[January 20, 2016] We're just a few weeks into 2016, which makes it a great time to reflect upon the past year’s successes and challenges, as well as prepare for continued growth. I invite you to join me as we explore 2015 in depth, via our 2015 Annual Report.
“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way”. Dr. Wayne Dyer.
This past year, the world lost a truly great man - Dr.Wayne Dyer. Dr. Dyer’s words still ring loudly through my spirit, as his teachings helped to mold me into the leader that I am today. The quote above is my favorite by this world renowned spiritual teacher, and is one that I routinely reflect upon. So often it’s easy to lose ourselves in the dance of life. Doing this and that for this person or that person. What the experiences of 2015 have taught me, is to live life with very few expectations, especially of anyone else. I’ve learned to allow everyone to enjoy their unique individual experience, and respect them enough to not force my expectations and standards on them.
The funny thing is, this applies to myself as well. Instead of forcing expectations on myself based on the needs of others, I’ve learned to be easy on myself - to soothe myself whenever I feel tense or affected by things outside of myself. I don’t beat myself up over mistakes, and I don’t backstep into the past to attempt to fix anything. I respect the flow of the universe, naturally and effortlessly providing all that is needed to each and every one of us. I encourage you to consider living your life as freely as I’ve learned to live mine, as it translates into strength within the world of business.
For those of you who know me personally, you may have noticed a few changes to how I’ve been living my life this past year. I’m now a raw vegan, meaning I do not eat any animal-based products including dairy or eggs. Instead, I’m choosing to eat a diet of fresh vegetables, fruits and wild findings from our beautiful Earth. My change in diet has had the greatest impact on my life this year, and I don’t know if I could ever take a step back. Going into the new year, I will be sure to keep you all updated on my raw eating journey, with recipes, videos, and advice to those of you who may be interested in the raw vegan lifestyle.
2015 has been a great year! At the very start, we had an advantage. We had a plan. Unlike years prior, my team and I went into 2015 with clear goals in mind, specifically to increase new business to the firm’s five regional divisions, develop a sustainable corporate responsibility program committed to arts education and climate change advocacy, and to strengthen our public policy and trust practice.
Pro bono hours Extended
I am so happy to announce that we have made wonderful progress toward all of our goals. We’ve increased new business at the firm by 100% this year, and we now have a roster of 61 client accounts. We’ve developed an exciting corporate responsibility program that has had the privilege of hosting public arts events supporting local nonprofit organizations, and we’ve extended 520 pro bono hours at a value of over $195,000.00. Our public policy and trust practice continues to expand, with the firm assisting with strategic communications on eight federal and local political campaigns this year - two of which are current and will be determined in 2016. Overall, we are all proud of the progress we have made, and look forward to the future with excitement, courage, and resilience.
Some of you may remember a concept event that we were working on at the start of the year - the Music of a Generation Awards. Unfortunately, we had to make the executive decision to postpone the event, as we continue to revamp its concept. Thanks to the counsel of our board of advisors and allies, we’ve decided to host the event after we’ve worked with participating students for a full school year, in an effort to document the progress of each participant and provide a more well-rounded and exciting event to the audience. I would like to thank everyone who has and continues to assist in the creation of this event, as it’s goal is to support arts programs in New York City’s public school system for generations to come. We will be sure to keep you all in the loop with updates to all of our public projects via our website, e-newsletter, and social media accounts. Upon choosing to revisit the concept of the Music of a Generation Awards, we’ve also restructured our relationship with nonprofit organizations who have expressed interest in the event and the firm’s corporate responsibility program. In March of 2015, we announced that each year, the firm will partner with 1-2 nonprofit organizations that are aligned with our mission of advocating for arts education programs for public school students and the impacts of climate change. This year, we were able to partner with New York-based arts organization Bridging Education and Art Together (BEAT), and Hawaii-based cultural learning organization the Kumuola Foundation. We are so proud of what we were able to accomplish with both of these organizations this year, and we’re so thankful for their open arms to our mission. Learn more about our efforts and results at www.lawrenceblake.com/corporate-citizenship.
