From the bottom up Featured

9:32am EDT July 22, 2002

Nancy Brown believes that community giving begins at the grassroots level.

"I always struggle between two things: My belief that you give because you want to give and to a cause you support, and a belief that corporations shouldn't tell their people who to support and how," she says.

That's not to say that Brown eschews corporate giving. In fact, it's just the opposite. Her business, Ladies and Gentlemen Hair Salon and Spa, embraces corporate and community giving as one of its primary business tenets. It's just that Brown and her husband, Ed, who co-owns the salon, believe philanthropy should originate from the employees.

"It (our philosophy) really comes from our employees' hearts rather than from me mandating that they support causes," Brown explains. "People do things for the right reasons. It's so much more powerful when it comes from the heart rather than simply being the right thing to do for a corporation trying to create a good name for itself."

In the past two decades, Mentor-based Ladies and Gentlemen has built a reputation for supporting the community, putting its name behind such causes as Project Hope, the United Way Day of Caring, Project Act, Hannah's House and a host of environmental issues. And, it's done it with the support of its staff members.

Says Brown, "I'm very concerned about the environment and victims of homelessness. It's our responsibility to help people who are put in situations that they can't control."

Ladies and Gentlemen's 110 employees come together at salon meetings to determine which causes to support, says Brown.

"We go around and ask who has a cause they'd like to support," she says. "Then we, as a company, determine to what degree we can support it."

This method of grassroots employee giving has led to annual gifts averaging $12,000, as well as widespread employee volunteerism that's difficult to put a price tag on. Over the past several years, staff members have participated in painting houses around Lake County; volunteered to help rebuild homeless shelters; created, printed and sold cookbooks to raise money for Project Hope; worked to raise money to build a children's wing for the Lake County Mental Health facility; and held five years worth of fund-raisers for Lake Catholic High School in Mentor to raise enough money to build and equip a science lab.

Brown's commitment to the environment has resulted in Ladies and Gentlemen receiving seven environmental and humanitarian awards from the Aveda Corp., and an Environmental Business of the Year Award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Nancy and Ed have even included the company's four-pronged philosophy regarding community service in the employee manual, laying out the manner in which it is committed to serving "each other, our customers, our community and our world."

The statement says the company aims to do so the following way:

  • By providing and encouraging educational development for our staff in all areas of community service.

  • By adhering to the principles of environmentalism in our workplace, and following through with this commitment into community awareness and service.

  • By serving those in need, starting in our own area and reaching as far as we can to eliminate homelessness and promote rehabilitation for those less fortunate, primarily to children and victims of homelessness.

  • By encouraging staff to register to vote and become involved in government issues, first on a local level, and further, on state and national levels, through facilitation of issues and voter registration.

And, says Brown, community giving is a year-round endeavor that does more than provide money to a cause.

"We want to raise public awareness that there are people in need." How to reach: Ladies and Gentlemen Salon and Day Spa, (440) 255-5572

Dustin Klein (dsklein@sbnnet.com) is editor of SBN.