. And we’re starting to give away hats around the worl, in Canada and the U.K. and growing from there. All right. So we’ve given away one hundred and sixty thousand beanies plus we’ve given away over six point one million dollars to research and family support. And that’s how we feel like we can make the biggest difference and impact.

[00:00:23].610] – Gene Hammett
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs. The fastest growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

[00:00:40].710] – Gene Hammett
Not only will align your customers to what you’re doing really create positioning for you in the marketplace but also creates employee engagement like no other it will align your employees to really getting something done. I feel dedicated to the mission. They feel dedicated to the work that they’re doing. And it really does have a benefit. I want to find a company that has this through its entire fabric of who they are. Love Your Melon. Is that company. They were number 106 on the 2018 Inc list. There are over 30 million revenues and they grew at thirty five hundred percent in the last three years. Now this company is really amazing company because they create these beanies for coal whether for children in hospital. So cancer patients that have lost their hair small young children and they’re giving away beanies for them. They’re also doing cancer research so they’re giving away 50 percent of the profit.

[00:01:34].410] – Gene Hammett
Now there is some evolution the the philanthropy of that happened. We talk about it in the full interview with Zachary. Zachary is a co-founder with his buddy Brian from college and they launched this idea in college. Really great story to share with you today about how you can create a mission driven company. Some of the core elements behind that and really what you can do with it as you grow fast and you get to save a lot in how you market. There’s a lot of challenges inside that we talk about some of those with Zachary today.

[00:02:07].110] –
Thanks for tuning in here to Growth Think Tank really excited about sharing this with you. And before you run I have done so many interviews in the last few weeks. I have such a exciting time to share with you that those interviews have been organized into the 12 core principles of fast growth companies. So all you have to do we get that it’s going to So you can get the 12 Principles. And I’ve been able to go in there and find which episodes will align to each individual episode will you subscribe to grow think tank you will find exactly what you need so that you can move forward and many of them haven’t been published yet. Depending on when you’re hearing this but you can you can tune in to the date. That means the most to you. So this is love your melon and here’s the full interview with Zach.

[00:02:53].840] – Gene Hammett
Hi Zachary how are you.

[00:02:55].050] – Zachary Quinn
Hi. Thank you for having me on the show.

[00:02:57].270] – Gene Hammett
Well I’m excited to have you on Group think tank. We’re going to talk about the business we’re going to highlight some of the key elements of your leadership. But I would love for you to give us a chance to understand what love your melon is and what they’re doing in this world.

[00:03:11].400] – Zachary Quinn
We started to love your melon when we were in college about six and a half years ago. Brian and I started the business as a class project. For entrepreneurship. We didn’t just want to turn a profit by the end of this semester though as the class requirements stated we want to make a difference in the lives of others. So we set out to make these nice warm beanies to keep people nice and warm here in Minnesota in the cold winters and then also wanted to give them away. So we figured out that shows in the hospital needed these warm beanies to be able to stay warm while they are going through their treatment especially while they lose their hair to the cancer treatment that they’re going through. And so we started with 400 apps. We had 200 to sell to 100 to give away and we sold out within a couple of days and then went and giving us hats away in the subsequent weeks to follow to kids that needed them. This inspired us to continue this going forward and I dropped out of school that turned it into a full blown company than it is today now six and a half years later.

[00:04:09].820] – Gene Hammett
Sounds like it was easier to sell them that was to give them away.

[00:04:13].090] – Zachary Quinn
Well we had to be very careful to make sure that they were going to every kid that needed one but done so in a process of like personal giving. We wanted to make sure that the kids understood why they were getting a hat and what it meant to be a part of the community. So we weren’t just shipping them around the country to give them away to children’s hospitals and they’d end up in storage rooms were personally going and delivering them with professional athletes and musicians and superheroes to make sure these kids really felt like they were cared for.

