Five Questions with WE

Quick conversations, perspectives and ideas from the world of WE

We call it the WE network: the dynamic mix of remarkable, funny, creative, wicked-smart people we get to work with every day. From client partners to journalists, visionary thought leaders to influencers on the rise, these are the movers and shakers that inspire us to keep pushing, learning and innovating. With Five Questions with WE, we’re taking a curiosity break to chat with some of these individuals about topics near and dear to our hearts.

“MOD exists to serve people . . . If we take care of our people, they will take care of our customers and the business will take care of itself.”

- Ally Svenson

ALLY SVENSON

Co-Founder
MOD Pizza

After founding and selling two successful businesses in the U.K. – Seattle Coffee Company and Carluccio’s Ltd. – Ally and her husband, Scott, returned to their hometown of Seattle to raise their family and soon discovered a need for family-friendly dining options that were fast, healthy and affordable. This ignited them to explore ideas that combined their love of business, people and purpose. The result was MOD Pizza. The first MOD opened in 2008 in downtown Seattle, and the “pizza with a purpose” brand grew from there. Today, Ally serves as MOD’s Protector of the Purpose.

WE: When is purpose more important than business?
AS: Ten years in, we are convinced that the success of our business is absolutely linked to, and driven by, a purpose bigger than our product or profit. We like to say that pizza is actually a front for this bigger purpose!

WE: How does purpose show up in your organization?
AS: MOD exists to serve people. Yes, in the obvious ways – we serve pizza every day. But perhaps less obvious is our belief that our job is to be of service to our people. If we take care of our people, they will take care of our customers and the business will take care of itself. 

WE: What three items do you always carry in your purse?
AS: Cookies, hair tie and hopefully a charged phone.

WE: In three words, describe your leadership philosophy?
AS: DEFINITELY, servant leadership!

WE: What other brands do you feel are doing “purpose” well?
AS: Encouragingly, more and more organizations are focused on purpose. A few that continue to inspire us - Greyston Bakery, Hot Chicken Takeover, evo and TOMS®.

“Purpose is the ‘why’ of your brand. It’s the higher-calling of your organization’s existence beyond making a profit.”

- Pat McNeil

PAT MCNEIL 

Chief Communications Officer
VSP Global

Since joining VSP Global in 2003, our client Pat has focused on helping the world see the value in eye health and currently directs the company’s external communications, social/content strategy, enterprise communications and reputation management. Recently, his team announced VSP Global’s Million More milestone that helped improve access to eye care and eyewear for 2 million people in need and shared the company’s new commitment to reach 3 million people by 2020.

WE: In three words, describe your leadership philosophy.
PM: Listen, clarify, act.

WE: How do you define brand purpose?
PM: Very simply, it’s the ‘why’ of your brand. It’s the higher-calling of your organization’s existence beyond making a profit.

WE: When is an organization’s purpose more important than business?
PM: The mission at VSP Global is ‘we help people see.’ By helping people around the world of all economic backgrounds gain access to affordable eyecare and eyewear and then hearing their stories, you recognize pretty quickly that our purpose is more than business.

WE: What was your first job? Any key learnings you still lean on today?
PM: In my first public relations position, I managed a statewide press conference designed to raise awareness about the appropriate use of antibiotics. I ended up cold-calling Bill Nye The Science Guy, pleading with him to come to Sacramento with the promise of a 4-ft paper-mache sneezing nose as a visual prop and he said yes. We were able to attract local, state, and national media. Anything is possible as long as you aren’t afraid to try!

WE: In one sentence, what’s the best piece of career advice you wish you could give your younger self?
PM: Nothing is off the record.

“My community is what keeps me going; every single story I hear is proof that I’m living my purpose.”

- Melissa Hartwig

MELISSA HARTWIG 

Co-Founder & CEO
Whole30

Best known for bringing the original Whole30 program to the masses, Melissa Hartwig is a FORCE of influence in the health and fitness world today. She is a Certified Sports Nutritionist, helping people change their relationship with food and create lifelong, healthy habits. A five-time New York Times bestselling author, Melissa has been featured on Dr. Oz, Good Morning America, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and CNBC and ranked #19 on Greatist’s Top 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness in 2018. Somehow, she has also found time to present at more than 150 health and nutrition seminars worldwide, and is a prominent keynote speaker on social media and branding, health trends, and entrepreneurship.

WE caught up with Melissa before she heads out to promote her newest book, The Whole30 Slow Cooker, which hits shelves on October 23rd, and features 150 all new recipes for your Whole30 and beyond.

WE: In three words, describe your leadership philosophy.
JH: Window and mirror. Whether I’m talking about leading my Whole30 community or managing people on my team, my philosophy is the same. When something good happens—a great media hit, a new partnership, or making the best-seller list—I’m a window, directing the credit and the praise through me to my community or team. When something bad happens—an error in judgment, a poorly phrased communication, or an unintentional offense—I’m a mirror, accepting all of the responsibility and personally making corrections.

WE: When is purpose more important than business?
JH: When your business conflicts with your integrity, fall back on your purpose to make the right decision. I’ve turned down many a “smart business” or lucrative deal because it wasn’t right for my community, and I’ve learned it’s never worth it to sacrifice my integrity.

