A Make-A-Wish Holiday Story
It’s not every year that Christmas falls on the same day as a new Renegade Thinkers Unite episode, so this one is extra special. The show focuses on the story of Keane Veran, a cancer survivor who, while undergoing treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) as an 8-year-old, was asked by Make-A-Wish to wish big.
And wish big he did. In 2011, Keane and his family, including his older brother, Shaun, were flown to Washington DC to meet President Obama, in the White House no less. Nearly a decade later, this moving story about making a young boy’s wish come true is truly powerful—it not only motivated Keane to keep on fighting, but it’s the foundation that inspired the Veran brothers to start a wellness brand with a business model based on goodwill.
A portion of every purchase from their company, Ouragami (OURA), goes to making a wish come true. It’s a lesson in generosity that B2B and B2C companies alike can benefit from. Tune in to hear how marketers can play a very vital role in helping both OURA and Make-A-Wish help kids reach their biggest dreams, with advice and inspiration from Keane, Shaun, and the CEO of the Make-A-Wish chapter in Orange County and the Inland Empire, Gloria Crockett.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode
- How Make-A-Wish helped a young boy meet President Obama
- Why all brands should adopt a goodwill business model like OURA’s
- How marketers (you) can help Make-A-Wish and OURA
Renegade Thinkers Unite, Episode 220 on YouTube
- OURA’s story: https://ouragami.org/story
- Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope
- Additional Make-A-Wish Resources
- [0:27] 10-year-old Keane Veran’s Wish
- [6:18] Highlights of Meeting President Obama
- [10:51] How the Make-A-Wish Helped The Veran Family
- [14:45] How Marketers Can Participate in Make-A-Wish
- [22:30] Developing Antimicrobial Hats and Launching OURA
- [28:33] How OURA Integrates Make-A-Wish in its Business Model
- [31:21] How You Can Help OURA
Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Keane & Shaun Veran and Gloria Crockett
[0:27] 10-year-old Keane Veran’s Wish“It's a memory that we will never forget, and it’s something that really changed our outlook and how we really see and how we really wanted to approach and defeat my battle with cancer.” -Keane Veran @ouragami_ Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Thinkers! I wonder what your wishes are right about now. Are they pragmatic—like wishing you’ll get the budget you need to grow your business, or are you wishing you’ll meet your numbers so that you’ll get your bonus and your team will get the raises? Good wishes. Are they personal—like wishing you’ll get some time off with your family over the holidays or just some time off to relax and clear your head? Are they societal—like wishing our country could find a way to be less divisive and remind ourselves that we have a lot of things in common?
I don’t know about you, but I’m really wishing that 2021 is the year of the hug. When we can actually reconnect the way we took so for granted prior to the pandemic. Well, if you haven’t figured it out by now, this show is about wishes, wildly improbable wishes, wishes that, as you’ll learn, actually came true.
It’s a big story and to tell it we actually have three guests. We have Keane and Shaun Veran, who are the co-founders of OURA, a company you’ll learn a lot about in a few minutes, and Gloria Crockett president and CEO of Make-A-Wish of Orange County and the Inland Empire, which is in my home state of California. First of all, welcome all three of you to the show.
A couple of things: If you’re actually listening to the show, Keane and Shaun are both wearing masks, which is the first time with that. So anyway, hopefully, the sound will be good, but Keane, this story starts with you. It’s 11 years ago—I’m thinking it’s 2009—and I watched the very powerful video on your website, and in the show notes, we will link to the video, which is really well done by the way. Take us back to when you were 11 and what was happening in your life.
Keane Veran: I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in November of 2008, so at the time I was in fifth grade. I was just a standard normal kid in an elementary school, playing sports, and I started to realize that I was running out of breath really easily. I went from running through a field back and forth for soccer to catching my breath after 5 to 10 steps. I knew something was wrong, so we went to doctors and they did some tests, and then a few weeks later they had me hospitalized because my blood count was so dangerously low. During that period, they started running more tests as I was getting blood transfusions.
