Keen on KEEN

Posted by | April 14, 2011 | General | No Comments

Can shoes help make the world a better place?

Why, of course they can!

This past Sunday afternoon, James Curleigh, CEO of KEEN, Inc., opened his headquarters and shared his company’s vision with around 25 folks who’d just attended SVN’s Spring Gathering.  Longtime SVNer, Julie Lewis, helped arrange the KEEN tour for us (thanks, Julie!).

KEEN got its name from it’s co-founder, Martin Keen (who just happens to have a great last name).  Along with Roy Fuerst, Keen created KEEN in 2003 to:


(1) create a routinely fun workplace in a company that would be true to the core values of its employees — whom it would continually support, while also being conscious of the environment and active in its local community; and

(2) constantly innovate and make each product line better than the last.[/framed_box]

I recently wrote about John Miles‘ perception of a corporate ethos, which he defines as “values it would not abandon even for competitive advantage.”  KEEN’s ethos is Create, Play, Care.  And it shows.

KEEN creates.  KEEN shoes began out of a practical need for a sandal with toe protection.  I bought my first pair of KEEN shoes in 2005 for that very reason — I wanted a sturdy lightweight sandal to wear while hiking the steep mountain trails around my home at Lake Tahoe, as well as while swimming in the lake.  I still wear that first pair of KEENS, even after hiking almost the entire the Tahoe Rim Trail in them, save for the parts on which I wore my Sorel winter boots.

KEEN plays.  In KEEN’s HQ, there’s a drum kit, guitar, bass and keyboard in one corner (played by the “Unofficial KEEN jam band”) and a foosball table in another.  There also are cubbies, in which employees are encouraged to drop their cell phones, iPads, and other communication devices when they go on recess.  That’s right folks, employees at KEEN take recess (at least 15 minutes a day)!  Now, who wouldn’t want to work for KEEN?

KEEN cares.  It cares about its employees, its community, and the planet.  The shared work spaces in KEEN’s HQ are made out of recycled materials.  Each internal team works together to design their own common meeting space, which have much more in common with most living rooms than board rooms.  Did I mention they also takes recess?!?  Last year, KEEN opened a manufacturing plant in Portland, Oregon.  Although this was done in part to thwart counterfeiting, it provides numerous obvious community benefits to the City of Portland and its residents.  In 2004 after the Indian Ocean Tsunami, KEEN donated its annual advertising budget of  $1,000,000 to tsunami relief efforts, explaining to their customers why they wouldn’t be hearing from KEEN for a while.  The ripple effect of KEEN’s generosity resulted in media affection and other accolades, creating a virtuous circle.  KEEN donates 50,000 pairs of shoes annually, in addition to making cash donations to non-profit partners that share its philosophy of caring, conscience and sustainability through its Hybrid.Care program. Starting this year, KEEN plans to raise $1,000,000 for microloans, beginning in the Gulf Coast.  A portion of each sale of KEEN’s new Santiago shoe will be donated to Kiva to fund microloans.  Cooler still . . . this new line of shoes will be vulcanized using antique hand-operated machines that require no glue or other toxic chemicals, making them healthier for workers and the planet.

Like Patagonia, KEEN has a community of fans, myself included:

[iframe] It’s not hard to see why!  KEEN is another brand that other folks and I evangelize.  What brands do you evangelize?  Even more importantly, who evangelizes your brand?

When you make a solid product in a fun and caring atmosphere, your fans will help you market it through their stories.  If everyone tells a friend, who tells a friend, who tells a friend . . . the virtuous circle will reward you — the brand owner — with loyal consumers who want to help you succeed.


About Lara

Lara Pearson is a trademark attorney with Exemplar, where she also serves as the firm's Sustainability Steward. Lara's legal practice focuses on trademark and copyright law, including: intellectual property audits; trademark search & clearance; trademark and copyright registration & maintenance; intellectual property transfers; transactional work; and dispute resolution, including litigation when necessary. Lara primarily represents other social enterprises -- those leveraging their businesses and brands as catalysts for positive social and environmental change. Such businesses engage in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to have a positive "triple bottom line" of people, planet and profit. As Exemplar's Sustainability Steward, Lara works with others in her law firm to measure and reduce the firm's carbon emissions and encourage engagement in social responsibility initiatives, including pro bono legal work and volunteering. Lara is a proud member of the Social Venture Network. Brand Geek is a member of 1% for the Planet and a Certified B Corporation, whose Incline Village office is certified under the regional Keep the Sierra Green program. Exemplar Companies is the most innovative professional services firm in the New Economy. Our unique, diversified expertise spans the disciplines of corporate law, business advisory, and capital/investment banking to better meet the needs of our high-potential customers. We have assembled a comprehensive suite of service to meet the complex issues facing companies in today’s challenging business environment. Our unique, holistic approach ensures the growth and success – and greatly increases the competitive advantage - of our customers. The Exemplar team is comprised of knowledgeable, highly skilled experts in a wide range of industries and disciplines. They work closely with our customers to provide trusted advice, incomparable support, expert guidance and the ultimate competitive advantage as they accelerate their businesses and position themselves to transform industries.

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