Industry Watch

Karen Kopacz and Molly Priesmeyer, founders

Good selection

Why the creative agency Good Work Group accepts only clients whose mission it believes in

"What really matters?"

That's the big question Karen Kopacz has had on her mind. This existential angst is part of what prompted Kopacz to launch Good Work Group with co-founder Molly Priesmeyer in 2010.

Kopacz, 41, is a three-time winner of the American Design Awards and ran the online arts and literary magazine Mental Contagion for eight years. Priesmeyer, 42, has a strong journalism background with publication credits in MinnPost, Rolling Stone, City Pages, the Star Tribune, and the Pioneer Press, among others.

The pair spent six months brainstorming on how they could do more of what they already enjoyed and excelled at separately — design, writing, strategy — while contributing to a larger purpose. Good Work Group was their answer. The "creative consultancy" collaborates with social entrepreneurs, mission-driven organizations, and small businesses to develop consistent messaging, outreach, and identity.

"We realized that we could brand ourselves as a team to help local businesses become stronger contenders," Kopacz says.

To jump-start the endeavor, Kopacz and Priesmeyer asked themselves, "Who would benefit from our work, and how?" They made a list of companies and organizations they wanted to partner with, then approached them. They were successful with five of their top 10.

Priesmeyer focuses on content development, PR, and social media while Kopacz hones in on design and web development. Kopacz is the strategist and Priesmeyer is the big thinker. Kopacz is practical and process-driven; Priesmeyer is inquisitive and results-oriented.

"I like to say, ‘Let's do it!' and Karen likes to say, ‘Let's figure out the exact steps we have to take, let's have check-in points, let's have a perfect timeline that we all follow, so we can get it done and have ways to measure our success,'" Priesmeyer says.

How does success happen for Good Work Group and its clients? Through consistent, clear branding.

"It's important for people to know who they are," Kopacz says. "What we do is we listen to them and help them clarify that message into a relatable campaign."

Good Work Group leads clients through a discovery phase, strategizing, and implementation, resulting in cohesion in everything from logos to business cards to brochures to web design.

Lisa White of Cedar Summit Farm showers praise on Good Work Group's services. "Right away we were very impressed with how organized they were," White says of Kopacz and Priesmeyer. "They came to us with ideas. They were familiar with the company. They had done their research."

After a meeting that spelled out the company's core beliefs and what Cedar Summit Farm wanted to convey in its marketing, Good Work Group "hit the ground running" and produced a logo, packaging (for both dairy cartons and bottles), and signage and messaging. "They stayed on top of everything," White says. "They worked really hard on our behalf to get us the best possible outcome."

Another satisfied client is Sunrise Banks (see "Developing community," December 2013, page 35). Priesmeyer approached its marketing manager, Jeanette Geisbauer, in 2012. Good Work Group is now responsible for writing the newsletter that the bank's customers receive four times a year. "It was a natural fit for us," Geisbauer says. "Molly really understood who we are and saw the opportunity in sharing our story in a way that we hadn't shared it before."

While Kopacz and Priesmeyer initially had to scout out business, now companies and organizations come to them. They won't enter into agreements blindly, however. Good Work Group has turned down clients whose missions were unclear or who simply weren't developed enough to merit the investment. "If they're paying for something, we want to make sure we provide something of value," Priesmeyer says. "Choosing only to work with businesses we truly believe in has made us more successful, them more successful, and made us really proud of what we do."

Priesmeyer enjoys working with entrepreneurs who think beyond the bottom line and make business decisions based on sustainability and community impact. Kopacz expressed the desire for more environmental-change clients, as well as those looking to use the publication medium for positive change.

"We are lucky to work with such smart people," Priesmeyer says of her clients. "Just hearing them being really passionate and committed can turn even the most cynical person into a hopeful person."

Cultivating partnerships with clients means follow-up is an ongoing, longlasting process. Ten years from now, Good Work Group hopes its clients will not only still be thriving, but they'll have inspired more like-minded organizations and businesses.

Kopacz also emphasized that quality of life — for herself and her clients — is tantamount. Whether it's laughing with others, sharing a meal, engaging creativity, or helping a colleague in need, "I'm so lucky that my work allows me to do all those things, that the way that I spend my money is as conscious as the way that I earn my money."