It was after those two weeks when the doctors finalized what was wrong with me. And I remember seeing my parents get pulled aside and they talked to my mom, my dad, and I just remember seeing how shocked and how much pain they were in immediately. I noticed my mom was holding back tears after talking to the doctor and it took me so long to really understand and process what it meant to have cancer.
Even though I knew something was wrong with my body, I didn’t understand the impact or how severe my illness was. I think for the first month or two, it was easily one of the hardest things just to adjust to. I went from being in a classroom with my peers to having to sit in a chair hooked up to needles and getting treatment in a pediatric oncology every day like a 9-5 job.
Drew Neisser: Let me ask you a question just to give us an idea. How long was the treatment period from the time that you first were treated to, I guess that we’ll call it, when you were cancer-free?
Keane Veran: Yeah, so actually, I had active cancer cells in my body for 6 months, and then after that period and went into remission, which was another 3 years of treatment and then took another 5 years after that to be declared officially a cancer survivor.
Drew Neisser: So that’s 8½ years.
Keane Veran: About, yeah.
Drew Neisser: At some point along the way during your treatment, you make this wish. How old were you when you made that wish?
Keane Veran: I was, I think, 10 years old when Make-A-Wish first approached me about the concept. My family had never heard of the organization before and so they talked about what it was, and the possibilities are endless. After a lot of careful deliberation and a lot of thinking, I decided that I wanted to meet President Obama, and for a 10-year-old kid that was no easy feat to do.
It actually took two years for my wish to get granted, so during those two years, I was just waiting. I was just really hopeful for that wish to come true, and then in 2011, it finally came true. It was just something that I never would have never expected, and that experience was just so rewarding and so re-energizing and it gave me a new hope to really overcome my cancer.
That wish was something that Shaun and I always will have. It’s a memory that we will never forget, and it’s something that really changed our outlook and how we really see and how we really wanted to approach and defeat my battle with cancer.
[6:18] Highlights of Meeting President ObamaKeane Veran on meeting @BarackObama: “I remember one of the things he said to me, it was, ‘It’s kids like you who make me proud.’” @MakeAWish @ouragami_ Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: There’s a couple of things that come to mind is as you’re talking about this story, and one is the audacity of that wish. I happen to be listening to President Obama’s memoir right now, and of course, he wrote the book The Audacity of Hope— Imagine, I think any of us would have wanted to have met him, but to be a 10-year-old and to wish that is really an extraordinary thing. And I have to say that if there’s an inspiration, one, for anybody listening here, man, wish big.
Wish big because the worst that happens is it doesn’t come true, but you wished big, and oh my gosh. I want to hear about that experience. I feel like, because I’m listening to the book right now, he’s in my ear. It’s a 24 hour listen, just so you know, and I’m only three hours into it, but after three hours of hearing his voice, you feel like he’s right over on your shoulder.
Talk about going into the Oval Office. What are the highlights for you of that?
Keane Veran: Oh my god, there are so many highlights of that wish alone. We spent a week in Washington, DC. I was in middle school at this point when my wish was coming true, and the best thing about Make-A-Wish wishes is that you never know when they’re going to happen. They’re always planned to be some grand surprise.
I remember it was during my spring break in middle school. My dad said, “Oh, we’re flying out to Washington DC,” and our family never traveled, so that was already like a big indicator, but it didn’t occur to me. It was only when we landed, and we checked into our hotel that my dad told me that we’d be going to the White House the next morning.
And that was when it finally clicked. I was like, oh my gosh, after two years, it was just so incredible to realize that. When we went to Washington, we went to the White House, we went through the tour and after the tour ended, we were just sitting outside of a hallway and they said that we’d be meeting him very shortly after.
Then a wall opened, and we walked through, and I found myself in the Oval Office staring up at this tall figure. I didn’t even realize how I was just so in shock, in such awe. It was all coming to fruition after waiting for so long. I think everyone sees what the Oval Office looks like, and it was exactly like it was on TV.
It was just incredible to see, and I was a short, chubby kid, so staring up at President Obama was just incredible. I was so intimidated at the same time, but after talking to him, it was just such a magical moment. Ironically, it was almost like a blur. It felt almost like a dream talking to him.
