When William Jordan started tossing around the idea of starting his own ticketing business – one that truly stood apart from competitors – he knew he had to make a splash in the industry somehow. And the principles he admired most in successful companies – fair pay, providing a quality product at a good price, treating people fairly – were closely aligned with the fair trade business model. After building Seattle-based Brown Paper Tickets on this model 12 years ago, the company has broken barriers many companies never knew existed. Today, the company proudly calls itself the world’s first fair trade ticketing company, and it has only expanded on these principles throughout the years. Enter the company’s not-just-for-profit business model dreamed up by CEO Steve Butcher. “We were looking for a way to compete with the one or two big companies that run everything,” he said. “We wanted to go in and fix the industry – basically by going in and doing everything better, and charging less to leave more money in the pockets of our customers.” The challenge: finding a way to offer a superior product for less. But all it took was spending the time to listen to customers. “We’re in such a damaged industry, we just had to listen to the complaints that were out there,” Butcher said. “It all came down to transparency for us, and delivering high quality customer service.” For a company that lacked a traditional sales and marketing department up until a couple years ago, it was more important than ever to deliver a product people would talk about.
Rather than operating a traditional sales team, the company has armed itself with a team of what it calls “doers,” each inspired to take on a unique mission with the overarching goal to simply make a difference in the community. The company pays six full-time doers to perform work – for free – to advance their cause. Doers today operate in a variety of industries, ranging from alternative sports, comedy, music, radio/new media, maker-advocate, and an overall do-gooder, with the goal to make an impact on the everyday world. “We really believe as a company that it is important to give back to the community,” said Doer Manager Kelly Allen. “They ask nothing in return, but they’re there to help people and, as a company, we like to think that those who are helped will use us in the future.” Doers were chosen because they are experts in their given fields, and simply want to continue making an impact that they may not be able to make without another source of income. Tamara Clammer, doer, maker-advocate, has already made an impact here in Tacoma, with her Freighthouse Square revitalization efforts through the first annual Interactive Community Arts Network (I CAN) last March. The goal behind the event was to bring new life and energy to the building by holding a unique arts and crafts fair. “This was by far my favorite project,” Clammer said. “Freighthouse Square is such a special place to me anyway, and now we’re planning the second I CAN event with a strong core of people in Tacoma. I can’t explain how grateful I am to have the ability to help so many people.” Although it may not be possible to every business to pay employees to perform volunteer work on a full-time basis, Butcher has no doubt these efforts will pay off in the end. “Our job here is to make the doers into super citizens, and reflect light on them so people have access to them,” he said. “This is the benefit to the business.” Butcher hopes other businesses catch on to the not-just-for-profit model, and stress the importance of good citizenship in their own way. “I’d love to get other companies involved in the program,” he said. “Imagine what it would be like if we had an army of doers out there who are acting as corporate citizen-soldiers out there working for their own cause.”
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