Sunday, January 17, 2016
I just got off the phone with a group of BANGS Ambassadors (BAs).
It was our Spring 2016 Opening Conference Call, a “pump-up-call” of sorts, and this one was a game changer.
I have been hosting BA calls for a little over 3 years and through my limited experience have learned to assume that (most of the time) attendance is about half of what’s expected.
That’s if you’re lucky.
Developing our BA program has been one of the most difficult yet important pieces of growing BANGS Shoes.
Lots of companies have campus Ambassador programs: Victoria’s Secret, Red Bull, and Google to name a few. Recruiting students to raise awareness for services or causes or products or all of the above is not a novel idea.
But unfortunately for us, none of these big companies put out a template to follow on how to actually do it.
I’ve Googled “How to build an Ambassador program” too many times to count, and although the brands themselves don’t reveal any juicy secrets, I discovered there are companies you can hire to build and manage your Ambassador program.
After we initially launched, we scheduled phone calls with a couple of these companies to weigh our options.
We were advised to hire full-time experts. People with experience could show us exactly what to do and how to do it.
We were told it is impossible to support and mobilize college students without having a group of experienced individuals dedicated very specifically to building your Ambassador program.
We decided to try regardless.
I conducted that first year of Ambassador phone interviews from a rocking chair on my back-porch in Charleston, South Carolina.
I didn’t have a desk at the time. Come to think of it, I still don’t have a desk. But the back-porch was secluded enough to speak openly and the saltwater coming off the marsh was magic.
I’ll never forget those first months of interviews.
I’m sure I was more nervous than the students on the other side of the phone.
I was 24 years old with two types of jobs under my belt: restaurant gigs + English teacher in China.
I graduated from high school number two-hundred-something in a class of 400+; I found myself interviewing high school Valedictorians now enrolled at Ivy Leagues and international students “just stateside for University.”
I felt certain these brilliant humans knew I was interviewing them from a rocking chair wearing pajamas at 3:00pm.
There were 3 of us on the BANGS team that spent years aggressively recruiting Ambassadors.
We cold-called, cold-emailed, networked through friends and family, recruited Ambassadors through public speaking events, and most of the time it felt like we had to convince people to believe in us.
Then something happened.
The Spring of 2015 we released Adventure BANGS Shoes.
And the Summer of 2015 we had so many people apply to become BANGS Ambassadors, I was forced to create a new layer in our program.
Over a two week period that summer I brought on 13 #liveBANGS rockstars from around the US to help virtually support our student Ambassadors.
These incredible people are BANGS Mentors.
They are in Utah, Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, California, and one is even fulfilling his duties through a twelve hour time zone difference while traveling in Thailand.
In October 2015 we were forced to close the BA program to new applicants in an effort to responsibly grow. That’s with our new 13 Mentors.
But the applications never stopped.
Today we have 229 active Ambassador teams, 850+ individual Ambassadors supported by 19 Mentors, and this past Friday we were forced to close the program again.
Tonight we hosted our Spring 2016 Opening Conference Call.
I still have goosebumps.
We use a conference line to host our calls, and I assumed tonight’s attendance would be relatively low as our calls in the past have lost priority over work, school, fun, what have you.
Our call tonight was scheduled to start at 8pm EST.
By 8:01 our conference line had reached max capacity and we were unable to accept additional callers.
We had three speakers planned: a representative from our nonprofit partner Kiva, a BANGS Mentor, and a student BA. After our speaker from Kiva ended her presentation, I asked everyone to say thank you.
The collective voices that sounded off were overwhelming.
Hundreds of BA callers from 30 states around the USA chimed together in appreciation.
In those 10 seconds alone our community became acutely aware of its own scope and size, and I felt a shift towards a more cohesive and powerful unit.
We didn’t invent shoes. We didn’t invent helping people. We didn’t even invent bringing these two together.
But #liveBANGS has developed into so much more than shoes for a cause.
After years of building, failing, and building back up again, we have brought together a strong, loyal, and passionate community: people who actively work to use their adventures to help others.
The BANGS community today has shown me this positive effort is not a decision you make one day and then you’re done – it’s a practice that must be revisited every single day.
With active passion, kindness, and relentless support for others comes unbelievable power to affect positive change.
And I can’t wait to see what this community does next.