I remember one of the things he said to me. It was, “It’s kids like you who make me proud.” For me, those were the words I will always have. After that meeting, we saw take him off on Marine One and there are so many other incredible moments we had in Washington, DC.
Drew Neisser: I’m just imagining, because again, having listened to him, he talks about his kids in a way that a devoted father, not a president, would. I imagine he was just remarkably personable. You just felt like he was actually paying attention to you despite whatever was going on in the world at the time for him.
Keane Veran: Yeah, it was actually during the time where the government was on the verge of a shutdown when he saw us. I think that really just adds to the character of who he is. As you can imagine, a conversation with a 10-year-old isn’t going to be an amazing, incredible thing, but he took me so seriously and he took me for every word. It was something that really felt emotional and so empowering just to talk to him.
Drew Neisser: Now, the photos that are in the video are amazing. And by the way, you don’t look chubby. He is tall. He’s 6’1”.
[10:51] How the Make-A-Wish Helped The Veran Family“We had a lot of support from complete strangers…and we got to interact with so many nonprofits just like @MakeAWish who were able to do amazing things for Keane during this time when we really needed it.” -Shaun Veran @ouragami_ Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: But also, how cool was it that your little—because you’re the older one, right? I mean, that your little brother got to do this.
Shaun Veran: It was amazing that he was allowed to go and experience this wish. And I was so shocked that we were able to be a part of it too and go and visit him in the Oval Office. For me and our family, it was just incredible to see how excited he was as well just to be talking to President Obama and touring the entire White House. I think it was just so amazing to see that version of Keane because it was so different, I think, from some of the time that we had at home when he was going through cancer. I think, experiencing the wish, we saw just how much power it really gave him in his cancer journey.
Drew Neisser: I imagine it must have been very hard on you. This is your little brother, right? Your younger brother. What’s your age difference?
Keane Veran: We’re 6 years apart.
Drew Neisser: 6 years apart. Yeah. I have two older brothers and one who’s 6 years apart. That’s a big gap. It is. And then I noticed in the picture, you’re like here and he’s like here. But it must have been really hard on you and the family too, because you all go through this together, and suddenly all this air in the room is being sucked up in a sense, but Keane, it must have had an impact on you as well.
Shaun Veran: Yeah, I think it’s very difficult for our entire family to undergo this experience. Cancer really just changes your entire life for the family unit because your days just become going to the hospital to make sure Keane is okay and make sure he gets the proper treatment. We had a little station even in our house that you can consider a large first aid kit with all of the stuff he needed for his cancer regiment that we had to do at home, which was all his medication and hit bandages.
It was hard for us, I think, just to be able to change to this new life, but also have his life be in such danger at the same time. It was really scary for everyone, but I think what gave us a lot of hope was that everyone that we knew really rallied around us and there was just such an outpouring of support from our community, like our friends and our extended family.
But more than that, I think it was we had a lot of support from just complete strangers who were just wanting to help us, and we got to interact with so many nonprofits, just like Make-A-Wish who were able to do amazing things for Keane during this time when we really needed it.
Drew Neisser: We’ll move on to the thing, but I’m thinking about you. You’re 17, your younger brother’s 11, those are the years where you’re really supposed to be buckling down and getting ready for college. How could you not have been distracted? Did you go right to college at 18 like you would have planned?
Shaun Veran: Yes, I did. I went to college when I was 18. Actually, we went on his wish during my first year of college. I remember when my dad gave us the call. I was in my third week of school and we had midterms the next week, and he was like, “What are you doing next week?” I was like, “Oh, I have school, of course.” He’s like, “Well, try and get out of it because we’re going to Washington DC next week. I had to scramble to get out of all my tests, but I took all of them early so that we can go experience this does once-in-a-lifetime trip.
[14:45] How Marketers Can Participate in Make-A-Wish“Especially now as we’re going through COVID, we need to continue to share that message and have people hear the joy of what a wish brings.” -CEO Gloria Crockett @MakeAWishOCIE Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Gloria, one thing that must be very rewarding for you is to hear these stories. And you’re doing this thing all the time but talk a little bit about how it makes you feel personally when you hear one of these stories coming to fruition, if you will, one of these wishes coming true.
