Ron Weaver is President and CEO of Apex Advertising, a full-service promotional products marketing agency with annual revenue of $24.6 million, offices in nine states and a team of 65 people. . But on this day in mid-December, it was a trio of kindergartners running the show.
Not that Weaver cares to cede control. A few weeks earlier, a charity called Brodie’s Good Vibe Tribe told him about a list of Christmas gifts for young patients at the Cleveland Clinic, a nonprofit medical center in Ohio. One of the patients was a one-year-old boy who had just received a pediatric heart transplant. His shopping list included gifts not only for him, but also for his 6-year-old sister. That’s how Weaver found himself in his local target’s toy aisle, serving as an assistant to his daughter and friends.
“My daughter was 6 on Christmas Eve, and I thought it would be a good idea to explain the project to her and let her shop at Target as a personal shopper for the sister,” Weaver says. “On the way, we picked up two of her friends, and over the next hour the trio picked out every item on the gift list. As the girls ran down all the kids’ aisles, they got conversations about giving, bringing joy to the little girl, and hoping that their efforts would bring her Christmas.They didn’t ask for anything for themselves and focused on finding the best gifts possible. To this day, my daughter still asks how the little boy and his sister are doing, which is a proud dad moment for me, but also shows the impact that day had on her, not to mention the family who received the parcels two days before Christmas. .”
It was exactly the kind of thing Weaver was hoping for when Apex launched its #Apex30for30 initiative earlier that year. In late 2020, as the company geared up for its 30th year in business, Weaver and the Apex leadership team felt they needed to do more than a typical anniversary celebration. The pandemic was still in full swing and businesses were on an uncertain footing. Charities were desperate for additional funds and volunteers. A company party and a congratulatory press release didn’t feel right.
“As we began to think about what celebrating our 30th anniversary would look like for our company and our people, we realized that we needed to make our 30th year more about others than ourselves, depending on who we are and what was going on in the world,” Weaver says.
That’s when #Apex30for30 started to take shape. The idea: 30 acts of kindness, one for each year of business. Apex first partnered with Aaron’s Acres, a local organization that serves children and young adults with developmental disabilities, to provide PPE for its summer programs. The Apex team then began reaching out to their community and business partners to explain the 30for30 initiative, ask about needs, and explore ways the company could lend a hand to each organization.
“It created a great foundation for how our company and our team could be efficient, and how we could establish a good mix of donated time, funding, products and materials,” Weaver says. “From there, we took those communications to our employees for their feedback and began building the 30 partnerships for the initiative.”
Apex opened applications to its staff and customers and worked with United Way of Lancaster to determine which organizations needed the most help. He put together a list that included larger nonprofits (like Girl Scouts of America and Salvation Army) and smaller ones (like Brodie’s Good Vibe Tribe and Aaron’s Acres) specializing in local services and causes. By the end of the year, Apex had donated money, products, services, or volunteer time to 26 different organizations, totaling 30 contributions in total.
That Apex managed to achieve its lofty goal is no surprise. While many companies value social responsibility, Apex has made it part of its culture and mission. In 2017, the company embarked on a new culture that prioritized, as Weaver puts it, “being humble, hungry, and interpersonally smart.” He introduced volunteer PTO for all employees and began monitoring manufacturers based on social responsibility practices. He identified vendors belonging to minorities, women and veterans. It has adopted a new focus on sustainability in its warehouse, with its freight partners, and in its products and services.
And, eventually, its president and CEO would brave the holiday rush to take three 6-year-olds shopping at Target’s toy department. Talk about commitment.
“For Apex, our change in culture, community and social responsibility is important because, at its core, it’s who we are as a company, and it’s also a true reflection of our people,” says Weaver. “As a business, it’s important to stay true to your values and look for initiatives that not only align with the business, but also relate directly to your people. As we’ve discovered, the impact is invaluable. It has created a real identity for our company, as these efforts are fully exposed to future employees, customers and business partners, showing what Apex is and what is important to us.