Forty marketing professionals. Fifteen pots of coffee. A hundred new marketing ideas. All in just 24 hours, on zero sleep and at zero cost to the community. The WhiteSpace Creative 2013 CreateAthon was our largest, most substantial effort yet.
One agency re-branding three deserving nonprofits — the Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet, the Battered Women’s Shelter and the Victim’s Assistance Program — from the ground up.
In 2002, when WhiteSpace was a nine-person design shop wanting to give back to the community, we kicked off our first CreateAthon. The brainchild of a South Carolina-based firm, Riggs Partners, the National CreateAthon was a fledgling round-the-clock creative marathon providing pro bono marketing and communication services to nonprofit organizations.
In retrospect, our inaugural CreateAthon’s uncomplicated nature reflected WhiteSpace as an agency at the time. We were just four designers, two account executives, a copywriter, an office manager and an intern producing a few modest communication materials.
Growth in size and ability
In the 12 years since that premier event, WhiteSpace has grown substantially in both size and ability. As our agency has evolved, so has our approach to CreateAthon. Getting bigger meant we could make a bigger impact.
Sure, increasing the number of nonprofits and projects also increased our stress level. Heads banging on keyboards at 1 a.m. Brisk walks through downtown Akron at 2 a.m. Adult beverages uncapped around 5 a.m.
It also added to our degree of satisfaction. Early on Friday morning, when we finally revealed our projects to the nonprofits, we got more heads nodding with approval. More smiles. More tears of appreciation.
To date, the WhiteSpace CreateAthon has benefited more than 100 nonprofit organizations throughout Northeast Ohio. That’s more than 300 projects — valued at more than half a million dollars — making a difference for thousands of people throughout the region.
Over the past two years, the WhiteSpace CreateAthon has morphed into an Extreme Brand Makeover competition where nonprofits compete for a branding “package” valued at more than $25,000. It’s another reflection of our company’s restructuring. Rather than producing individual projects for our clients, WhiteSpace — as an agency and for CreateAthon — is immersed in developing integrated programs.
You don’t have to outgrow the concept
CreateAthon is a perfect example of how a company doesn’t have to outgrow a concept. Yes, WhiteSpace has changed significantly over the past 12 years, but the important things have remained the same. Last September, as the sun began to rise and signaled the end of our 12th CreateAthon event, I looked around at the 40 WhiteSpace employees wearing sweats, baseball caps and slippers in place of their pressed pants, ties and heels. These are people who not only gave up sleep, but precious time with their families. I realized then, that whatever our size, it’s WhiteSpace’s commitment to attracting others who share the belief that “it’s not what you get; it’s what you give” that keeps us successful.
As WhiteSpace — and CreateAthon — continue to grow, I can’t help but think how fortunate I am to have gathered this exceptional group of talent that cares about the extra things we do as a company, that cares about each other, that cares about the long-term success of our clients and, especially, cares about our community. Even at 3 a.m. ●
Keeven White is the president and CEO of WhiteSpace Creative. He openly shares his expertise and experience with the community through a variety of speaking engagements and has been recognized for his business, creative and community service efforts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.whitespace-creative.com.