Gloria Crockett: I think at first it makes me think about, wow, our mission and our vision is so incredibly powerful. I was listening to both Keane and Shaun speak and they talked about it being magical, they talked about being powerful, they talked about it being inspirational and all of those things. I sat here and I got chills, especially when you said you walked into the Oval Office and you looked up and you saw President Obama.
That’s such a wonderful feeling. I could feel, to a certain degree, what they were feeling from going on the wish. What’s so important about a wish is that hope is so essential. I love the fact that we’re talking with Shaun as well and the impact on the family because wishes are granted as a family unit.
The mission, of course, is the wish kids, and that was Keane, of course, but the whole family gets to have that experience because everyone’s been impacted. We want them to go on some type of adventure or whatever the smile is being brought to their face as a unit. And I think that’s so, so very important.
Drew Neisser: Yeah, I hadn’t thought about that, but it’s such a good point. And it’s one that I think has relevance to the broader conversation that I have with Chief Marketing Officers through this show and through another thing that I started called CMO Huddles. You could be working with somebody and some member of the family or something happens to someone in the group—it happens to everybody; it happens to all of them.
One of the things that has happened in this pandemic is that our lives, our work lives, and our personal lives, have merged. When there’s a challenge on a personal level, there’s a challenge on a business level and vice versa, and it’s so interesting that you all have made that decision to include the family. I think that a lot of managers and are thinking about that, leaders are thinking about, “Oh, wow, it’s not just an employee, I’m employing the whole gang.”
Anyway, we could go down that pipeline, but I want to just, for a second, as we talk about Make-A-Wish on a regional level, if I’m an Orange County or Inland Empire business or, frankly, I’ve got listeners all over the country and even some around the world, what is a good way for a business, a marketer, and these are broad-based organizations, to participate with Make-A-Wish?
Gloria Crockett: I think there’s a variety of ways. I think, first off, when you’re thinking about the family unit and the workplace given COVID—volunteering, it’s still very important. There are lots of campaigns that you can still do from home around volunteering. A big campaign that’s happening right now is our Believe campaign with Macy’s. Anyone can write a letter to Santa, and writing those letters helps bring funds to Make-A-Wish and allows us to grant wishes. So, volunteer. We need you, and you can look at wish.org and you can find out any Make-A-Wish location across the nation.
And I think also the other important piece of it is to help us tell our story. You’re marketers. I think that, you know, when you listen to this podcast and someone says, “Well, what did you do today?” You say, “You know what? I learned about Make-A-Wish,” and Make-A-Wish grants wishes to children between the ages of 2½-18, and their immediate family also join in on those wishes
So, what are those types of wishes? I wish to be, I wish to meet, I wish to go, I wish to have, I wish to give. These are all different types of wishes that are taking place. Some of you might say, “Well, how can you go anywhere right now?” Well, we can’t go anywhere quite right now unless we do it virtually over Zoom. However, we are doing tangible wishes right now.
Those are wishes that, you know, I want to go on a shopping spree. I want to have a splash pad. I want to ride with my dad driving in a blue Lamborghini, you know, there’s a lot of other things you can do.
So, tell the story. Let folks know that we’re right here in our backyard if you’re here in Orange County in the Inland Empire. Let everybody know the inspiration and hope that’s provided through a wish because studies have shown that parents say that their kids are much more engaged in their treatment and much more willing to get those shots and those needle prods when they know they have a wish that’s going to be happening after they finished their treatment.
Those types of things are so important, and when kids talk about what their wish did for them, they say, “It provided me hope,” and hope is so essential. ”
Drew Neisser: You know, I think you should run a leadership workshop because everything that you just said, if you replace the word “kids” with “employee,” employees need encouragement, they need wishes they need, they need something’s going to happen.
