Jelly is a marketing and PR agency that has taken the typically siloed disciplines of digital ads, social media, PR and seo and brought them all into one house.
While the approach is unique, there’s something else that makes them special.
They just recently became fully certified as a B Corporation in November of 2018, a monumental task that you don’t take on casually. In some cases, like Jelly, that step came many years into the business.
But a certificate is just validation – that’s not what a B Corp is about. In Jelly’s case, it’s formalizing what already existed at the core, the mindset, which is where the real story starts.
Simon Sinek says great companies “start with why”, and that the why of the company is the why of the founder. Well, Darian Kovacs, founding partner of Jelly Marketing in Langley, Canada, started his journey to create impact long before founding Jelly 6 years ago.
So what type of mindset goes into creating a B Corp, and how does it start?
Darian grew up in a small B.C. town, Tsawwassen, with one highschool and a community that had a little more comradery than the big cities of today. During high school, Darian came to faith, and it started to reframe how he thought about his entire life. Unfortunately, the formal conversations he experienced, even within the Christian community, were off-putting. He didn’t think the aggressive approach was welcoming to young people questioning the meaning of their existence.
This inspired him, at the age of 17, to start a small nonprofit that organized life and faith-based discussion groups for teens and university students. Naive? Perhaps. Confident? Absolutely.
In the beginning, Darian wanted to do it alone. He was confident, independent, and perhaps a little prideful, which kept him from truly asking for help. That
He started calling everyone and anyone he thought could help. Although, most people didn’t want to hear from a teenager with a half-baked concept. He persisted through, and even when only 10% of his calls were returned, those few people were the catalyst to partnerships and mentorships that opened his eyes to what a community can do together. He built an inspiring board of directors, mentors, and people he could lean on and learn from.
The importance of collaboration and generosity was being reinforced in his mind. A value that would inspire great work later.
“I really feel like, as long as you aren’t willing to be alone, you aren’t alone,” said Darian in an interview with Elevate. “Life is just so beautiful when there is a win, win, win.” But our mindsets are from more than one experience.
“I also grew up with a dad who treated everyone quite equal, whether you were a big corporate giant, or whether you were pumping the gas into the car,” Darian explained. “They were all the same to him. I think the idea is you can run a business where you can treat people equally, like those who are on the downtown eastside and impoverished, or those who are in corporate Vancouver, we all have our own needs.”
After selling that nonprofit to the Billy Graham Foundation, he spent years managing and starting organizations in publishing, technology, the fundraising industry, and on the board of nonprofits, creating win, win, wins. His focus on collaboration event went to the point of collaborating with a “competing” agency in Vancouver to start an event called the Canadian Internet Marketing Conference (CIMC). Unheard of in most business circles.
Darian took his dad’s example, and those early lessons, to live life thinking about other people. And while it may not have been a purposeful “strategy”, the culture of Jelly was very much born out of Darians thinking.
“What if we ran things at Jelly, where we’re always trying to think, how do we help the greater good?” said Darian. “How can we help our clients grow economically, and grow the economy in the area that our client’s businesses are in, and at the same time, for even PR reasons, how do we partner them up with the right charities?”
When thinking PR, Jelly focuses on the story that they’re trying to tell about the organization, but also what the organization is doing. Partnering their clients with nonprofits, or doing generous work themselves is a fantastic way to “do good” while also serving the needs of the client. And to reiterate his point, creating a win, win, win, a collaboration, makes life beautiful – for everyone. This is just one of the ways they act out their five core values.
Those core values, humility, prudence, temperance, fairness, and courage can be seen creatively placed on the Jelly website. It’s unusual to see courage mentioned as a value in companies, and it’s not easy to build a culture around, but to the Jelly team, it’s the most important core value.
“Everyday we need courage to make those hard calls, to keep going after the press, to pitch our clients to them. It means the courage to do the right thing, when ads aren’t going well, the courage to tell people and be brutally honest and to be transparent with all of our reporting,” Darian said.
Becoming a B Corporation, in this case, wasn’t actually a change of pace for Jelly (albeit a lot of work). This is because the mindset was always, “what if you could run a business, that put charities out of business?”
“What if you could run a business, that put charities out of business?”Darian Kovacs, Founding Partner at Jelly Marketing
The example Darian shares is that if you could have a business that, instead of dumping plastic into the ocean, and compensating by donating to an environmental nonprofit, that they would simply hurt their bottom line slightly, and not dump plastic in the first place. Are we challenging the status quo as a society? Perhaps not enough yet, but businesses with this mindset are trying.
Darian and Jelly have this symbiotic relationship between an innate sense of caring for others, and collaborating to be a part of the change together. Most people wouldn’t even consider starting a conference with a competing agency, but Darian lives in a generosity, and abundance mindset. “As I’ve gotten to know Christian (of Marwick Internet Marketing) over the years, we’re able to refer work to each other that’s not a right fit for our agencies.”
The future of work, and the future of our societies are community-based, generous actions. “When the tide rises, all boats rise”, as Darian says.
“When the Tide Rises, All Boats Rise”Darian Kovacs, Founding Partner of Jelly Marketing
But you don’t need to be a B Corp to act this way. In fact, the process of becoming a B Corp is daunting and precisely why it took Jelly so long to start the process.
“It was such a low priority, we’d rather be spending our time doing good work for our client, like doing actual work,” Darian laughed. “So we ended up finding a company in Victoria, Synergy that did the admin work for us. Synergy did the majority of the heavy lifting, they did like 90% of it.”
The Jelly team found they had already been checking most of the boxes, but needed to put it in writing. Or in a couple of cases, they were doing things a little more loosely where it needed to be defined and refined. However, “it’s a ton of work”, as Darian puts it.
If you’re looking to become certified as a B Corporation, his advice is… get this – to get help. Sound familiar? Even though it’s hard, it’s worth it to become a publicly recognized business in this way and help build up the perception of B Corps so that it sets an example to others.
Whatever you do, even if you’re not starting a B Corp, take a page from Darian’s philosophy and have the courage to live generously and do great work that helps all.