It can be good business to do the right thing.
Lindsey Hendon of Agency Habitat was reminded of this about a year ago when reading an email late at night from a Plano company called Little Muffincakes seeking help with social media. Hendon didn’t know what Muffincakes was, but she was intrigued.
“I thought it might be a bakery or something,” said Hendon.
When she looked at the website and realized it was a children’s clothing and product line that seeks to ensure parents of color can find products that feature illustrations of children that look like they do, she was intrigued.
She then read the story of Muffincakes’ founder, Deborah Raney, and how, as a grandmother, she couldn’t find any baby products that represented what her grandchildren looked like.
Hendon called agency president and CEO Neil Foster the next day and told him that, even though Little Muffincakes likely didn’t meet the agency’s minimums to work with, she thought they could make an exception.
“I told him that I really felt what she is trying to do aligns with the vision and the philosophy of our agency,” she said.
In business since 1973, Agency Habitat had recently rebranded itself, changing its name from GCG and moving its headquarters to the newly designated Panther City District. A digital marketing and social media agency, Agency Habitat retrofitted a warehouse into a state-of-the-art agency space and opened an on-site full-service audio/video production center, Lowtown Studios.
Foster agreed to take on Muffincakes, and Hendon brought in Lauren Coleman, vice president of creative services.
They then reached out to Raney and told her their plans that went beyond just social media, including a brand refresh to help the company find more acceptance in traditional retail stores such as Walmart and Target.
“We do that for companies, so we knew it would be difficult, but we felt we could do that for her,” said Coleman.
Raney, who by that time had spent about five years building her company, agreed.
“We told her, ‘We’re not only going to help you with your social media. We’re going to help you with your brand overall,’” said Coleman.
Hendon said the agency, which has about 100 employees and works with companies such as 7-Eleven, Pfizer, ExxonMobil and Ultherapy, typically partners with companies to work on their branding throughout a whole product line.
Raney’s company, Little Muffincakes, has a mission to provide high-quality, inclusive merchandise with unique character art that reflects the diversity and beauty in children, Little Muffincakes designs and sells items from apparel to paper products and room décor that all feature diverse imagery.
“Debra and her business captivated the Agency Habitat team,” said Hendon. “There was no question that her mission deserved a full-service experience to help her get to the next level more quickly.”
They brought Raney in, and she told her story.
“As a mother and grandmother, I am aware of how important it is that our children see positive and encouraging images that look like them,” Raney said. “When my twin daughters and son were growing up, it was so difficult finding characters and products that were made with them in mind.”
Raney said Agency Habitat helped her develop a vision that helped make her brand better.
“They helped address my social media, making our presence more cohesive,” she said. “When firms like Agency Habitat work with brands like us, they can get a sense of pride about helping to elevate a small brand and directly see their impact.”
Agency Habitat’s creative team was hooked, said Hendon.
“I think we all just were kind of like, ‘We can do so much more for this beautiful lady who just quit her job and jumped into fashion retail as a retirement career,’ which is crazy because retail, it’s the hardest thing to get into,” said Hendon.
The team knew it would be a big investment of time and money, but they were committed, said Coleman.
“There’s some things you do because it’s for the business, and there’s some things you do because you need to wake up every day and enjoy what you’re doing,” she said. “And this was just one of those.”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing.
The biggest change was to the logo, and Ramey was hesitant, said Coleman.
“She hated it when we first showed her,” she said. But they walked her through the new logo and why it worked for the big box retailers the company was trying to reach.
“She got it,” said Coleman.
Then they needed to do some photos and videos, and most of the agency jumped in as volunteers for a Saturday shoot.
“We had to be really scrappy about it,” said Hendon. “We actually shot the shoot at my house in my son’s nursery before he was born.”
The agency called friends who had babies to model and used the parents as well.
It was all hands – and babies – on deck.
“We made it happen,” said Coleman.
Now, about a year later, Agency Habitat and Little Muffincakes are seeing some results.
“We are a small business with big dreams,” Raney said. “With everything Agency Habitat was able to do for us, we are well on our way to becoming a big business whose roots remain firmly planted in the cause of social justice and empowerment. Our rebranding not only caught the eye of new customers, but it also got us a critical new outlet for our product line.”
Little Muffincakes products can now be found on the company’s website, as well as a growing list of online national retailers.
“To see her boutique brand continue to gain national attention is a joy to us all,” said Coleman. “I’d encourage all agencies to find the time and resources to help small businesses that have amazing potential. Who knows? The next big brand could already be growing in your own backyard.”
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.