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Karen Haycox of Habitat NYC and Mark Smukler of Bixby on The Importance of Home

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(Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash)

For the month of April, Social Sunday has joined forces with Habitat NYC in collaboration with Bixby to form a partnership that encompasses all things “home”. At Social Sunday, the feeling of home is at the core of our vision, with an aim to create garments that mirror the contentment that we experience when we are in the place we feel most at home. Habitat for Humanity, is a global non-profit housing organization focused on building or improving the places that those in need call home. To date, Habitat NYC has facilitated housing for 700 families within the five boroughs. Families all over the globe can apply for housing via the Habitat for Humanity located in their community. Bixby is a real estate technology app that helps property managers and residents create sustainable and connected communities through comfort and convenience.

We spoke with Karen Haycox, the CEO of Habitat NYC along with the co- founder and CEO of Bixby, Mark Smukler to talk about our collaboration, the importance of home and what advice they have for others looking to make a difference in their own communities.

Q: Both Bixby and Habitat NYC are centered around the importance of home. Can you tell us a bit about how this partnership came to be and why linking Bixby, Social Sunday and Habitat NYC makes sense?

Karen: The partnership with Social Sunday, Bixby and Habitat NYC is a natural fit! Social Sunday and Bixby had developed the shirt design, and then Sam [Sisca] from Social Sunday reached out to us, hoping to support the work that we do around the city. How could we say no? The partnership makes sense because all of the partners understand that home is more than four walls–it’s a foundation from which the rest of our lives grow. Like Habitat NYC, Social Sunday is a woman-led company with a mission–and we know that a woman on a mission cannot be stopped.

Mark: Bixby is all about facilitating comfort and convenience for residents and enabling the development of more connected, efficient, and sustainable communities. As we approached our third anniversary as a company, we wanted to stay true to our values by giving back to the community while offering something unique to our loyal users. I reached out to Sam, a long-time friend of mine to discuss a potential collaboration, knowing that Social Sunday’s focus on self-care and wellbeing closely aligned with Bixby’s mission. Sam was enthusiastic about the collaboration and recommended that we reach out to Habitat for Humanity as a non-profit partner to which we could donate proceeds, thereby giving back to a cause that creates places for people to call home. It was a perfect match.

Q: What excites you the most about this partnership?

K: Quite simply, because home is at the center of this partnership–I think there is strength in aligning resources (human, social and fiscal) in service of a need. We are stronger together and this partnership brings strong and committed partners together to elevate awareness for key issues facing our city, our country and our world: affordable housing and the role that it plays in the people and families of New York City.

(Photo via Karen Haycox)
M: I’m extremely grateful for the work that the Social Sunday team did to get this together, starting with designing the apparel. I immediately fell in love with the design that we ended up moving forward with, which was a clean and simple print of the word “Home” except with the “o” replaced with Bixby’s keychain logo. It perfectly captured what Bixby, Social Sunday, and Habitat for Humanity are all about. What excites me most about this collaboration is the opportunity to work with two great companies whose missions align so closely with ours and to do our small part to make this world a better place, both for the individuals that purchase a shirt or sweater as well as the families for whom Habitat will build homes.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to those who want to start a business that is mindful of charity initiatives what would it be?

K: With the rise in popularity in cause marketing initiatives–businesses aligning their charitable giving with a portion of sales from key product–it is both legally and ethically important to establish absolute clarity regarding the specific details of the giving. There are a number of legal considerations to be aware of, as well as some consumer watchdog groups that monitor such activities. They can negatively rate a charity or a business and good intentions can result in hard to shake negative consumer impressions, or negative press for both the business and the charity.  Consumers are well informed so authenticity is also important. It sounds ungrateful or perhapslike a rather a harsh assessment of a great opportunity, but charitable activities based solely on reallocation of customer revenue can seem opportunistic on the part of the business. Whereas a business that anchors philanthropy in their operating budget, or perhaps matches sales of the dedicated item (in some way) seems more connected to the mission.  

M: I think that anyone starting a business today has a responsibility to create positive change and consider the impact they can have as a core pillar of their business strategy. We should move beyond the days of “CSR” or Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives as a way to combine profits with doing good to a new model in which creating a better world is equally or more important than generating value for shareholders. There are so many problems with our world and so many individuals negatively impacted and in need of help–doing good should not be an afterthought. Making money feels good, but helping others feels better.

Q: What are your goals (these can be both professional or personal) for the remainder of 2019?

K: My personal and professional goals are often aligned. My work at and through Habitat for Humanity has enriched my life in so many ways. Personally my goal is to be present and focused both in the world, and in my everyday life. So often we can spend so much of our time where indeed, we are not. Physically present but thinking of other tasks, other people. The physical act of volunteering or doing the work forces me to be present and open to the impact that this work is accomplishingthe legacy that we are setting for a family. That presence leaves me feeling connected to the world at large–seeing the similarities among us versus the differences. Seeing what binds us, not what separates us.

(Photo via Mark Smukler)

M: I’ve always set very high goals for both my team and myself. A close family friend once gave me a birthday card that read, “shoot for the moon–even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” For me personally, I’m on a never-ending pursuit of self-improvement. There isn’t one particular goal so much as a theme–be a better person. To me, being a better person means making the right decisions and doing that starts with empathy and ends with action. I don’t need to be a figure or an inspiration, but my own happiness is very closely tied to how I feel about the type of person that I am and there’s no hiding from doing the right thing. For my company, we have a lot of goals, but the most tangible is reaching 100K residents by the end of 2019 and 1M by the end of 2021. We’re working hard to get there.

Q: This partnership is focused around one of the most vital places in our lives-home. What does home mean to you?

K: Home can mean many things at differing times of our lives. I think of my childhood home, and I feel a sense of ease and comfort and of being loved. That makes me smile now because as a young person, I may not have described it as such in the moment, but I can tell you that now in reflection–I am keenly aware of ‘being loved’ in that home. It is a gift that not all of us I receive, I am aware and for that, I am extraordinarily grateful.  

Later in life, I was fortunate to have another home that I reflect on often. I am a widow so, when I reflect on that particular home it can elicit a sense of how much has been lost with the death of my spouse. But most often, I feel, a sense of gratitude for all that we shared in that home together. Now I think of home as a sanctuary. That is increasingly so in the cacophony of the city. I appreciate the quiet strength that home represents to me now–and of course, the dog and cat that I share it with.

M: One of the reasons that I’m so passionate about what we do at Bixby and this partnership is because of my own experience of home. I was fortunate to grow up in homes that were incredibly managed by my mother and father who created spaces that were clean, inviting, and comfortable, even when we shared a small three-family rental property when we first moved to the US in 1992. Since going to college and living on my own, I’ve lived in more than 20 different apartments and I never truly felt a sense of home. The chaos of life was consistently augmented by the chaos of my home and the impact on my mental and physical health was devastating–sometimes completely paralyzing.

Creating a company is very, very hard and it comes with the sacrifices that often accompany the harder things in life. By working with the best service providers, brands, and organizations in the world, Bixby has given me the opportunity to live better and I’m optimistic that I’m getting closer to a home that lets me be the best person I can be. A home that represents who I am today and who I want to be tomorrow.

Social Sunday will be donating 50% of proceeds from our Bixby x Habitat NYC collection to Habitat for Humanity. You can shop the collection here.


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