[00:04:42].720] – Gene Hammett
Now that’s a really big step for some college age kids to create a business like that that really wanted to give back. So does this does this come from something that happened within your family or in your world.

[00:04:54].840] – Zachary Quinn
I grew up with my parents doing philanthropic things all the time. They run restaurants they’ve run them for 40 years and they would serve meals to the homeless or they’d take me to the kid’s got back serving underprivileged families and giving them food and meals and love and support. And so growing up it just felt like that’s where all of my element and satisfaction came from this was giving to others and doing things for other people. And so when we set out to.

[00:05:20].700] – Zachary Quinn
Be a part of this entrepreneurship class it was about running a business and things that my cancer taught me as well and growing up. But also in wanting to make a difference in the lives of others so we tied the two together. At the time we were reading Tom’s Shoes book. Like my cascades book about the one for one program. So we loved that idea and that’s how we launched it was as a one for one. And now we do 50 percent of profit model that we give and I’ll go into that in detail as well.

[00:05:49].980] – Gene Hammett
Well, when you think about creating a mission driven company it seems like it come natural for you. Was that all you considered in the class project was this something like this.

[00:06:01].860] – Zachary Quinn
Yeah. We had a bunch of different ideas from water bottles to other gadgets to this company that we started doing. And in every one of them we’re thinking about what they give back. Caution could be on our minds at the time that this really needed to be a philanthropic effort as well as a business effort for this class project. And what we wanted to do with our lives.

[00:06:26].760] – Gene Hammett
Now I’m going to fast forward to kind of where you were last year about this time it came out on the 2018 Inc list. You were one of six. You did a little over 30 million in revenues and your growth rate was. Thirty five hundred percent plus you’ll continue to grow since then. Can you give us a little idea where you are now.

[00:06:48].360] – Zachary Quinn
Yeah it’s come a long way from being in that class about six to seven years ago. It’s coming up on what would have been my sophomore year seven years ago and our first year we sold those 400 the or the 200 hats as a part of the class project and then give away the 200 but then we we did another like eight hundred hats that we sold by the end of the year.

[00:07:11].700] – Zachary Quinn
So we did about ten thousand dollars in sales our first year. After that the next year we went to sixty five thousand dollars in sales. We grew from that up to about a million dollars the following year. And then it ballooned after that we went to 5 million then 13 million then 21 million and then 31 million as you referenced was when that growth really peaked. And so then last year we did about thirty three and a half million and this year on track to do about 35 to 40 million as well.

[00:07:43].680] – Zachary Quinn
So the growth continues but it’s levelling off. We see it as a healthy trajectory to be on. We’re diversifying our interest into other. Sales channels beyond e-commerce alone we’re doing stuff with licensing and custom products as well as wholesale to really keep our channels diverse and safe in that regard.So as not to rely so much on just one.

[00:08:07].730] – Gene Hammett
Zachary you’ve seen some benefit with hiring employees. You have about 30 plus employees right now and having a mission where you’re actually having a give back strategy. Has that been important to the new hires that are coming on and how they engage with work.

[00:08:23].980] – Zachary Quinn
Yeah. Every time we have a job posting we get hundreds of applicants and it’s about going through them and figure out who’s the most dedicated and interested in making a difference and then who can provide the biggest impact on our growth and our continued success as a company. And in our project we make really important decisions every day to make sure that our model stays true to who we are that we’re providing continued support for these families and kids. And so that’s a really important thing to note. People are coming to work for us because they want to be a part of making a difference in these lives and families. And in doing so by helping us run this larger company.

[00:09:03].050] – Commentary
Zachary just talked about hundreds of applications that come in. Now I talked to so many companies that are looking for the right employees but this company because they’re mission driven they have hundreds of people applying to be a part of it and they get to sift through those people and they are really engaged in what they do. So you’ve got to give this is a really solid look to how you could actually create something that is mission driven. You could create a separate enterprise you could create something else with your skills but you could get your people aligned together in a mission. That’s the point. Now back to the interview with Zachary.

