What difference can a cookie make? Or a shower curtain? How about a bag of compost? Over the past six years, ESC client Kidz B Kidz has shown that these products, and many others, can make an incredible impact in the lives of children. Founded in 2008, the agency was born out of a collaboration between Nancy Corderman, a textile and clothing designer, and Jan Weinshanker, who ran a ceramic dinnerware company, Droll Designs. The two artists bonded over personal medical experiences and a mutual desire to make an impact in the fight against cancer, and decided to marry their passion for art with a very serious mission of teaching empathy and raising money for medical research.
Kids B Kidz With art parties for children at the organization’s core, Jan and Nancy have led a movement where kids effectively learn, play, and practice empathy for hospitalized children, all the while creating art that can be made into various products like t-shirts, dinnerware, and hospital necessities. “It’s a very simple idea, but no one had done it before,” Jan said.
As the organization has grown, its unique mission has catapulted Kidz B Kidz forward, but with success came challenges that the nonprofit’s board had trouble navigating on their own. Jan and Nancy reached out to ESC for consulting services in 2011. “We got ourselves into a position where we felt like we’d hit a wall,” Jan said. “We were finishing our third year, and it was like ‘What do we do now?’ There were so many aspects of the business that had to be dealt with and we weren’t sure where to go.”
Even the most successful companies and nonprofits can benefit from a neutral, outside team’s help. “Nancy and I have long backgrounds and careers, and that’s a strength and a weakness,” Jan said. When three ESC consultants began the engagement, they found that board governance was a topic that would need to be addressed. The Board, Jan said, was disorganized and met irregularly; a sense of unity and commitment among members was lacking. The team decided to pose a serious question to all board members : Where does this organization make sense in your life, and what does your commitment look like?
Jan said the ESC team’s “straight-forwardness and gentle demeanor” throughout the process facilitated growth in a very positive way. Following this consulting project, Jan noted several positive changes rooted in better board governance including improved meeting regularity, communication, and recruitment. “The things that we’ve learned and the knowledge that was brought to us has really kept us on track for success,” Jan said. “We were very happy to work with ESC. This engagement let us know how much we’re able to accomplish.”
Since completion of ESC’s consulting project, Kidz B Kidz has expanded nationally and holds programs in five major children’s hospitals. The organization continues to grow its product line, recently developing a partnership with Brick Ends Farm Compost that features Kids B Kitz artwork, which generates funds that go directly to pediatric medical research. Through it all, Jan affirmed that ESC helped Kidz B Kidz direct its growth while maintaining the nonprofit’s mantra: powered by kids, mentored by adults.