The Heart Series is a 2-day conference in Los Angeles, centered around the intersection of business, innovation and bettering the world. Both days are comprised of learning and collaboration through talks, panels, workshops and roundtables. The event has featured speakers from Honest Co., Seventh Generation, Reformation, Soul Pancake, TOMS, Omaze, Yoobi, xPrize, Kiva, Causecast, DoSomething.org, and many more. I sat down with Meg Sette, one half of the power team behind the conference to discuss the importance of businesses doing social good.
LM: So why don't you start by telling me about yourselves.
MS: I grew up in Connecticut, went to school in Virginia and I started my career in DC in the nonprofit sector, which eventually had me traveling to LA on the regular. Gail grew up in New Jersey, went to BU and then moved out to LA and started working in event marketing.
LM: Tell me about the origin story for The Heart Series. Why you? Why did you start this conference?
MS: Gail and I met about 5 years ago at a dinner and instantly became friends, being that were both in marketing. I currently run a boutique marketing and strategy consultancy in the social impact sector called M Collaborative, and Gail runs Shop Talk LA which focuses on brand partnerships. We quickly realized we had a ton in common. Not too long after that first meeting, maybe less than a year later, Gail called me for some ideas on how to grow the social enterprise jewelry line she started with her sisters, Cayetano Legacy Collection. The line actively supports Filipino programs that train citizens to source and manufacture products, enabling both the creation of jobs as well as economic growth. Gail was looking for suggestions on conferences she could go to for ideas on how to grow the impact piece of the company, and we realized there just wasn't anything out there like what we were describing, so Gail asked if I would be interested in working together to create a conference to serve this need, and we immediately went to work on making a list of people we wanted to speak and places we could host this event. Laura Probst, who at the time was the Head of Social Goodness for Jessica Alba's Honest Company, was the first person to say yes to speaking, and the rest is history.
LM: What was your favorite part about starting this conference series?
MS: It's been amazing to get to know the leaders in this space on a personal level. It was really important for us to create a place for the people leading in this space to share, learn and connect with others in the impact community because that was something Gail and I were both looking for, and it has been incredible to see that we weren't the only ones looking for that!
LM: How did you think of the concept and what/who was your inspiration?
MS: The Heart Series centers around businesses bettering the world. We took a hard look at what was out there, and when we realized there was nothing in the space, we created an event based on what we would want to attend. No one was bringing together brands, social enterprises and nonprofits to the same table to talk about best practices for making an impact. We both personally wanted to hear from the movers and shakers leading in this space, knowing that each had different perspective to contribute to the conversation and that we could improve how we make an impact by sharing best practices across industries and sectors.
LM: Discuss the aesthetic/branding of the conference.
MS: The name came about naturally. When we decided to host the first event in February, simply because it worked best with our own calendars, we looked at dates right around Valentine's Day, which happens to fall just before President's Day weekend, and serendipitously the date also sat at this perfect intersection of the heart and executive leadership - and since that first year, the conference has always taken place between those two dates. We brainstormed names, looked at which website domains were available, and both agreed The Heart Series felt like the best fit for this event.
The physical ambiance has also been an important piece of this event for us because we wanted the conference to feel like a retreat. I wanted to create a space that felt warm and welcoming and fostered creativity - where you instantly felt lighter once you walked in - and we carry this vibe through all of our branding, both online, and offline during the event.
LM: If you could choose three words that you would want associated with The Heart Series, what would they be and why?
MS: Inspiration. Knowledge. Community. The conference is a place to be inspired by new ideas, gain knowledge around what's working and what's not working, and build connections within the community. These are the key components of the conference.
LM: Tell me about your focus on social good. Why is it important and how do emerging businesses incorporate that into their own success?
MS: Social good is intrinsic to both of us. We both grew up being taught the importance of doing good and giving back. My parents, being the hippies that they are, always went out of their way for others, which is likely a big reason why I ended up starting my career in the nonprofit sector. And Gail is a first-generation Filipino-American, so giving back was the norm for her growing up - her parents were always sending money, gifts, clothes and toys back to the Philippines in 'Balikbayan' boxes. When Gail and her two sisters launched the jewelry Cayetano Legacy Collection to help small communities of women artisans in the Philippines, they didn't even realize it would be considered a social enterprise - for them it was just a business they wanted to start because they saw the value of the Philippines. It was authentic to them and they realized their business could be an incredible tool to do good. More and more companies are doing work that matters, and incorporating social good into their business DNA right out of the gate - with the focus being on helping people alongside making profits. And with the rise of social media, traditional corporate social responsibility (CSR) needs to evolve beyond simply writing a check to a nonprofit since consumers and donors now have more access than ever before to discover the real stories of "businesses doing good." Brands that do good in an authentic way naturally build trust, trust builds community, and ultimately brand loyalty - which means it's good for people and good for business. The companies that are truly making an impact will have a higher likelihood of succeeding.
LM: What is your take on the future of The Heart Series? What's next?
MS: We'll continue the event as long as there is demand for it. We know this is a growing space and it's evolving daily, and while THS is really a side project for Gail and I, it's a gathering that we personally look forward to, and for as long as people continue to ask for it, we'll keep it up!
After attending this year's event, I can't wait to see what's in store.