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Creativity and Collaboration: A Local Focus on Loving a Community

Just like individuals, B Corps have the greatest impact when they work in their specific areas of talent and passion. For Fig Industries, care for the community is job number one and through that passion, the environment, their team, and their customers all experience a positive impact as well. Recently, we sat down with Fig Industries’ Deb Brandt (Owner and Creative Director) and Matt Brandt (Growth Strategist) to learn more about their B Corp story.

ASSETS’ blogger Bethany Bachman talks with Fig Industries’ co-owners Deb and Matt Brandt

Fig Industries is a brand development and marketing company specializing in creative communications and strategic brand design for small and mid-size companies. They also produce Fig Magazine, a guide to independently-owned businesses in small towns across Pennsylvania and now South Carolina: Fig Lancaster, Fig West Chester, Fig Kennett, Fig Bethlehem, Fig Columbia, and Fig Aiken.

Founded in 2005, Fig’s mission is “Design for Good,” because they believe that one great creative idea can change a community. The company set out to lift up small, independent businesses in downtown Lancaster. As Deb recounts, “At the time, there wasn’t a lot happening [in Lancaster City]. My business partner and I decided to create a direct mail piece to help businesses promote themselves. We wanted to help brand the city by the sum of its assets; in other words, packaging the city for good.”

Many Lancaster locals know Fig by Fig Magazine, but Deb is quick to point out that Fig Industries is neither a magazine nor a publisher. Rather, she says, “We’re a design and marketing company that saw a need in the market and filled it.” She continues:

We market the city by allowing businesses to tell their stories. Because we create the content, we are able to help these businesses go to a different level than perhaps they could afford to themselves. [The magazine] is also being used as a revitalization tool for the city. Large organizations have used it to recruit businesses and professionals to come to the area.

Serving Local Nonprofits

What sets Fig even further apart from other similar businesses is the company’s philanthropic focus. As Deb explains, “Part of Fig is giving back to the community. Each year the magazine adopts what we call a ‘Social Mission Partner,’ that gets free advertising and also a portion of our subscription.” Social Mission Partners are chosen from a pool of local nonprofits nominated by the community.

Fig Industries also works closely with many additional nonprofits, offering them a reduced rate for services and sponsoring or hosting about 40 events a year to promote them. Deb says, “A good portion of our design work is for nonprofits. We also do a considerable amount of pro bono work through our design and marketing departments.”

All of these efforts are rooted in Fig’s core operating principle: Heart of Service. It animates the way leadership interacts with the team and, as a result, flows out into service to their clients. Deb explains: 

“I’m proud that the people in our studio are able to use their talents for the good of our community. I believe the most important way you can change a city is through creativity and collaboration, and we choose to work with organizations and other creatives that want to do the same.

The B Corp Experience

In the Spring of 2019, Fig Magazine worked closely with ASSETS on a “Business For Good” issue focused on the many ways companies can be a force for good in their communities. Lancaster’s social enterprises and B Corps had a special spotlight trained on them since, in many ways, they lead the way in positive social and environmental impact. Fig and ASSETS have partnered together in many ways through the years—ASSETS is one of Fig’s “Community Partners” and Deb sits on ASSETS’ Women’s Business Center advisory council—so it was an easy fit to work together on an issue that highlight’s ASSETS’ tagline: Business For Good.

It was through the creative process of curating the Spring 2019 issue that the Fig Industries team decided to take the plunge and become a B Corp themselves. 

Certification felt like a natural next step in many ways, but the level of documentation required during the process was daunting. “Matt took it on as a project.” Deb says, “He is good at that kind of thing.” 

Matt adds, “I don’t know how other companies do it without a dedicated staff member. It takes a lot of resources, especially time.”

Fortunately, Matt wasn’t on his own. The first step in any aspiring B Corp’s journey is to take the B Impact Assessment, the official tool used by the B Corp certifying body, B Lab—and offered through ASSETS for free—to measure a business’ social and environmental impact. “The first person you talk to at B Lab is the one who will be with you the whole way through. That made it easier to have continuity and to get accurate progress reports,” says Matt. “They were very helpful and understanding of our time constraints as business owners. They were also great with follow-up, explaining a lot of the process to us, and providing the answers we needed.”

Did you know?

ASSETS’ Impact Consulting department equips businesses with the resources and support to become Certified B Corporations. They also provide a free service to measure and benchmark the social and environmental impact of businesses, as well as offering tiered consulting packages that include customized recommendations, in-person planning sessions, and strategic project management. 

Because of the way Fig Industries was already set up, Matt and the team found that their certification went more quickly than anticipated. At its core, Fig’s mission is local, so even before they began pursuing B Corp certification, they were working with local vendors, which is an essential part of B Corp culture. Matt explains further, “The process validated what we were already doing.” 

B Corp and Culture

Even though B Corp certification confirmed established parts of the Fig culture, its impact continues. Matt says, “It has set a baseline for growth and change. It showed us how we can do better. We aren’t complacent.” 

Deb adds, “We are, I think, only the third publication in the nation to become a B Corp. The magazine is all printed locally and on FSC-certified paper. Moving forward, we are holding our vendors accountable, which in turn elevates others. There’s a trickle-down effect.”

Practically, inside of Fig, certification has affected many facets of day-to-day operations. Deb says, “We’ve allocated jobs for our team; for example, one of our employees is responsible for keeping a list of volunteer opportunities our team members can take advantage of. We have also made deliberate decisions, such as switching to recycled paper.” She continues, “It makes you re-evaluate what’s important. When we interview new hires, we share our core values and confirm they are on board. It’s clarifying to the whole process to verbalize those things early on.”

As they look back on the certification process, Deb and Matt share honestly. “It can be intimidating. You don’t have to be perfect. We scored really well in community involvement, but there are other areas where we know we need to challenge ourselves moving forward,” says Deb. 

Matt adds:

The assessment process was humbling, revealing where we needed work. I would say that even if you don’t make it the first time around, go back and try again.

As leaders of a newly-minted B Corp, Deb and Matt are excited to see what’s next for Fig and the community of B Corps they joined. “Every day, someone asks me, ‘What’s a B Corp?’ and I explain it. I think it’s so important that it becomes common,” says Deb. 

As they share the B Corp mission with others, they continue learning. Matt admits:

“I have always been the one who is pushing profit, and Deb is all about mission and purpose, but through this process, I’ve learned you actually can balance the two together.”

Ready to take the first step? 

B Corps are leading the way, but all companies—no matter the size, model or industry—can begin making positive changes today. Schedule a free 15-minute Discovery Call with ASSETS’ Impact Consulting Team.