[00:09:36].780] – Gene Hammett
Now I know you you borrowed a little bit of the idea from Tom’s Shoes and there’s other companies that out here have had a philanthropic kind of mission. What are some of the steps that you took to really make sure that you didn’t lose it wasn’t just some some commercial play inside the business.

[00:09:55].570] – Zachary Quinn
And we’ve been careful to be strategic with our mission and what we’re doing in the way that we are supporting these families as best we can and providing them what they actually need. So it started as a one for one program that was our initial goal to set out to give a hat to every kid battling cancer in America. We did that after about a year and a half. We gave away forty five thousand beanies.

[00:10:16].830] – Zachary Quinn
And those were all delivered in hand by super heroes or athletes or musicians so these kids felt a part of this community and they were in sight of the on mission being supported that way. After giving forty five thousand beanies away though we didn’t want to just go give away 10 more hearts to every one of those kids or get into the complications of giving away hats around the world where they might not have basic chemotherapy drugs. So we looked at what they needed most in research and in family support and we adjusted our mission to giving as much as we could which was 50 percent of our profit that we could give away and continue to be a healthy company and continue to grow and support this mission.

[00:10:55].110] – Zachary Quinn
So now today we give away half of our profit every year as well as giving a hat to every kid in the country that needs one. And we’re starting to give away hats around the world and Canada and the U.K. and growing from there. So we’ve given away one hundred and sixty thousand beanies plus we’ve given away over six point one million dollars to research and family support and that’s how we feel like we can make the biggest difference and impact on these kids and families lives. So having an adjustable philanthropic mission in the way that you do it is needed most and you’re willing to say OK I’ll give one program no longer works.

[00:11:29].520] – Zachary Quinn
So I think the mission of helping these kids as much as possible and instead we need to go to fight this disease the researcher providing financial grants for families that are in stress is really important.

[00:11:41].440] – Gene Hammett
When you think about the price of the hat I know that there’s a cost to actually producing the hat. There’s there’s materials inside there. There’s distribution costs just like every other business that has physical products. How much are you charging for the hats to be able to be able to give away 50 percent.

[00:12:00].310] – Zachary Quinn
Our average tax cost is 30 dollars that we sell for. We also do wholesale now. So there’s some other bargains within there but how we’ve been able to sustain this is really through the low cost of social media advertising and e-commerce sales. So that’s our bread and butter. That’s why we continue to do and will continue to grow on. But then we are doing some things in wholesale and customer and licensing that does eat away somewhat at that margin but we’re still being able to provide more and be able to grow more as our impact continues to rise year over year.

[00:12:33].010] – Zachary Quinn
And so what I’d like to talk about is how important it is just to be circular in our mentality of philanthropy. Sure. We’re not only just giving away hats to kids and providing money away to research but we’re also making products in the US taking care of this community in a holistic standpoint like all of our products are made here in this country.

[00:12:54].080] – Zachary Quinn
We’re going to prevent by jobs through doing so and then we’re going and providing high quality goods to customers as well as continuing to support these families in need in our communities through this mission. So it’s a circular way of looking at it that we can support these communities in every way that they need us in.

[00:13:11].730] – Gene Hammett
There’s something beyond this I want to make sure that we keep this this idea of mission first. There’s then there’s the employee alignment aspects of this but mission alone. What would you say to organizations that have you know service based businesses that would look to create something mission oriented. Do you have any ideas around that.

[00:13:34].420] – Zachary Quinn
Or service companies?

[00:13:36].050] – Gene Hammett

[00:13:36].860] – Zachary Quinn
By messenger programs.

[00:13:40].570] – Gene Hammett
Just is ideas I just were interested in how you think about this because there’s probably a lot of people listening in here they’re like this sounds great but we do. We’re a tax accountants or we’re a real estate company. And I don’t know how we would actually give away something to you know needy children.

