Along with many of my peers, I graduated from Pitzer College this past May without a clear career path in mind. I had hopes of finding a job that I could feel passionate about but had no expectation of achieving such a goal. Unsure of what to do upon graduation, I decided to move to the ski town of Sun Valley to pursue my passion of the outdoors and skiing. I had determined that living the “ski bum” lifestyle and skiing regularly would outweigh any career shortcomings in Sun Valley. Months later, I have to say this was one of the best decisions of my life for unforeseeable reasons.
Shortly after arriving in Sun Valley, a most magical sequence of events occurred. First: I failed to find any job during my first two weeks in the beautiful town. Second: Walking home from having a burger at a local bar, Grumpy’s, I passed a building with an ambiguous sign that read “PHGB”. Third: My curiosity led me to ask my dear friend Google what the heck “PHGB” stood for.
I quickly stumbled upon the PlayHard GiveBack website and discovered a company trying to “succeed by doing good”. I emailed the company and eagerly awaited a reply, desperately hoping that I might be given the opportunity to get involved. Two days later and I was at the PHGB Landing Pad for an interview. The two founders of the company were quick to inform me that they would be unable compensate me in a way that would reflect their true appreciation for my work. They welcomed me on board with the same low salary as the other three employees in the company receive and so my journey with PlayHard GiveBack began.
PlayHard GiveBack is a start up founded on the belief that social responsibility is an important ingredient for leading a meaningful life. The PHGB team aims to create a culture among athletes around the importance of giving back.
Our online fundraising platform empowers athletes by helping them pursue their athletic goals while also connecting them with a social cause of their choice. We strive to leverage the strong, global community of athletes who have the potential to redefine the world in which we live.
My experiences at PlayHard GiveBack, particularly our many roundtable discussions, have led my mind into countless rewarding, philosophical queries. We often debate our mission and vision and discuss how companies can succeed in this day and age by “doing good”. It is inspirational to sit down with visionaries everyday who continue to stay true to their vision even in the face of financial pressure and naysayers who don’t understand the PHGB vision. I am confident that our work environment and horizontal work structure could not be more conducive to success.
One of our main challenges is helping people understand that the value of PHGB is not our physical products, but rather the community, the movement, and the culture that we strive to create. While our trail mix and sports bars are healthy and tasty, their true value is in the PHGB message that they represent. Our team is not passionate about snacks but rather about helping athletes connect with and give back to meaningful nonprofits. It would be foolish to ignore the ability of cultural movements to act as catalysts of positive change.
I have come to realize that our model largely depends on the generosity of individuals. Our customers are loyal to us because we provide them a way to be part of a meaningful movement and to purchase with purpose. All of our customers receive a personalized, hand written, thank you note from the PHGB team. After all, we are truly grateful for all of the support we receive. It is consumers who realize the power of redirecting their purchases to social enterprises who strengthen my confidence in PHGB day in and day out. I have come to realize that my faith in PlayHard GiveBack does not solely stem from my confidence in our four person staff but rather on my optimistic outlook on people. The existence of Kickstarter and Rally Me are prime evidence of passionate consumers who believe in the importance of supporting change makers at the cost of shelling out a little extra cash. I truly believe that our generation is wising up and realizing the importance of supporting companies with values that are aligned with their own. It’s time that consumers realize that purchasing from companies they believe in is of similar importance to voting for politicians or policies that they believe in.
While our profits, or lack thereof, would far from indicate success, I would deem the operation a great success. The value of individuals coming together and striving day in and day out to do something novel is tremendous. It has been an education equally valuable to that I received in college and has re-instilled in me of the value of resilience, kindness, teamwork and passion.
It turns out my employers were wrong when they told me that they could not compensate me for the true value of what I would contribute to the company. While they are still unable to pay me a large wage, it is crucial to realize that there are other forms of compensation other than financial. The respect that I am given at work, the friends I have made along the way, the feeling of being part of something meaningful and striving to help others less fortunate has been compensation enough for me. I look forward to going to work everyday and that is undoubtedly a hard thing to put a price tag on. The emotional rollercoaster of working for a start-up has helped me remember what it feels like to go out on a limb and follow a passion.
The lesson that I have learned is the importance of evaluating the entire compensation that a job has to offer, not only the financial compensation. If you do, you may find yourself feeling more alive than ever like myself.
We have recently launched a Kickstarter to help us continue following our dreams of creating a culture among athletes around the importance of giving back. If you believe that athletes have the potential to create positive change by aligning with nonprofit organizations, please consider supporting our Kickstarter at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/playhardgiveback/play-hard-give-back