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Rubbing shoulders with top-creatives and making a difference in the community simultaneously? Sounds like a win!

One of my goals for this year is learning the role that creativity plays in the workplace. I want to see how creative people (or people in creative roles) enhance their work environment and business profitability. Creativity exists in several different environments. Because of this, I want to learn each semester at a different size organization: ideally, a nonprofit, a small company, and a larger corporation.

The first was my non-profit semester. I had applied and spoken to several different organizations before I found out about EPIC (cue trumpet herald)Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 10.54.57 AM

(now that is out of my system..)

So a little about EPIC.

EPIC is a 501(c)(3) that inspires and offers a platform for creative professionals to have social impact in Chicago (and now Minneapolis!). EPIC recruits and matches volunteers (e.g. marketers, designers, storytellers) to collaborate with non-profit organizations–who otherwise would not have access to this caliber of talent–to strengthen their mission through more impactful print and web design and branding strategy. During an eight week creative rally, each team creates programs and materials – on a strictly pro bono basis – that their nonprofit client will use to more effectively engage and impact the lives of those they serve. With their powers combined, they make a bigger impact on the world than either could alone.

This year EPIC has helped Culinary Care, Topbox Foods, Honeycomb Project, Illinois Humanities Council, Genesys Works, Twist Out Cancer, and Interfaith House, working to tell their stories and ultimately change the lives of more people.


So what am I doing here?


I am studying how creativity is used to capture the essence (or brand) of an organization in order to tell a provocative story and augment their ability to help people. By increasing this community involvement/outreach the NPO can help more people with clearer strategy, better marketing tools and a focused message.

I’m doing what EPIC does, but for EPIC (talk about meta). We are focused on telling EPIC’s story. My partner, Chevy, and I have been interviewing each creative director and NP client for the seven rallies completed this year. We have been interviewing for two weeks and have already visited the offices of Edelman, Simple Truth, Oglivy, Genesys Works, shared a phone call with the founder of Culinary Care, with one of the Kennedy’s (of JFK fame…), and met with the founder and inspiration behind Twist Out Cancer (she is AMAZING).


It’s been a busy two weeks!


On top of that, we are planning an EPIC event to highlight all of this incredible work. We have been scouring the city of Chicago for a location that is both economical and enhances the absolutely mind-blowing work that has been done this year. It has been a challenge, but not without its perks. I have visited building after building here in Chicago – taking advantage of Open House Chicago in the process. I’ve stepped in everything from the library on the 44th floor of a skyscraper to a coworking spaces nestled behind a church in an industrial park. We’ve finally decided on a space and should be signing a contract Today! I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so I’ll talk about it in a later post.


What have I learned?
Where to start?

  • In order to become better at branding and  to highlight the character of EPIC, I attended Eric Staple’s masterclass (there’s my musician coming out) .. workshop at WorkShop. We spoke at length about what makes strong brands and how to improve our own personal branding. I learned so much from it that it deserves it’s own blogpost.
  • I’ve been devouring the Seth Godin’s book All Marketers are liars tell stories. It explains how marketing is not advertising, but is the spread of an idea. I’m only a quarter of the way through it, and my mind is already blown.
  • I decided that I want to learn more about Human Centered Design, so I am taking a class through IDEO and ACUMEN. We are focusing on how to help inspire more social entrepreneurship among young people.
  • I’ve learned that it is good to be a bad-ass. Taking risks, asking for favors, and showing up to bat are critical in all aspects of life.
  • I’ve learned how to write a professional contract that is fair to the parties involved.
  • I have learned that people will be rude, and will “rip your dress” not to mention any names, TAWANDA.
  • I’ve seen that EVERYTHING is negotiable. I have listened and participated in several of these negotiations as we barter for spaces, goods and services.
  • I have also learned that booze is expensive and am grateful for the economicalness of my decision not to drink.
  • I’ve learned that creativity is not exclusive, anybody can be creative. What stifles our creativity is the need to be perfect.
  • I have learned that walking 3 miles in the sun is still easier than walking half a mile in the wind/sleet/snow.
  • I’ve learned the importance of good shoes, and a wind jacket.
  • I’ve learned that soup is good for the soul, especially with good friends and giving hosts.


And I’m only a month in! I’m looking forward to November and the lessons I’ll learn as I continue to grow.

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