Last week I had the honor to visit the Art & Eden showroom in midtown and chat with its founder and CEO Susan Correa. Correa is the epitome of a girl boss. The fashion veteran's journey includes leading multi-million-dollar apparel operations around the world, co-founding contemporary brand Cooper + Ella and managing a global sourcing company for brands in Europe, the United States and Canada. Her new project, Art & Eden, is her latest cherished creation. The children's clothing brand exudes her passion for fashionably outfitting kids while feeding the less fortunate. When she speaks of helping children in need with her brand, Susan's eyes light up and become imbued with life. "Helping children is something I always wanted to do," she declares.
Two years ago, Susan's mentor asked her if there was anything in business that she'd like to do. She couldn't answer the question right away and told him she would get back to him. A few days later while commuting to work, she continued to see a leukemia advertisement on the side of a bus. It read "Someday Is Today." At that moment she knew she had an obligation to use her abundance to help children. Her first thought was to create a collection of clothing that would help feed a child in need in India. "I took the plunge. I launched not one, but two multi-million dollar businesses. Family and friends saw this as crazy, but I knew it to be necessary," Susan affirmed.
Her idea launched Art & Eden and the Empower program. For each Art & Eden piece sold, a child is fed. The program provided a warm, nutritional meal to children at the Hope Foundation School in Bangalore, India. Many of the poverty-strickened students came from families with an income of $50 a month. For some, the lunch served at the school was the only meal the child got for the entire day. The experience was life-altering for Correa.
"When I launched Empower I was transformed in my thinking about business and the possibility of harnessing its power to become an incredible force for good," she says. Since that first trip, she's traveled to El Salvador for the same purpose.
With time, Susan realized feeding children wasn't enough. She recalls being a teenager volunteering in the Juhu neighborhood of Mumbai. "I mentored children like the ones in the movie Slumdog Millionaire. They don't go to the doctors. Growing up we weren't rich, but my parents made sure we had doctor check-ups. I wanted these kids to have medical aid."
Along with Global Giveback and a team of 60 volunteer doctors, Susan traveled to El Salvador on November 4th. The launch of the first leg of the program, the team of 80 handed out vitamins, taught kids how to brush their teeth and wash their hands, distributed medicine to keep them parasite-free and gave medical evaluations. The experience left everyone feeling like they made a huge difference to the small community. In the future, the medical program will also visit Guatemala, Paraguay, and other countries in Central America. Susan Correa's global impact goal is to help 4 million lives. She's even making a local impact by providing a leadership program at the Camden Street School in Newark, New Jersey, where 95 percent of the students live below the poverty line and 40 percent of the students are special needs.
Through the years, consumers have made it a priority to shop with a conscience. They want to know that the products and brands they invest their money in are fair trade, use organic or sustainable materials, and treat workers with respect. Blending fashion with charity, Art & Eden uses low impact dyes and certified organic textiles.
Their line is made with organic cotton and all clothing is produced at factories that share Art & Eden's vision of a better world. Prices are affordable (starting at $20) and prints are exclusive, one-of-a-kind art by artists from like Stockholm, Brooklyn and Sweden. Susan went through over 400 portfolios to find artists who would add individuality to each piece.
The Quick 10
1. What app do you most use?
But of course : Google docs.
2. Briefly describe your morning routine
3. Name a business mogul you admire.
Yvon Chouinard– the reluctant businessman.
4. What product do you wish you had invented?
With a 34 billion valuation, Snapchat for sure.
5. What is your spirit animal?
6. What is your life motto?
Always believe that something wonderful is just about to happen. It actually does.
7. Name your favorite work day snack.
Dates & nuts (the dried fruit kind).
8. Every entrepreneur must be able to see:
Opportunity in every adversity.
9. What’s the most inspiring place you’ve traveled to?
Toledo in Central Spain.
10. Desert Island. Three things, go.
1. My husband who also happens to be my best friend.
2. Tons of books to gain wisdom.
3. A boat to finally get back to Art & Eden
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.