By: Dan Stankus
Founded by University of Illinois alumni David Schwartz, We Are Lions (WAL) is a network of opportunity for individuals with disabilities. It is a non-profit organization that specializes in selling the artwork of those with disabilities. Since 2011, We Are Lions has worked with other non-profits and artists with disabilities to create artwork on everything from clothing and phone cases to wall art, shower curtains and more.
WAL has been working nonstop on PR and outreach. Getting a new organization like WAL off its feet has not been an easy task. A significant amount of outreach is necessary to raise awareness to the word-of-mouth level that WAL wants. Since graduating U of I, Marketing Director Kevin McMahon has been working hard at getting the website off the ground and working on a merger with Bangalore based Sense Kaleidoscopes.
“As a startup trying to sell the kind of socially conscious products we do, awareness is one of the biggest concerns. We’ve developed several strategies starting with more grassroots marketing tactics. Trying to harness word of mouth is huge for us. Our products are the kind you want to talk about after you buy. Finding a way to organize that resource is a big deal,” says McMahon.
McMahon has recruited brand ambassadors to assist with the outreach. The organization pitches to any relevant publications to continue to raise awareness among its publics. The partnership with Sense Kaleidoscopes has now provided international outreach opportunities with recent outreach shifting to India.
He said they engage in larger scale tactics to get We Are Lions noticed at a national scale.
“The special needs community is vast and global,” he said. “Learning how we can all work together is a main route towards sustainability for us. Setting up those relationships takes trust and time to build.”
WAL has the tenacity of a lion hunting its prey. They don’t give up and their mission is an important one.
McMahon added, “We also get to hang out with our artists when we pay visits to the non-profits we work with. That’s probably my favorite part!”
Check out the website to see what great work Illinois alumni and WAL artists are doing.