[00:13:59].690] – Zachary Quinn
Yeah and it’s really at the core of who we are as a company. It’s not that we thought of philanthropy as an afterthought it’s something we want. They go to an additional marketing campaign or an exercise and feeling good and doing good. Which by no means is that something to look down on. It’s just to say the fact that like we are then ethically our mission we’re built entirely in and around it. Like Your knowing wouldn’t exist without being part of a company that supports kids battling cancer. So that’s just inherently who we are.

[00:14:34].730] – Zachary Quinn
The hats are tied in like the hats that you buy online and the ones that kids are getting in spittle that’s out since day one. And so it’s a different situation with service related companies as you talk about with accounting firms and law firms. It’s certainly not what we’re doing. And that’s not to say it’s any worse because there’s great impact that you can have in doing so just so much as providing like legal fees or free pro bono work. To like the nonprofits that we give money to.

[00:15:05].160] – Zachary Quinn
Because if you’re going to reduce costs and give them and maybe it’s not even just so much free time but like free ideas like how a non-profit could do something better like if those research dollars there could be more to spend there rather than spending them on their legal fees then they can have a very large impact in the way of like being able to make these non-profit organizations or other entities out there that are doing some traffic work smarter as well not to just to draw on a corner like sell a product here but we do a custom program and that’s like the purpose of growing this brand.

[00:15:42].750] – Zachary Quinn
In addition to allowing consumers to make a difference we also have a lot of clients that are different industry experts that create our products with us. They’re like promotional goods that you can get a loving melon beanie with our patch on it but it would say your company logo on it or mission and then you could purchase those and have an impact on the lives of kids that kids battling cancer through that as well.

[00:16:07].140] – Gene Hammett
Fantastic. Now I want to switch gears a little bit here because part of the reason is not just to get back but you have. Some magic inside the development of employees and how they’re engaged with their work. Tell us a little bit about. I bet I bet you don’t have to measure employee engagement because it’s probably just natural to the way everyone shows up every day. Is that true?

[00:16:30].030] – Zachary Quinn
Yeah we’ve got a great team here. Everybody’s having a lot of fun and. They’re all dedicated to making a difference so that the engagement level is much higher than you would normally see there’s people that spend late nights at work here all the time and they’re they’re here early as well and there’s a lot of common area talk and conversation and meetings that happens and it happens within our clients they do things with us or our customers as well and people that are continuing to support and grow the mission of watermelon not just by coming and working for us but by being a corporate client or partner or by being a customer that continues to spread the word online. There’s a lot of word of mouth that’s happening for us that’s continuing to help grow this and have our impact become larger.

[00:17:17].860] – Commentary
Zachary just talked about engagement level. I want you to think about when you have something that people are coming to work to do that’s bigger than themselves is bigger than the work that they’re doing. It’s bigger than money that you really have something where you don’t have to measure engagement. They come in because they want to make a difference. They’re working at the company because they want to make a difference. Now, that may not be something that you can do right now but if you want to talk about what mission driven means for your business I bet there’s a creative idea around that. I’d love to hash that out with you so if you want to reach out to me get to know each other. I’d love to share some ideas with you. I’ve got some examples from other clients other people I’ve interviewed and we could just see where that would fit with your company. I know there’s an idea out there if you want to try to do it if you want to try to increase the employee engagement and alignment by having something that they could really be a part of. All right. Back to the interview with Zachary.

[00:18:12].430] – Gene Hammett
When you think about the mission you’ve actually had some new ways for people to actually get out there and because not everyone is able to go to the hospitals. You were telling me about this last week. How are you able to do that now where everyone’s a part of the actual process of giving back.

[00:18:32].710] – Zachary Quinn
Well, we have a group of college students that gives away our hats in the children’s hospitals and volume every year because we give away about 30000 at. So there’s roughly ten thousand college students that we’ve recruited to do that now. Well costumes and they go into the hospitals. It works most efficiently to have them do it because they’ve got the time in the hospitals working with them.