In 2016, our firm is pleased to announce that the Kumuola Foundation will be our nonprofit partner, in an effort to utilize Native Hawaiian culture to help education people of all ages around the world on issues relating to climate change and our impact on our environment.
All of Kumuola Foundation’s programming is deeply rooted in its mission to perpetuate Hawaiian Arts and Culture through the legacy laid before us, of people, places, arts & spiritual practices, sustainability, and education. Kumuola is doing this through its five primary objectives:
- To express the traditions and passions of Hawai‘i by supporting Hawaiian Artisans, Practitioners and their needs.
- To restore and prepare space to plant healing plants, to live, teach and live a healthier lifestyle.
- To live the concepts of Aloha, Akaha'i, Lōkahi, 'Olu'olu, Ha'aha'a, Ahonui. We strive to use these values as a basis for how we work and deal with situations that come our way.
- To restore and revive indigenous/ endemic plants and animals that have been brought to the brink of extinction.
- To create a sustainable living environment and community utilizing the latest technologies to eventually create a working model which can then be used throughout the rest of Hawaii and the world.
Increasing awareness globally on factors relating to climate change and environmental preservation is very important to myself, the firm’s staff and clientele, and everyone who shares this Earth with us. In 2016, our goal is to encourage the business community to creatively partner with nonprofit organizations that already are doing work within local communities to limit the impact we all have on our environment. By creatively adding on to the current public advocacy infrastructure, we are taking steps to reduce any waste of resources, and are working alongside the scientists, thought leaders, and community organizers already in place and making a difference.
Our community service work will include partnerships with local schools to host creative events that will highlight just how easy it is to consider the environment while doing the things we do each and every day. This includes hosting “impact-free” events, where all aspects of the event are environmentally-friendly, from the food served to the entertainment. We will also host “green my community” events, where those of all ages will learn ways to help the environment that their neighborhood and local schools share. This includes adopting, planting, and nurturing trees and plans, distributing information on recycling and composting, and anti-litter campaigns. Another goal of ours is to encourage student-lead gardens in public schools and in local communities. Diet and nutrition directly relate to our impact on the environment, and we want to teach children and adults how to grow their own natural foods - the first step in making our world better. As we have all heard before, we have to be the change we want to see in the world. Our corporate responsibility program for 2016 will heavily focus on the environment and causes of climate change.
Another core focus of our firm’s corporate responsibility program is arts education. This year, we’ve seen progress on both the national and local stage, and we’re excited to see how our elected officials will step further into the discussion on the importance of the arts. Most recently, New York City public schools Chancellor Carmen Farina announced the findings of the 2014-2015 Annual Arts in Schools Report. In this report, we learned that New York City now employs 2568 teachers who specialize in the arts - the most in a decade. This is thanks to the city’s $23 million plan to boost arts education over the next few years.
To increase awareness on the importance of arts education, our strategy is two-fold. First, our impact will be felt most by smaller nonprofit organizations providing local communities with services directly. We are set to extend the equivalent of $25,000.00 worth of pro bono services and work hours specifically to nonprofit organizations and community groups providing arts programs in local communities around the world. This includes working alongside these organizations to improve fund development and communications initiatives, while actively seeking out opportunities for increasing the reach of current programming. The second element of this strategy comes in the form of our in-house advocacy plan. This plan calls for a full-year of lobbying local, state, and federal elected officials, in an effort to promote ideas from both our partner organizations and in-house legislative associates. Key areas of concern include updating current education infrastructure to include the arts as a staple to a well-rounded education, the fluidity of current programs and updating them to allow students to continue being exposed to arts programs that specifically interest them, and creating innovative public-private partnerships that introduce quality arts programs to all of the world’s children. We will also pilot in-house communications campaigns that will motivate voters to show up to elections that will have a big impact on the arts in schools, and encourage and facilitate a discussion in communities around the world on the importance of the arts for children. Combined, our efforts will position our firm to better serve the communities in which we live and work in.
With a solid corporate responsibility plan outlined for the new year, it’s the perfect time to report back on our progress with the in-house efforts we were privileged to jump start in 2015.