[20:30] Developing Antimicrobial Hats and Launching OURA“Everyone is looking for ways to keep themselves safer and more protected and healthier during these times.” -Shaun Veran, @ouragami_ Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: That allows me to transition because the story doesn’t stop here and that’s why I was so intrigued to be able to talk to the three of you. We’re going to fast forward to a few years back. I’m not sure. It may be the two of you, Shaun, Kean, you tell me. When did you start OURA? I know the backstory, but what year, and then I have questions for you.
Keane Veran: So, we launched in 2017 and it was actually the day I was diagnosed a cancer survivor.
Drew Neisser: The day you were diagnosed. Okay.
Keane Veran: Sorry. It was declared, not diagnosed.
Drew Neisser: Amazing. That’s literally 2008, so it’s nine years later, or 8½ years later. Amazing. Now, this is really important because it was your cancer experience that led you to this. Talk a little bit about what got you to—tell the hat story.
Keane Veran: Yeah, so like most cancer patients, I lost my hair through chemotherapy treatments, so I was wearing has to cover up. We kind of realized in general how filthy a lot of things are in general. As I was wearing hats a lot, you realize that they’re the perfect incubators for bacteria. It’s really rare that people wash their hats. and it was really hard to find a stylish hat that would stay clean, so that was just a problem that I faced in going on a low bacteria diet, being immune suppressed. It really made our entire family aware of how susceptible and how dirty things can really be beyond just hats, so everything from everyday items like jackets and towels.
It really made us rethink how we needed to take all these extra precautions to keep me safe, so when we launched OURA, we really wanted to start with a hat and that was something that really just hit home for us. So, we wanted to make products that were just cleaner and safer, so we just felt like the hats were the perfect thing.
Drew Neisser: First of all, amazing. How long did it take you to from conceiving, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a hat that could be anti-microbial,” from the idea to the actual finished product? How long did that take?
Keane Veran: I don’t know if we can really put a timeline to it. I think inventions are created when you face a problem, and they’re always answering that problem. I think early on that was something we all talked about and I think through the years, as I was going through remission, we always talked about wanting to do more and do good and create a company and create safer products.
Once I became a cancer survivor, that was just the perfect moment for Shaun and I to really just take the reins and just fully come in and start work.
Drew Neisser: So, starting a business is an act of bravery in many ways. What made you think that you could actually do this?
Keane Veran: I think there were no indicators that showed we could do this. We really didn’t have much experience, but just from my own career choices, I never liked science, so I think I always gravitated towards business and I think that was always what I wanted to do, really be able to give back and have my own business. I think, for me, I recognized that businesses are such an influential way to create change in the world. For me it was always something that I wanted to do, and having Shaun there as the smart, scientific one, I think it really made a perfect combination for both of us.
Drew Neisser: So, Shaun, this gets back to you go. You’re in college, you got some science degree. What degree did you get?
Keane Veran: It was microbiology.
Drew Neisser: Oh, Perfect. Now, was that an accident or were you sort of thinking—I mean, the connection from your brother’s illness to you studying microbiology, was there a link?
Shaun Veran: I think there was a little bit of a link. At first, I was debating whether I wanted to go into the health field and either become a doctor or a PA of some sort. I realized that it wasn’t for me, but I’ve always been interested in microbiology and just how bacteria and viruses interact with the immune system, and it’s essentially like a war on both sides.
I always found it so fascinating, and when we were going through his cancer treatment, this kind of topic was something that came up a little frequently about how we could make products that were a little cleaner. I would always think about that when I was in classes, just how you have human inner interventions that are designed in order to help our immune system fight better, so we were thinking, how can we incorporate that into more everyday items like your clothes? And that’s kind of how the idea was born.
I think we’ve had this idea since then, but it took us a little while to grow up a little bit and get more understanding before we can actually create something.
Drew Neisser: Just for folks listening, how old are you now, both of you?
Shaun Veran: I’m 28.
Keane Veran: And I’m 22.
Drew Neisser: 28 and 22. Okay, yeah, grown up. What struck me as you were speaking, Shaun, was the notion that you’re going through—first of all, you use the term “we.” That you, the family, we’re going through this, which is so true. But as you were doing it, you were thinking, “Oh, there’s a problem here, maybe we can solve that.” And I just think most people don’t do that. I just want to acknowledge for a moment the extraordinary nature of your thing. Most people would say, “Woe is me. This sucks. How do I get through it?” where you guys went, “Hmm, maybe there’s something we can do.”
