From Founder & Creative Director Kim Merritt
Origin stories can tell us a lot about a business—why it exists, what it stands for and against, and what motivates the humans behind it.
The full story leading up to the launch of Goodera spans nearly eight years, but there was one pivotal moment in the summer of 2020 that I consider to be the "ah-ha moment."
Before we get to that, let me give you a quick backstory to what led me there.
A Quick Summary of 16 Years
In 2004 I started studying commercial art at Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio, before finishing my BFA in Advertising at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Since then I’ve worked at ad agencies in New York, London, and Los Angeles, creating campaigns for some of the biggest brands in the world. The dream was always to land the big-name client with the big budget and the even bigger risk tolerance for standout work. But as time went on, this dream slowly eroded away and evolved for a multitude of reasons.
After spending more than a decade in a cycle of ad-industry burnout, like so many others I found myself at the end of my ropes in the summer of 2020. The world was a few months into pandemic lockdowns, the country was erupting with racial injustices, climate change remained undeniable, and I was dealing with my own personal family hardships. With all of these real-world challenges happening, I was starting to feel like I was done with advertising. And with that I began to wonder:
How could I spend another day bound to my desk in endless meetings while my family needed my presence and support?
How could I spend another second selling meaningless products that damage the environment while the world was quite literally burning around us?
How could I continue to perpetuate interest in corporations who only have their own interests and bottom line in mind?
How could I spend another second stressed out about things that ultimately don’t matter?
In the midst of all these questions, it was one single client interaction that led me to a simple realization: I like what I do, I just don’t like who I do it for.
The "Ah-Ha Moment"
I was assigned to work on a campaign for a presidential incumbent who I did not agree with or support (I'm not trying to make this political, so I'll let you connect the dots here). His team was running ads on our platform and I was assigned to work on the campaign. I was hesitant, but I was also pushing for a promotion so I tried to handle it the best I could, without letting my personal or political opinions get in the way.
I immediately set boundaries by agreeing to provide information—meaning I would explain our company’s products and services, but I would not provide any original creative thinking. It was agreed upon that if it got to be too much or the ask evolved, I would tell my boss and we would pivot the project to a colleague who’d already agreed to step in if necessary.
During our first call the client specifically asked if we could run fake information in favor of the candidate. I froze, unable to hide my disbelief. Like anyone with access to a TV or the internet, I’d heard all about fake news, misinformation, and rigged elections, and I suddenly felt like I was in the middle of a potential news story. Luckily another colleague was quick enough to step in and pivot the conversation, shutting the client down while offering a more generic solution that avoided specific data or deception.
While perpetuating misinformation was avoided this time, it made me think—we were four months ahead of the election, which meant four months of political clients coming our way. It felt like with no guardrails in place on how we handle political clients, there was too much opportunity for things to go wrong. Sure, you want to trust your team to handle things in an ethical manner, but if even one thing went undetected, the consequences were high for everyone involved—including our country.
My problem-solving skills went into high gear. I took this as an opportunity to try and get ahead of what could become some larger, ethically questionable asks.
Coincidentally, our company had just sent out a code of ethics on how we, as individuals employed at the company, were expected to conduct ourselves on our private social media channels. They included some very basic guidelines like no hate speech, no spreading false information, make sure to credit sources, and so on.
I didn’t think it was too much to ask that if we were expected to adhere to these guidelines on our private channels, our clients should too when they advertise on our platform. So I simply copy and pasted the guidelines, but changed any mention of “I/me” to “client.” Now, political clients would not be allowed to run hate speech and to provide factual documentation alongside any claims they were making.
I presented this as a way to get ahead of any questionable asks from political candidates moving forward—regardless of their party affiliation. My team rallied behind me and applauded my efforts, expressing how they felt much more comfortable taking on political clients with these kinds of rules in place. My boss agreed to share this with leadership and let me know if/how we would implement.
Time passed, and I heard nothing. I followed up and was basically told that there was a lot of money on the table and they just needed somebody who could do the job. Without any further communication, I was removed from the project and there was no mention of political campaigns to me again.
While somewhat relieved to be off of the project, I was also furious—not only because I felt my attempt at leadership, and being a voice for the creatives on the team had massively failed, but because the previously agreed upon way of handling things had not been followed. I didn't feel I was being a nuisance or avoiding the work, I was simply trying to implement a more ethical way of doing it that didn't leave any of us vulnerable, with our names attached to potential blowups. And I was removed without any communication.
This wasn't the first time my attempts at doing what I thought was the right thing had gotten me removed from a project or job. While I can't prove that it was related, I had been let go from a different job shortly after advocating for equal pay for two women on our team—one in particular had been handling twice as many accounts as her male counterpart, but receiving a $24k lower salary.
These two instances helped me realize that at my level, my opinions didn’t matter. My ideas and ways of leading the team didn't matter. I wasn’t in charge so I had no say in, well, basically anything. I was just there to do the work.
That’s when I realized that if I wanted to do work that aligned with my values and beliefs, and work with the types of people I admire and am inspired by, I needed to have a say in what that work was. I needed the freedom to say yes or no to the projects I take on. And for the first time I thought that perhaps I'd make a better business owner than employee.
In an instant, the questions in my head had now changed: what if I devoted all of that time and energy working towards something that actually mattered? What if I focused on amplifying brands who are trying to make things better for people and the planet rather than just sell a product? What if I shared all of the skills and knowledge I'd learned from years of advertising for some of the biggest brands in the world, with people who are committed to inspiring real, positive change?
It was such an embarrassingly simple, yet powerful realization. I'd spent my entire career creating ideas and stories that persuade people to think, feel, and buy a certain way. Imagine the impact I could make if I instead used those ideas and stories to drive actual positive change.
I started Goodera that day.
The initial vision for Goodera still holds true today: to help more people do more good.
We do that by working with small businesses or entrepreneurs who use their business as a force for good. Whether they're fighting climate change by eradicating plastic, hiring people who typically face a barrier to employment, providing healthy yet affordable food to lower-income communities, or any other mission-driven cause, we're here to support those who are committed to improving things for people and/or the planet.
The way I look at it is this: I am only one person. There are endless causes and issues that could benefit from my attention. Donating my time or money can only go so far, but providing advertising and marketing services to help others achieve their missions—the ones that they fight for every single day—will have a much greater impact and ripple effect.
The Future of Goodera
From day one Goodera has seen early success and validation, proving the need and desire for both clients and creatives to do more good in the world.
In March 2022, Goodera was one of three $10k winners who were awarded a small business award from Wethos to help support our vision. Our 10% give-back program has allowed us to donate thousands of dollars towards food initiatives for impoverished communities, local schools, women-empowerment organizations, and college art programs.
While we continue to build our portfolio and highlight inspirational people and businesses who are doing good in their communities, we’ll also continue to build our network of freelance talent. Our ultimate goal is to create a whole community of like-minded, value-driven individuals who want to support one another, and create work we can feel good about.
As Goodera continues to grow, I'm excited for the inspiring people I know I'll meet on this journey, and to see what kind of impact we can all make together.