Thankful Founder, Kim McDonnell, was recently interviewed by Forbes. We hope you enjoy the article and we are Thankful for Forbes;
How This Founder Is Creating Social Impact Through Thankful Moments
Kim McDonnell, founder of Thankful, is on a mission to create a healthier and happier world. Thankful creates opportunities to provide Thankful Moments via an innovative business model that merges a product licensing program, global cause awareness campaigns, and a nonprofit arm. McDonnell’s team has created the first multi-product, multi-cause social impact brand capable of spreading thankfulness and measurable impact.
The idea behind Thankful surfaced when McDonnell asked herself, “How do I want to be remembered? Do I want to be remembered for my amazing advertising campaign or do I want to be remembered for using the skills that I learned in my career to do something good, to make a positive impact in the world?”
“I had a vision of how I wanted to make this world a better place,” McDonnell shares her epiphany. “I traveled around the world speaking to positive psychologists and thought leaders. It is scientifically proven that the act of being thankful is one of the most single powerful acts that we can all implement on a daily basis to help with mental health and wellness. To be thankful requires us to practice mindfulness and gratitude.”
McDonnell’s time working at reputable global advertising agencies, and owning her company enabled her to gain the necessary experience needed to start a global movement. “About 20 years ago,” she shares, “my partner and I co-founded an agency that focused on data-driven marketing. Our clients knew they had to be involved in the conversation and they knew they had access to this incredibly powerful data, but they didn't know what to do with it. They didn’t know how to use it from a communications or marketing perspective.”
Her agency worked with different departments within an organization. She begins to explain, “We didn’t just work with the marketing department. We also worked with the sponsorship team, the corporate social responsibility team, etc. What became apparent in those conversations was they all had one big objective: how do we engage with our consumer and how do we be more relevant and meaningful.”
When McDonnell and her partner hired a new team member they tried to always understand what drove them and what their passion was. They’d ask the new team member, “what are you passionate about and what big problem in the world would you like to solve?” They encouraged them to go and find a local not-for-profit organization who was committed to helping to solve that big problem. As an agency, they made a commitment that with every new team member they would do a pro bono project around that team member’s area of interest.
McDonnell began questioning, “what if Thankful could be the first ever global lifestyle brand that is founded and backed by scientific research that is also multi-product but multi-caused? Multi-caused means we can be more relevant to more people more often, which means we can sell more product. The more product we sell and the more commercially successful we are, then the bigger the social impact can be across those multiple causes around the world.”
Fast forward to 2013, McDonnell and her team structured the Thankful business model to encompass longevity, global scalability, and financial security. She knew this was a big idea that could impact lives across multiple levels. She focused on how to commercialize the idea of thankfulness while making sure they could capture the contagious nature of thankfulness. McDonnell made a bold move and put in motion to trademark the word thankful.
“Our whole model was contingent on being able to trademark the word thankful,” McDonnell explains. Although lawyers laughed at her, McDonnell remained steadfast for three and a half years in her quest. Now, globally, the word thankful is trademarked across more than 23 different business categories which equates to 130 different products. “Our intent,” she continues, “is creating a global lifestyle brand that every single time a consumer engages with that brand will remind them to stop and celebrate all that is good in life. With their purchase, they are creating a thankful moment for someone else around the world. For example, when a consumer purchases a thankful perfume or cosmetic they are helping to create thankful moments for women and girls.”
Thankful produces its products by partnering with global brands and through a licensing and royalty agreement with those local brands. They contribute 30 percent of revenue into their 501C3 foundation, which then is distributed into funds to create measurable social impact and thankful moments for those in need around the world.
Through all of McDonnell’s highs and lows, she uses the following tricks when transitioning:
Prioritize what's important to you; both personally and professionally. Figure out if this pivot is a stepping stone to get you to where you want to be.
Understand if the transition is in line with what your priorities and values are.
Determine what your strengths and weaknesses are. Sometimes we’re so focused on our weaknesses we forget to high light our strengths.
“There’s going to be people who tell you it’s not going to work,” smiles McDonnell. “Then there’ll be more people who’ll tell you why it won’t work. As an entrepreneur, if you believe in your business model, have done your due diligence, have faith and conviction to do it, you’re already on the right path. I’ve never laughed louder or cried harder. It is such an incredible journey.”
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