The Giving Keys: On a Mission to Pay It Forward

by: Scott Bakken

We recently caught up with Courtney Roberts, the Director of Marketing + Creative at The Giving Keys. We talk TGK (The Giving Keys), stories, advice, their new film and the future. 

1. Courtney, can you share more about your role and how you joined TGK?

 Courtney Roberts of The Giving Keys

Courtney Roberts of The Giving Keys

As the Director of Marketing + Creative, my role at TGK requires me to be both left and right-brained on a daily basis. My team manages all of the content and storytelling around our brand, and that happens through social media, online advertising, email marketing, strategic partnerships, product collaborations, and more.

A lot of people come to work at The Giving Keys in providential ways, and that’s how it was for me as well. I was at a TOMS event where I heard Brit, our President, tell the story of how TGK was founded. I was fascinated, and my love for the company only grew as I met our founder, Caitlin, and others who worked for TGK. When it came time for the company to restructure, I was approached about interviewing for the Director of Marketing position.

We deal with a lot of tensions in our storytelling at The Giving Keys as a result of our unique business model. I’m talking about the tension of being a cool, edgy fashion company and talking about an unsexy problem like homelessness. There are the tensions of wanting to share our employees stories of transformation, but not wanting to expose delicate information or make them feel like they’ve been permanently labeled as “homeless”. The list goes on, but in the end when it comes down to making a tough decision, we will always choose relationships over profit. Ultimately, these tensions are what give brands their unique value proposition and I hope we never lose ours.

2. What is the goal of The Giving Keys and how does it give back?

The Giving Keys exists to spread hope and inspire others. We do this by employing people who have been affected by homelessness to help us make our products. The reason we do this is because we believe that transformation happens in community, and that a job can provide a profound sense of purpose and a space to develop meaningful relationships. This means that we intentionally keep production and administration in the same building, so we can all be invested in each other’s lives on a personal, daily basis.

So we’re all working in a warehouse in DTLA together just a few miles from Skid Row making jewelry that is hand-stamped with inspirational messages. We ask our community to wear a message that they need to be reminded of, and then to pay it forward at some point when they meet someone who needs that message more than them.

This is incredibly powerful, because it enables every person to create their own story and purpose with our product. Ultimately, we believe this is what it means to give back to your customers and your community – creating an avenue for personal growth and transformation.

3. Can you share a recent story of a life that has been impacted by TGK?

These are my favorite. Our community writes us stories from all over the world about what happened when they gave their keys away, and we read their Pay It Forward stories at our Monday morning team meetings. Can you think of a better way to start your week?

We recently set out to film a video that describes our company and the magical, profound experience of passing on a key to someone in need, so we put out a request on Facebook for someone to come and share their Pay It Forward story. A woman named Ericka responded, and what happened when she came to our HQ was so powerful, I have to let you experience it for yourselves. Watch what happened next here.

4. We see some stars have been wearing you guys!! Can you name a few Celebs that have supported the brand?

There’s seriously too many to count! Caitlin was literally born into the entertainment industry and has done everything from acting to modeling to singing/songwriting. Her network and community of influencers in fashion and music has been a part of our rapid growth as a company.

We’re fortunate to have the support of many A-listers, and some of them who have been rocking their keys lately include Nicole Sherzinger, Olivia Wilde, Aaron Paul, Justin Bieber, Hunter Hayes, Lauren Scruggs, and Joe and Nick Jonas. But we also have a lot of friends who are more behind the camera, such as Cubby Graham, Andy Barron, and many of you at Socality who are influencers as well. 

Regardless of who you are and what area of influence you have, we want our relationship with you to be first and foremost about supporting you and helping you achieve your goals. Whether that involves STRENGTH, COURAGE, HOPE or simply that you want to DREAM, we are here for you in more ways than just a product.

5. What is next for The Giving Keys?

Up, up and away. When you’re growing as quickly as we are, it’s important that we’re intentional about which areas of the business grow and when.

The interesting part about having your impact built into your production model is that those things have to grow in tandem. The reason we want to sell more keys is so that we can increase the magnitude of our impact on the homeless community in LA. This also means, however, that our growth is contingent on finding keys and the right type of employees to make our products.

We are currently finalizing our 2016 strategy and I’m excited for all of the opportunities that lie ahead. In 2016, you can expect to see The Giving Keys creating a more robust impact program for our transitioning employees, introducing new products at a variety of price ranges, expanding into retail locations in other countries, and so much more.

6. Courtney, what is one piece of advice you could give a company when it comes to creating impact through their business?

Do the thing that stirs your heart and commit to the process, whatever it is. Then take it one step deeper, get as close to your impact as possible. Spend time with the people and/or places you want to help, be curious instead of condemning, and make up your mind to be solution-oriented no matter what.

for more about The Giving Keys | @thegivingkeys