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When Ido Leffler, serial entrepreneur and CO-OP THINK 15 keynote speaker, launched the school supply brand Yoobi last year, he was betting that cool design and a one-for-one charity model could make his products stand out in the boring world of school supplies.

Leffler explained how the idea for Yoobi hit while he was shopping for his kids’ school supplies. He and his kids found the experience, to put it bluntly, pretty boring: “I remember as a kid, buying school supplies was an adventure: the composition books, the retractable pencils – there was stuff that was incredibly exciting to take to school,” says Leffler. In today’s world, there’s a distinct lack of vision and creativity with what’s available in the market.”

He discovered a second problem while visiting elementary schools. “I’d either see a classroom that was totally barren – it was like the DMV,” says Leffler, “Or, then you’d see another classroom with amazing color and vibrancy. I asked the teacher why, and he or she would say ‘I bought the supplies out of my own pocket.’”

Leffler looked into the situation and found a report from the National School Supply and Equipment Association stating that almost all U.S. elementary school teachers paid for classroom supplies out of their own pockets, with the average teacher spending $495 a year. Leffler found this information discouraging – and then inspiring.

Leffler built Yoobi on a one-for-one system, similar to TOMS shoes and Warby Parker eyeglasses. Each time you buy a Yoobi pencil or notebook, Leffler adds an item to a Yoobi pack to provide to a classroom in need. “Each pack has 1,000 items – crayons, pens, rulers – we worked with the Kids In Need Foundation to determine what kids needed. In year one, we’ll provide over 30,000 packs in the U.S. – and reach 750,000 students.”

Yoobi engages kids and parents through bright colors, cool designs, and most importantly, a cause. During his keynote at CO-OP THINK 15, Leffler laid out three business principles for social good companies:

  • Hire amazing people: Hire better people than yourself, fully aligned with values of the cause. Let them be part of the evolution of the company and they’ll do whatever it takes to accomplish the company’s goals.
  • Make an amazing product and provide an amazing service: The product/service will speak for itself, engaging your customers to sing your praises via word of mouth – the most valuable advertising for credit unions.
  • Have an amazing cause: More members will be drawn to your brand.

Credit unions have two implicit competitive advantages. First, they are relationship-based and care about their members. And, they can move like a speedboat compared to the slow, ponderous aircraft carrier mechanics of big banks.

Leffler urged credit unions to use these competitive advantages at every opportunity. Find ways to show members that you care, and implement these ideas fast. Why? Because you can. Also, let members do the work of promoting your brand for you. It’s not the people in your boardroom that will make your credit union successful: It’s the people in your community, sharing experiences about your products, services and relationships.

 

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