So, first of all, I just want to applaud you for that and let the listeners realize, it’s extraordinary that you thought about that. I will also say that one thing that has happened—I just did an episode on the show where I talked about CMO’s silver linings and all of the things that—this was a horrible year, just a horrible year in so many different ways, yet so many good things actually came of it that it is remarkable that you had the wherewithal to find these things, and maybe they were a distraction, I don’t know.
So, you launched the company 3 years ago with hats. You’ve since added some other products, right?
Shaun Veran: Yes, that’s correct. So, we have hats as well as we’ve launched a skincare line, some aprons. Then we have masks that we released this year as well.
Drew Neisser: Good timing for masks. Yes. And how is the business doing?
Shaun Veran: I think we’ve seen a lot of growth this year in particular. I mean, we specialize in making anti-microbial products and we’ve been making it for 3 years now. What we noticed, though, is that this year we saw much greater demand for all of our products across the board. I think it’s in line with the climate that we’re in. Everyone is looking for ways to keep themselves safer and more protected and healthier during these times.
[28:33] How OURA Integrates Make-A-Wish in its Business Model“There's actually a Japanese legend: If you fold 1,000 origami cranes, a wish is granted. In honor of that, for every purchase, it helps to contribute to towards making a wish come true.” -Keane Veran, @ouragami_ @MakeAWish Click To Tweet “1 out of 3 individuals have been touched by wish.” -Gloria Crockett, CEO @makeawishocie Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: There is a goodwill component that links us back to Make-A-Wish. Talk about how that works and is incorporated into your business model.
Keane Veran: Yeah, so our experience with Make-A-Wish was such an influential and impactful thing for us, so that was always something that we really want to emphasize when we were creating a business.
There’s actually a Japanese legend: If you fold 1,000 origami cranes, a wish is granted. In honor of that, for every purchase, it helps to contribute to towards making a wish come true. Our name OURA is a play off the word origami crane.
It really just ties in line with how we really want to give back, and I think giving for us has always been something that’s been an emphasis for our personal lives, so we really wanted to make it a part of our brand identity to give back.
Drew Neisser: That gets us back to—Gloria, why don’t we get all businesses to be inspired and as enlightened as Shaun and Keane?
Gloria Crockett: Let’s do it. How you enlighten people, again, it goes back to storytelling. It’s being able to share the power of a wish. With OURA, they’re paying it forward; they’re helping us grant more wishes by helping through their customer support and their personal support to say, “We want wishes to come true. We want other families to feel like we did. We want to make sure that we’re bringing a smile to someone’s face.”
I think that’s so, so very important, and being able to tell a story like this? It’s amazing. I mean, when I first met them, it was a phone call this past June. I was talking to Keane and I was like, “Oh, this is great.” And then we met in person and I’m like, “Oh my gosh you two young men are just”—I mean, I wasn’t doing anything like they were doing at their age.
I think they have a lot to teach a lot of others. To show others that, when you’re in a place of doing something good through their company, the employees are fulfilled because they know what’s happening, they’re fulfilled, their family is fulfilled, and then the wish kids, they’re getting their wishes based on their efforts. I think that’s just you know so well rounded and what we can do is just say, again, tell more stories.
Let’s get out there because, you know, I hadn’t realized this, I’ve been with Make-A-Wish for 1½ years but, 1 out of 3 individuals have been touched by wish. I didn’t know that. I thought, “Oh my, let’s tell that story as well.”
[31:21] How You Can Help OURA“We’re looking to work with more people who can help us tell stories.” -Shaun Veran, @ouragami_ Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Keane, Shaun, your business is three years old. Most businesses don’t last that long. Believe it or not, a lot of startups fail in the first three years. Generally, they fail because they lack capital. Hopefully, you’ve got enough funding to get going. What would you say, as businesspeople, what do you think you’ve learned?