[00:18:54].010] – Zachary Quinn
They often become volunteers for those hospitals and other nonprofits that we work with too and they do things beyond just delivering hats but they give away super adventures to the kids. They do birthday parties and lots of other cool things that really can enhance the experience for these kids as going through this treatment as well as doing things like swab drives for big organizations that need. Need people to be on the registry so they get swabs and and our canvass crew members that deliver these hats do other things like that and some race for other nonprofits.

[00:19:27].160] – Zachary Quinn
So it’s a pretty cool program but that in fact is limited to that certain segment. Everybody else is becoming a supporter by purchasing a product or by sharing the mission online. And then we’re launching a new program right now in the coming weeks that will be our influencer program. But it starts at the micro influencer level and people will be able to help support the growth of government. And by doing that and getting other large influencers on board and growing it up in that way.

[00:19:57].600] – Gene Hammett
Well I want to talk to you just a little bit about your leadership style. You’ve got a co-founder there. Brian right.

[00:20:03].920] – Zachary Quinn
Yeah. We worked really well together we were that two friends in college that started this and we’re still here every day together. Brian’s and operations and advertising and sales side and I’m in creative product development and Asian side. And so together we supplement each other and we support one another’s work. We’ve come a long way from just beginning a couple of college kids.

[00:20:29].160] – Gene Hammett
What’s one defining moment that you can share with us about your own leadership something where you had to make a big transformation or shift in the way you were showing up for the for the team.

[00:20:41].970] – Zachary Quinn
Yeah we’ve had to learn a lot from one another I talk about in regards to Brian and I together because we had to learn where the divide happened. Where one of us stopped and one started. And so to do that we had to test a hundred things out and learn each other’s behavior and skill sets.

[00:21:02].040] – Zachary Quinn
And we’ve got great times and bad times and all of that’s built this relationship that we have now today. And so it came a long way. I mean we’ve been we’re at college together we friends together and then started this company around the same time and then we even went on a tour for 70 fact days or we drove around a tour bus around the country delivering hats to children’s hospitals we run this from being a very small company to a large company now. And really where I had to adjust probably the most was in having to step back and allow Brian to have more of a direct leadership role over a large portion of the team.

[00:21:42].450] – Zachary Quinn
So now Brian’s our CEO, I’m president. And together we own the company and we have been able to lead it in a way that he can provide for the daily needs of the team and then we can work together with our executive team on a level it’s like visionary work and creation and organizational pieces. And so he’s a day to day operator and I’m more as a planner and product development side. So it’s a lot of fun.

[00:22:11].190] – Gene Hammett
Well I appreciate you being here on Growth Think Tank. Before we wrap this up. What would you say to other businesses that we’re considering having some type of mission driven approach is the core of their business what would be the one thing that you would want them to think about.

[00:22:27].680] – Zachary Quinn
Well one thing we talked about last week that was really important is that how you engage your core team when you’re philanthropic mixing different company because the people coming to work for us when they’re signing up for a job they’re expecting they’re going to have an area like a parent impact on the lives of kids battling cancer every day and that’s what you have to fulfill when you hire these people to be able to show them that impact that we’re having. Because if they don’t understand your customers and supporters aren’t going to be able to understand it because these are the storytellers that we’re bringing on whether it’s sales team or to the social media team or the content team or even the product development team.

[00:23:04].950] – Zachary Quinn
So whenever somebody comes to work here we have to spend a lot of time giving them those opportunities to really personally make a difference as well as be able to make a difference to simply designing a new hat. So we try to give them the understanding of like how that makes an impact. Just the basic needs of their job but then also having that impact themselves being able to give away a hat or being able to go to a superhero adventure or go read a book to a kid in the hospital himself. We spend a lot of time developing that feeling of really personal impact and fulfillment because it’s so core to us. Since I grew up and since we started this together Ryan and I we’ve been so fulfilled and satisfied because of the work that we’re doing to better the lives of these kids in addition to being able to run a cool apparel company.

