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A WholeHearted desire to do good

A new female-founded startup is helping to build a sense of connection between companies, their employees and the community

It was a simple desire to do something good that led Catherine (Cat) and Jake McGuire to head up a project during the early days of the pandemic called Fuel the Superheroes. Their goal was to provide 100 boxed meals each day for an entire week to front line staff working at a local hospital. The project was so well received, the McGuire's were able to deliver 5 weeks' worth of meals to front line workers across the region while supporting restaurants and catering businesses that had also felt the brunt of the pandemic. 

As Fuel the Superheroes wound down it was another simple conversation, this time between Cat and her friend and former business colleague Gillian Kilpatrick, that launched a new venture designed to do something good.

"Fuel the Superheroes opened our eyes to how impactful it is to do something in the community you live, work and play in," explains Cat. "We wondered if we could take the feeling that came from that community building project, and bring it into the workplace so that people at all levels of a company could be involved in a social impact initiative." That conversation was the spark behind their new venture WholeHearted - a company that uses social impact initiatives as a way to foster positive change, and build meaningful connections in the workplace.

WholeHearted works with companies to develop unique experiences that engage employees while providing a mechanism to drive social impact. Many companies already support their local community, often through financial donations. And while these donations are important, WholeHearted sees value in thinking outside the box when it comes to giving back. "We've been able to show both individuals and businesses that a donation can be a donation of time, of items, or even resources such as education-like skill sets," says Cat.

"We include a community give-back for each program we design which we find increases meaningfulness. It helps employees feel more connected to each other, to their communities and to their work."

Employee engagement has been a hot topic within organizations for years, but has taken on more importance since the pandemic as teams transition to more remote work. WholeHearted works with companies to create events that bring employees together virtually or in person, using social impact as the tie.

"Last year during the holidays we worked with a local veterinarian clinic in Kitchener," says Gillian. "For the event, each employee received a delivery containing everything they needed to make their own holiday wreath. From there we arranged for a local florist to do a Zoom tutorial, and she walked the employees through the process of making their wreath." WholeHearted also made arrangements with the clinic for the community impact portion of the event: for every wreath the employees made, another wreath would be donated to a local long-term care facility. "Obviously during the pandemic, our front line workers had such a tough year," Gillian says, "so that was really a feel-good thing for the clinic to do. Cat and I delivered the wreaths, and we saw the faces of the front-line staff when we dropped them off. It was a nice way for the clinic to do something beyond a virtual holiday wine and cheese tasting for their employees, and it allowed the employees to show support for long term care workers."

Not only does WholeHearted put together employee events, but they also work with companies to design customer events that are social impact-driven.

"We're about bringing people together to build connection and loyalty," says Cat. "We've had some groups who have engaged us to put together activations for their clients too because these events can be a way of building customer loyalty and retention as well."

Cat and Gillian realize that while many companies may want to provide these types of events for their employees and customers, they don't have the time or expertise to design events themselves. WholeHearted bridges that gap by creating events that align with a company's values, while engaging and inspiring team members and customer networks.

"If a customer or organization has a passion that really works for them, we can sit down with them and look at their plan for the year and say 'How are you integrating your give back piece into the employee experience?'" says Gillian. "For us what's really important is that the employee or the customer also feel they are part of something, so that sense of accomplishment is shared throughout that team or group."

WholeHearted also makes sure that every event they plan follows strict safety protocols - something that can be difficult to navigate, particularly during the pandemic. "Through our events background we have become 'protocol experts'," says Gillian. "A big piece of what has made the companies we work with very comfortable in moving forward with smaller, in-person groups is knowing that we're doing our due diligence to make sure everything happens in a safe and comfortable environment."

With companies looking ahead to the holidays, WholeHearted has put together a winter catalogue of Experiences with Meaning designed to engage teams and customers. From learning how to create spice blends, to decluttering sessions and even beer and cheese tastings, each experience includes a social impact component and can be conducted as a group either virtually or in person. There are even custom care kits containing items purchased from small, local businesses that can be ordered as employee or customer gifts. 

"We're ideas people. We're team builders. Most importantly, we make things super simple for businesses," says Cat. "Especially now while the world has been working from home, and there's been a lot of fluctuation in people's employment. It's a great time for businesses to invest in their people and their community, and we're happy to help them develop meaningful ways to do that." 

To find out more about WholeHearted, head to their website.

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