It's about community
It was January 2019 and the Trig team was assembled in an art studio inside downtown Raleigh’s ArtSpace. We had just completed an awesome creativity building activity in printmaking as part of our two-day annual meeting. Next up was a real roll-up-your sleeves working session. The topic: Core Values. As a values based organization built by an incredible group of thoughtful and caring people, this session was not short. What emerged from the group was a new core value of, “We are People-First.” This phrase captures more than I’m going to try to fit into this post. It’s about our employees. It’s about our clients. It’s about family. It’s about all people. And it’s about the community. It is certainly one of the underpinnings of our commitment to community.
“What emerged from the group was a new core value of, “We are People-First.” This phrase captures more than I’m going to try to fit into this post. It’s about our employees.”
Flashback to the summer of 2011. At that time, I was five years into my tenure at NC State and focused on building a new program in Medical Technology Innovation and Design. The program would bring together MBA, Public Health, Pharmacy, Nursing, MD, Law, and Science students from UNC with Engineering and Design students from NC State, be joined weekly by two industry executive coaches, and include a biweekly industry invited guest speaker. It was with this as a backdrop when I first met Ty Hagler, entrepreneur and founder of Trig, the three year old, 2 person industrial design firm. Ty made an immediate impression on me. And while he was significantly younger than my target list for guest speakers for the course (I was seeking longtime seasoned entrepreneurs as speakers), I asked him at that very first meeting if he’d consider giving a talk on creativity. Not only did he immediately agree, but asked if there was time to additionally facilitate a brainstorming session.
I’ll never forget that evening in the old conference room in MacNider Hall at UNC where the class was taught when Ty walked through the door with an armful of supplies from markers, to large format paper with templates on them, and most memorable, Nerf guns. Ty’s talk on creativity was memorable, as was his facilitated brainstorming session. He stayed well beyond the 3 hour course, neither the students, nor industry mentors, nor me wanting the session to end. And thus began a now 8-year long friendship. And in the Spring of 2018, after 12 years at NC State, that friendship turned into a partnership when I joined Trig.
Today, Trig is a 9 person company with team members located from Richmond, VA to the Research Triangle Region and Charlotte, NC, to Knoxville, TN. Over these past 8 years, since that first talk at UNC, the Trig Team has given dozens of presentations and workshops to BME Classes at all three major RTP area schools (UNC, Duke, and NC State), as well as NC A&T and extending to the edges of our current team’s geography, with talks at Georgia Tech and VCU. Trig has served as the industrial design firm to facilitate sessions at Coulter College, a multi-day workshop organized by the Biomedical Engineering Society with the support of The Wallace Coulter Foundation, that brings together teams of students and faculty from universities all over the country to learn Biomedical design, innovation, and commercialization best practices.
And this is just a narrow slice of the community engagement that’s at the core of Trig. Our team members can be found giving talks and regularly tutoring students of all ages, from K through 12, from undergrads to graduate students, to nonprofits with meaningful causes. The topics range from best practices of innovation and design, to industrial design as a creative career option, and topics ranging from consumer products to textiles to medical devices. Those students of all ages range from the most prestigious colleges to at risk high school students in urban areas. Highlights from just the past few months include speaking at NC State’s Andrews Lunch Accelerator Program and meeting one of their startups, the Arepa Culture Food Truck; a facilitated business model session with board members and leaders from the nonprofit School House of Wonder, and the most recent Coulter College held on site at Medtronic in Minneapolis.
I think it’s fair to say that if every team member here at Trig were to hit the lottery, you may find all of us full time in the halls of schools and colleges and working with such wonderful not-for-profits.
This, however, isn’t reality.
A month or so after the January 2019 annual meeting, I found myself humbled by a decision made by the Trig leadership team. They asked me to lead our philanthropic program. The stark reality of not all being lottery winners is that we all want to give more than we can afford to. It makes me pause just thinking about how awesome that is.
And thus, leading philanthropy was really a challenge to make our commitment to community sustainable. How can we ensure financial stability and continued growth for a decade old, 9-person company, while at the same time, being committed to such levels of community engagement?
The current prototype of that sustainability plan is called Trig Personalized Training. The idea is this. Make training innovation and design best practices efficient, repeatable, and profitable to be the outrigger that sails alongside Trig. Positive results are already being realized. We recently completed a 3-day workshop with a Fortune 500 Company. Their generosity in hiring us is subsidizing the work we are giving back to the community. The training materials we developed, well, that streamlined my most recent talk at the Andrews Launch Accelerator. It was a win-win.
So, whether you are that Fortune 500 Company, school in our community, or nonprofit working to make our world a better place; if you want to explore opportunities to build a community of creativity, please reach out for a conversation.