[00:23:54].240] – Zachary Quinn
So it’s tied in and together and we’ve got to make sure we provide that to all of our employees. And team that’s coming on board because they’re expecting that as well.

[00:24:04].740] – Gene Hammett
Well that is a really good point because it’s kind of that full circle of create a mission driven company but you’ve got to have people that are actually a part of the process because they’re coming there you’ll get 400 applications for a reason you don’t want to leave them out of that giving chance. So Zach really appreciate you being here. Love the concept. Love your melon is a great product. I would suggest anyone checking that out especially if they love their head. Right.

[00:24:34].520] – Zachary Quinn
Yeah. Thank you. Well you said it’s really in this circular mentality and you start a company and it might not work for everybody that is listening here that might be providing services in a different way or providing. Other creative ideation or products or whatever you’re making. There are ways for you to go make an impact and whether it’s providing your services or it’s providing gifts to those in need.

[00:24:59].790] – Zachary Quinn
I would just encourage you to make sure there’s an authentic connection between what you’re doing as a company and what you’re providing philanthropically. It makes so much more sense it’s like perhaps you’re selling the customers are the ones you’re giving the kids that need them because they lose their hair. That connection is what makes people realize the importance of it and makes it so selling. So I think there are a lot of opportunities to look at whatever company you’re running and say OK what are we doing and who couldn’t eat the worm whether it’s legal services whether it’s accounting services or creative services and who could who could possibly use that or maybe it’s a product.

[00:25:38].760] – Zachary Quinn
In our case we took a really warm beanie we made for cold Minnesota winters and wherever it’s cold anywhere and then we provided those same beanies to kids in the hospital because they lose their hair to cancer treatment and they get cold in those rooms so those that tie in there is very important. And then we made those products in the US providing jobs to the communities that we were inherently supporting and then that team that we hired on to bring all of this to light was in fact the part of the impact that was being made as well in providing those hats and in providing those adventures. And so that’s where that circular mentality of authentic philanthropic work has come to light with what we’re doing.

[00:26:25].160] – Gene Hammett
Love it. I appreciate you summarizing that for us. And I really appreciate you being here. Zach thank you for everything you’ve shared.

[00:26:33].090] – Zachary Quinn
Thank you. Talk to you soon.

[00:26:35].130] – Gene Hammett
Wow that’s a fantastic conversation I really enjoy. You’re talking about creating something different creating a mission. Now this young kid had this idea in college with his buddy Brian and they decided to do something and they did something small. They took a small step forward and that related into a bigger step and a much bigger step. And now they have a 30 main other company and really reaching people and raising millions and millions of dollars for cancer and for these young kids and doing it a very unique way. I love this story.

[00:27:06].810] – Gene Hammett
It reminds me of one of my clients. Adam Walker and Jeff Hellmer are well a step back and said I want to give back to our world but they have a service based business. And that was launched an idea for 48 websites in 48 hours so Adam used to be a client of mine and really enjoyed working together but they took it a step further by giving away of this free Web sites to nonprofits and they’ve done this hundreds and hundreds of times and they’ve done it in Atlanta,New York,Minneapolis, Boston, London and beyond.

[00:27:40].830] – Gene Hammett
So I share this with you because you don’t have to just give away a product in order to create a mission driven company you can do something special you can’t you know align people to something that’s beyond where you are right now and that would help them employees do this.

[00:27:56].130] – Gene Hammett
I’ve seen the benefit happen for Jeff’s company and for Adam’s company. So just another idea of would look at this mission driven approach. Thank you for being here. A growth think tank. Thank you for sharing this episode with some of that you think would find benefit from it. Thank you for being a part of our community. So tune in to the next episode and always lead with courage. We’ll see you next.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.


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