In 2015, we launched two in-house philanthropic programs - the Green Incubator and the 20|Startups Campaign. The Green Incubator is a year-long incubator program for eco-friendly for-profit and non-profit startups, where our firm and a panel of mentors work alongside participants to provide counsel and expertly-crafted communications and new business tactics. We are three-months away from the completion of our first cycle, and we cannot wait to share final details once complete. Currently, we have four participating startups, including two non-profit and two for-profit organizations. About mid-way through the program we realized that the startups involved were expanding more quickly than we could have anticipated, which led to the decision to partner the program with our eco-friendly business development practice, Lawrence Blake Green. With this partnership, our founding startup participants were able to utilize the resources at our firm to continue in their growth. Common services we extended this past year included helping participants move into a “green” office or retail space, minimizing the environmental impact of everyday routines that all startups encounter, developing green packaging and marketing materials, and effectively communicating green efforts with new and returning customers. Climate changes that are results from our daily interaction with our Earth have a profound effect on all of our lives. Through our 2016 corporate responsibility plan, we aim to help educate and inspire our fellow humans to stand up for our planet.
Our vision includes a world where we do not look solely to fossil fuels to power our homes, businesses, and places where we play. Where we can introduce our children to an array of alternative energy sources like the wind, the sun, and ocean currents. It will take time, and disrupt the economic and political power structure we are all responsible for building up, but it will do more good than it will hurt. And yes, it will hurt a bit - and it won't only hurt the big oil, coal, and gas companies. It will require you, me, grandma, and grandpa to make changes in many ways, both small and large. You may have to drive your car less, or replace an oil-guzzler with a more eco-friendly model. You may have to enjoy the outdoors more, instead of spending days off indoors with countless electronics running on power. You may have to switch up your eating habits so you’re supporting smaller, more responsible food companies, versus the much larger conglomerates currently mass-producing our food. We can do it. It just takes the support of one another, and a few sacrifices for the bigger picture. Throughout 2016, keep an eye out for special blog articles that will dive deeper into this subject, and updates on our in-house philanthropic initiatives that are centered around climate change.
The 20|Startups Campaign is a philanthropic program aiming to help launch 20 innovative digital startups based in Africa by 2020. In 2015, we were able to build relationships with Africa-based nonprofits and community groups focused on encouraging entrepreneurship locally. We’ve been able to secure partnerships with several key individuals and groups throughout the African continent that we feel will greatly increase our chances of meeting success with the campaign by 2020. One partner who stands out is Leslie Bornstein, a NY-based filmmaker acclaimed for her documentary work spotlighting the rock music culture among teens in Mozambique. Through our partnership with her, she has graciously introduced us to countless young people based in Mozambique looking to start their own digital businesses, and we’ve begun work with them already. To date, we have confirmed 20 startup organizations to participate in this multi-year program. Africa is an amazing continent, with beautiful diversity, and so many people with the fresh ideas that our world needs right now. We are excited to help spotlight great African businesses and organizations, and help share them with the world. To keep up with progress with the 20|Startups Campaign, please visit www.lawrenceblake.com/20startups.
2015 was also a very good year for new business at the firm. We successfully debuted a new regional division, Lawrence Blake North America, and a new practice area operating under the name Foundation by Lawrence Blake. Lawrence Blake North America was conceived after realizing our home office was becoming overwhelmed. Prior to the launch of Lawrence Blake North America, our firm’s home office in New York City handled all of our client accounts in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and our regional divisions in Europe, the Middle East, the Asia Pacific region, and the Latin Americas handled client account in their perspective geographic regions. The launch of Lawrence Blake North America helped to alleviate any feelings of being overwhelmed, better allocate our resources among all accounts, and called for a new chief executive appointment. In 2015, Damila Howard, an outstandingly talented woman, who has been with the firm since day one, was promoted to Chief Executive Officer of Lawrence Blake North America. Thanks to the dedication and support of Damila and her staff, we were able to bring on twenty-two new client accounts to Lawrence Blake North America, and have spearheaded a growth of just over 200% in sales revenue for the firm as a whole. I know that this is a direct result of our expansion of service offerings and geographic reach.
