Danny Rosin is a pathological optimist who found his marketing and philanthropy career path after getting too many demerits in high school at Norfolk Academy to be able to graduate. To work the demerits off, he co-founded a service club called “The Happy Club” and created fundraising stunts that were extraordinarily memorable. Events like the Mismatch Contest, where students who had a dress code, for one day, could come to school in mismatched clothing, provided they donated to a cause. Winners won ridiculous prizes like a single ice skate. Funds were used to buy disadvantaged children Christmas gifts. Gifts were delivered in ring and run fashion; a prank turned into delivering social good. The Happy Club’s stunts garnered the attention of Operation Smile, a nonprofit that provides children with free cleft lip and palate surgery. And 35 years later, there are ~600 Happy Club style youth chapters globally, helping raise funds for Operation Smile.
Danny went on to cofound Brand Fuel, a free-spirited brand merchandising agency with Happy Club cofounder, Robert Fiveash. Danny also cofounded Band Together, a nonprofit that raises $1 million+ annually for unique causes using the power of live (and now, livestream), music. He consults with nonprofits whenever he can — at no charge, using his marketing expertise to help them approach fundraising differently.
CONSCIOUS ENTREPRENEURSHIP — What meaning do you give this term?
To me, conscious entrepreneurship is a call to action to business leaders in the for-profit AND nonprofit world. To drive more purpose in their work. To figure out how to positively impact society with an organization. To merge innovation with mission and caring. Caring, after all, is a great strategic plan. Cause-marketing also offers entrepreneurs a way to serve community as well as the bottom line. But invest in cause-marketing thoughtfully and transparently or you will be exposed by consumers who are watching, voting with their dollars and willing to expose frauds.
MENTORS — We all need a little help along the journey. Who has been an invaluable mentor for you? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
Both Dr. William (Bill) P. Magee Jr. and Kathleen (Kathy) Magee, founders of Operation Smile, have been 35-year long mentors to me. Initially, they believed in a demerit-getting prankster who was just trying to reduce demerits by doing fun service projects. They empowered me to be a leader of Operation Smile’s first youth group and to think big, which helped us grow the number of youth groups in schools to assist Operation Smile. They showed me the importance of appreciating my good fortune by exposing me to developing countries and to realize that even at 16 years old, I could positively impact the lives of children around the world. Can you imagine being a scrub nurse in a Filipino operating room at 16 years old? They taught me that in fundraising (and life) if you do not ask, you do not get. And that it was critical to invest in the relationship by offering mutual value. I am forever grateful for the support and love from both of these heroic go-givers.
It is important to note that Operation Smile revolutionized cleft surgery globally in 1982 and has improved the health and dignity of more than 300,000 patients with cleft conditions. Operation Smile staff, its private-public partnerships and thousands of volunteers have improved the health and dignity of patients with cleft conditions, helping them to better breathe, eat, speak and live lives of greater quality and confidence.
TO THRIVE — When you see yourself thriving: Do you see yourself opening up opportunities for others along the way to participate in your success, and how?
I have a LOT of ideas on how to improve the world, to grow business and to move people to a purchasing or donation decision. But ideas come easy; action is not. When I look back at my efforts, I am proud to see “co” in front of many titles: cofounder, copresident, cocreator. If I can bring passionate people along for the ride, from employees to volunteers to my children, I know that the work will be much more meaningful and fun and ultimately, successful. And when there is an alliance of meaning and fun, impacts and impressions are multiplied. Including others in the vision delivers a higher chance for long-term success not to mention, you will be creating a succession plan versus the death knell that is often the reliance of a one-person show.
The old African proverb is spot on. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
CAUSE — What are the causes close to your heart, and you are supporting right now? Can you share a story how you got involved? How did it make you feel?
I am the active cofounder of Band Together, which uses live music to raise $1 million+ for a different nonprofit each year and proudly serve on the board of A Place at The Table, a pay what you can nonprofit café in Raleigh, NC. But I am most proud of almost 40 years of volunteerism with Operation Smile. Once a troubled kid, I have found myself and path in life through the service of others. Operation Smile gave me a chance to lead and do so in inventive, fun ways. Bill and Kathy Magee saw the importance of alignment with kids helping kids but also that these young leaders would one day be the ones performing surgeries. Operation Smile instills a sense of empathy, gratitude and selflessness which helps make those who get involved become better people. Fast forward decades later and I am still involved with Operation Smile, raising funds, speaking to students around the world and ultimately, making a long-term difference for an organization I love that does impactful work. The work I am involved in with the Brand Fuel online store merchandising program will help with Operation Smile’s marketing and fundraising efforts. This melding of commerce and cause fills my heart. And I think that type of purpose-driven work is the future of business.
THE FUTURE — How do you see the face of entrepreneurship in 5 years? How do companies /brands need to adapt to secure their place in the future?
At Brand Fuel, we are witnessing our clients investing in the 5th “P” of marketing — PURPOSE. They are looking for sustainable products associated with giving back to causes that matter to them. Consumers are demanding an investment in social responsibility. Cause marketing efforts are increasing. It is a liability for entrepreneurs not to invest in their staff, their communities, and the environment. Consumers are watching and videoing and commenting thru peer to peer reviews. And they care and will vote with their dollars. So, know this — PR stunts often don’t last. Bake Corporate Social Responsibility into your strategic plan and invite staff and customers along for the ride. Companies must embrace a values-based approach in their marketing strategies.
ADVICE — What kind of advice would you like to give to an aspiring entrepreneur who feels limited due to their background or lack of resources?
I believe in the “Big Tent Philosophy.” When you are running into resource or skills-gap problems, look around you. There are people and organizations who want to do collaborative work. The more collaborators, the bigger the tent and often, the more impactful the outcome. As you look to collaborate, you must work hard to achieve mutual value. To start a collaboration off right, give before you take. Show before you say. Know that vulnerability is the gateway to the speed of trust. Without trust, you will not go far.
DRIVE — Do you sometimes feel bad for “wanting more out of life”, and if so, why? What is your personal motivation that leads you through the hardships of entrepreneurship?
I have a sense of agency and an anxiousness to always do more. This is both a problem and a gift. If I can balance important relationships like family as well as work with humility, my actions are sometimes shared by others. That third party validation and recognition by peers is the holy grail of entrepreneurship. Without that type of advocacy, you will work many times harder to get where you are going over a much longer period of time.
CHALLENGES — Entrepreneurship is very challenging. We each have our own coping mechanism. Mine is humor. What is yours? Can you share a story?
I have a bit of an “Imposter’s Syndrome” so asking for both help and validation is how I get through the work and achieve a sense of pride. I’d prefer to do collaborative work which can be more fulfilling with a better outcome. Share the work, share the glory.
YOU — Is there anything you would like to share that we have not asked you here?
We must reassess our values if we are to remain relevant as entrepreneurs. Use your business as a force for good.
Demee Koch about the MEDIUM interview series on CONSCIOUS ENTREPRENEURSHIP:
Conscious entrepreneurship for me is about building a sustainable business that values and respects the resources used and makes an effort of giving back to society.
I believe we need entrepreneurs to really get involved in the causes close to their heart.
This is why I reach out to entrepreneurs that aim for more than generating profit. With this interview, I aim to share entrepreneurial purpose-led passion to inspire others.
Looking forward to learn from you. Reach out to me via LinkedIn.