Or a bit different question, I think, because of the audience—and we’ll include contact information or ways that they can get in touch—what isn’t working for you right now that you would love someone from the audience to help with? Where you would say, “I wish I had somebody who could help me with this?”
Shaun Veran: Oh, that’s an interesting question.
Drew Neisser: Make a wish, please.
Shaun Veran: I think right now we’re in a spot where we’re looking to create more expansion in our portfolio. I think we’re looking to work with more people who can help us tell stories just like how Gloria said it. We want to be able to put out our story wider, and we think that we would love to work with more creatives who would be able to help us tell this powerful story and the stories of other wish kids, essentially, so that we are able to spread this word further about how much power a wish can really have.
Drew Neisser: Okay, so that sounds like influencers…
Shaun Veran: Videographers.
Drew Neisser: Right? It’s funny, I just did a LinkedIn Live show with a couple of interesting influencers. Let’s go back to, as you look at this, because what I love about young entrepreneurs is you just don’t know what you don’t know. And that is a blessing, believe it or not. That is an absolute blessing because if you knew all the things that you didn’t know, you’d go, “I’m not starting this. This is too hard.”
What have been some of the surprises and the challenges that you faced as you’ve gotten this business off the ground?
Shaun Veran: We can even go a little bit more recently for an example of one of the challenges that we’ve had. If we go back to just early at the start of the pandemic, this is in March or April, we had been developing our masks as we saw how things are playing out overseas, and we knew we had a product that would be able to serve a very important need at this time because we have a unique technology.
We believe we have a superior product and we’re made in America, so we had all of our product here in the country already. But the problem for us was just how do we get the word out? Our typical channels were advertising, but all of those were shut down to masks, essentially.
We tried Facebook. We tried Google. We tried SnapChat. We tried TikTok. We tried all of the channels and all of them were shut down to masks because these kinds of companies, they can’t tell what’s real and what’s fake, so they can’t tell the difference. They also want to prevent people from price gouging.
Drew Neisser: Right.
Shaun Veran: We had to take a step back and figure out how is it that we can utilize other channels in order to make sure that the people who need our products are able to get them. We had to take a step back and look to our email list and contact our existing customers that way, but also find other channels like press, or work with affiliates in order to push our message out there. I think we’ve learned over time to be very nimble and be able to move as flexibly as we need to in order to get what we need.
Drew Neisser: Well, I can tell you that every CMO that I speak with will use the terms “nimble” and “agile.” When they were thinking back on 2020, most of them, whatever plan they had in March 2020, scrapped completely. Completely, so you’re right in there and for a different reason—most of them had half their dollars in physical events. Couldn’t do that, right? You’ve certainly got it.
One favor for the folks that are listening. Can you spell your company URL just so they know what it is just in case, as they’re driving, they’ll be able to find it?
Shaun Veran: Sure, yeah. That’s going to be OURAgami.org.
Drew Neisser: Got it. And I love the little crane origami and all of that. All right. Well, I have more questions, but we’re going to wrap up, because this is the end of the year goodwill, and folks aren’t commuting, so right about now they’re finishing their run and they’re saying thank you to the three of you for such an inspiring story and giving back and just reminding us of the power of a wish. I’m so grateful to have been able to spend time with you three.
Keane Veran: Thank you for having us.
Shaun Veran: Thank you so much.
Drew Neisser: And to the listeners, I want you to go to renegade.com and check out the show notes. We’ll have a link to the video; we may even embed the video assuming it’s on YouTube. We’ll have links to Make-A-Wish on a national level as well as the Orange County Inland Empire version, so you can find out. I think there’s a lot of opportunities for companies to partner with Ouragami. Think about that. Maybe you want to get all of these hats for your employees as a special gift. I think there are ways that you can get involved from here, obviously, Make-A-Wish will welcome you as a volunteer.
I know I’ve been inspired, so thank you all for listening. And now it’s time for me to read the ending notes. So again, thank you, Gloria. Thank you, Shaun and Keane.
Renegade Thinkers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Audio production is by Sam Beck. The show notes are written by Melissa Caffrey. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro voiceover is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about quite possibly the best B2B marketing agency in New York City, visit renegade.com. And until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.