The opening of Lawrence Blake North America has allowed our firm to begin putting in place the framework for a new global headquarters, which is planned to open in New York City in 2016. With the opening of our global headquarters will come the naming of a Global Chief Executive, a Chief of Staff, and a Director of Corporate Communications. More details will be shared later this year.
Foundation by Lawrence Blake was founded in late 2015, and has had a dramatic impact on our firm. Foundation offers strategic global communications management for organizations aiming to reach foreign markets. Foundation provides clients the ability to develop and execute public relations, corporate communications, and digital marketing initiatives globally, while dramatically maximizing budgets of any size. Foundation allows for a seamless unification of resources within Lawrence Blake Group Int’l.’s growing global network, with regional divisions in the Asia-Pacific, Europe, North America, Latin America, and Middle East. Foundation uses innovative technology to allow clients to keep track of their progress overseas, with up-to-date analytic information on all of our efforts, alongside educational resources to help you learn the new markets you’re venturing into, and around the clock media monitoring to keep a pulse on the conversation happening about your organization. Client’s are able to access this information from their personalized client portal via our website and mobile app.
Foundation brings together all of the resources at the firm to help clientele reach sizable goals in multiple countries. Foundation offers two contract options: a six-month $25,000.00 partnership, and a one-year, $40,000.00 partnership. Six-month partnerships renew at the base price, and one-year partnerships renew with a 20% discount on the second year. Organizations who work with Foundation enjoy access to their account advisor five days a week, up to five hours a day. Travel and accommodations are commonly included in the base contract price. I truly believe that our pricing at Foundation is comparable to the costs an organization would incur if they hired an experienced full-time communications director. In fact, our firm helps to lower staffing costs. Our clientele receives the benefits of a full-time communications director, plus a team of dedicated staff to see our projects to success.
Since it’s debut, five of our client’s who have been with the firm for more than three years each, have decided to switch over to Foundation from other practice areas. We are thrilled and so thankful for the support of our clientele, and look forward to sharing details on successes resulting from the strategic efforts at Foundation. In 2016, my staff and I are working to develop this new and powerful arm at the firm, and we look forward to keeping you all in the loop.
Without the creativity, drive, and dedication of our clients, our firm would have nothing. Every initiative we pilot is executed with integrity, knowing that there is always more at stake than any one effort. When looking back at 2015, one client stands out, in that what he was able to share with me was more than just a new account, but decades worth of real experience as a leader in his field. Toward the beginning of the year, I met Mr. Stephen Rocco, a veteran New York-based entrepreneur active across multiple industries. Stephen was in the midst of opening a new business, and hired the firm to develop some of the most creative and well, fun marketing initiatives I’ve ever seen in his industry. Five months into our work, Stephen presented me with an opportunity to work alongside him at his new business as management staff. Until we recently finished up with this project, I spent the past few months doing the work of my dreams, and learning more than I could have ever imagined. During the time I was able to work with Stephen, I’ve learned how to lead with integrity, serve with humility, and make the tough decisions that come with being a founder. Thank you Stephen, for offering me an opportunity of a lifetime. Thank you for your kindness, love, and lessons that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supported the work of the firm in 2015 and into the new year. Thank you Cassandra Pryor, John V. Amodeo, Blake Isbell, Gibran Ramjan, Suzanne D’Addario Brouder, Martin Berrios, Carl and Sherry Campagna, Chesney Snow, Adam Matta, Sean Nowell, Rafael Cortes, Senator Susie Chun Oakland, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Governor David Ige, Senator Will Espero, Councilman Corey Johnson, Councilman Mark Levin, Public Advocate Letitia James, Giovanni D’Amato, Frank McHugh, Joseph Hargrave, Ignacio Lehmann, Vergel Jepas, Misty Kela’i, Erica Lee, Joyce Lee, Michael Zussman, Morgan Spatafore, Mreeuh Chang, Pauline and Nicholas Navales, Netty Polanco, and Katherine Hernandez.
L. Blake Harvey
Founder, Lawrence Blake Group Int'l.