WE: What ignited and sustains your work?
JH: My own experience with drug addiction and recovery helped me see all the ways that we use things (drugs, alcohol, and in the case of Whole30, food) to numb, comfort, and self-soothe. My own recovery and Whole30 results made me want to encourage others to start their own journeys towards health and healing. My community is what keeps me going; every single story I hear in DMs or comments or email is proof that I’m living my purpose.

WE: What three items do you always carry in your handbag?
JH: A grounding crystal. A meat stick. Lip gloss.

WE: What’s the one piece of career advice you would give your younger self?
JH: I wouldn’t tell her a damn thing. She’s doing just fine, and every mistake she makes is a lesson she’ll be grateful for later.

“Part of my work’s purpose is to re-sensitize people. It’s important to me that my illustrations get you to feel something.”

- Mona Chalabi

MONA Chalabi 

Data Editor
The Guardian U.S.

Mona is a journalist with a passion for numbers. WE caught up with her earlier this year after her keynote at Iconosphere, a consumer insights conference in New Orleans. Mona’s notable work includes writing and presenting TV shows for the BBC, National Geographic and VICE, and she co-created the Emmy-nominated video series Vagina Dispatches. Her accomplishments don’t stop there—she also illustrates data. The sketches she makes were commended by the Royal Statistical Society and Information is Beautiful in 2016 and can be seen on her website.

WE: Who do you look up to?
MC: Florence Nightingale and W.E.B. Du Bois.

WE: What ignited your unique approach to your work?
MC: Boredom, initially. Just doodling. It was also a feeling of alienation because I didn’t really fit into the data visualization community and didn’t want to play their game.  I think claiming something with certainty is quite a privileged thing to do, and it is more important to be humble about your spirit of knowledge.

WE: What does purpose mean to you? 
MC: I’m lucky to be able to focus a lot of my work on issues that matter to me. Purpose is natural and inherent when you care about the subject matter. Part of my work’s purpose is to re-sensitize people. It’s important to me that my illustrations get you to feel something.

WE: What's in your handbag?
CP: Iconosphere conference pass, notebook of ideas, lip balm, moisturizer, pencil case, broken headphones, fluff & debris.

WE: What app can you not live without?
CP: WhatsApp helps me connect with people who really matter to me.

Colleen Purdy, Experience Designer Airbnb

"Our purpose is creating a world where anybody can belong anywhere.”

- Colleen Purdy

COLLEEN PURDY 

Experience Designer
Airbnb

Colleen is part of a movement that is revolutionizing travel. At Airbnb, her team designs and builds customer service applications with the end goal of helping anyone belong anywhere. This past spring, Colleen shared her thoughts on design and collaboration with WE at our Design Week Portland panel event.

Prior to her time at Airbnb, Colleen created digital experiences at Instrument, servicing clients like Google, YouTube, Alternative Apparel,  Let's Move Active Schools and Nike.

WE: What keeps you inspired?
CP: Twitter. Netflix. I love watching stand-up comedians—they are incredibly inspiring storytellers.

WE: What values are unique to the community at Airbnb?
CP: We care a lot about our customers and about each other. At the heart of that is a desire to connect with one another, and to be empathetic and understanding towards each other.

WE: When is purpose more important than business? 
CP: Ultimately, purpose is what drives our business and the things we invest in. The essence of the company is built around our purpose, which is creating a world where anybody can belong anywhere.

WE: What role does design play in society?
CP: Design serves this role of connecting people—solving bigger problems and being able to understand the root cause of an issue. Design brings everybody along on the journey of solving problems.

WE: Who would your dream collaboration be with?
CP: Beyoncé.

Jason Hunke

“… Purpose lies in the emotional connection you build with your audiences. It helps create the enabling environment in which you can do your best work”

- Jason Hunke

JASON HUNKE 

Director, Executive & Employee Communications
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Our client, Jason Hunke, joined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2016. A strategic communications ninja, Jason has a knack for impactful storytelling and compelling brand initiatives. He’s done it all, working across founder and family-led, philanthropic, global, CPG and entertainment organizations. Jason leads a team that comes to work every day energized by the opportunity to contribute to an organization whose purpose is laser focused on equalizing opportunity.

 

WE: In three words, describe your leadership philosophy.
JH: Let others shine.

WE: How do you define brand purpose?
JH: My favorite definition of "brand" is that it is how people feel about and engage with an organization – it’s not about the organization itself. Further, purpose lies in the emotional connection you build with your audiences. It helps create the enabling environment in which you can do your best work - or even struggle to. The brand is the connection, not the thing itself.

WE: What inspires you when you go work and why?
JH: Anyone who is selfless, kind, and funny gets my vote. We need more of all three in the world.

WE: What book or podcast are you enjoying right now?
JH: One of my favorite recent fun reads was The Wolves of Winter. And for podcasts, I’m enjoying Sincerely X and Pod Save America.

WE: If you could be any fictional superhero, who would you be and why?
JH: I have always loved the Wonder Twins. They take on various shapes and forms to solve problems. A very useful and purpose-built superpower! Plus, who doesn't love siblings working together for the greater good?

More coming from across our network soon!