During my newspaper reporting days (about 100 years ago), that’s what we used to call a story that seemingly dropped out of the sky: a story that writes itself. For such a story, which falls on a reporter’s lap once in a blue moon, all one had to do was sit at the keyboard and let the words flow on to the CRT. An intuitive experience.
In the business world of content marketing and content-centered public relations, away from the sounds of a modern-day newsroom — which in many cases still resemble the newsrooms of 30 years ago save for the cigarette smoke — stories that write themselves also exist. Discovering them is often a challenge, especially in the B2B environment where the best stories are often lost in neglected CRM systems. But sometimes, a story that writes itself can be right under your nose.
Here are three greater Boston stories — gems — that write themselves.
In 1939, during the Great Depression, 210 Lincoln Street in Boston housed about 300 shoe companies. 300. Every Wednesday, shoe salesmen fortunate to have a job would pass a hat and collect money for salesmen who had fallen victim to the economic catastrophe. After a period of time, a number of these gentlemen, with support from a number of other businessmen including the owner of 210 Lincoln (condos today), realized that while the passing of the hat was filling an immediate financial need for some, the practice itself wasn’t sustainable longer term. After all, even those with jobs were just getting by. These men ultimately formalized the charitable giving around an organization that would anonymously provide emergency financial relief to shoe industry workers in need.
Two Ten Associates, as it was called back then, became a lifeline for footwear industry workers in need through WWII and up on through today when it is called Two Ten Footwear Foundation, a national charitable organization based in Waltham, Mass., that’s supported by the biggest brands in footwear.
“Shoepeople Helping Shoepeople” is the organization’s motto.
Last year, Two Ten provided $2.5M in financial support and scholarships, supported 2,000 families in need, prevented 800 evictions, awarded 200 grants for emergency car loan assistance and repairs and helped 500 families with emergency utility payments.
2014 is Two Ten’s 75th anniversary. 75 years young.
Walk into any of the 12 greater Boston “Music Clubhouses” just after school gets out and you’ll need to make way for waves of teens pouring into their favorite after-school haven. Since the first Music Clubhouse opened its doors to under served urban teens about 10 years ago — the first being housed in the YMCA in Lawrence, Mass. — the Music & Youth Initiative has launched 11 additional ones in Boys & Girls Clubs, Y’s, and other community centers in cities such as Dorchester, Roxbury, Chelsea, and Lynn. Each clubhouse is outfitted with donated, high-end musical instruments, state-of-the-art recording equipment as well as volunteer instrument and voice instructors. A Boston law firm is even donating services to help kids protect their original music.
To date, more than 400,000 teens have been served by the Music & Youth Initiative. 400,000. Some have moved on to schools like Berklee College of Music, a partner of the Initiative. Others, who have outgrown the program, are mentors for many of the the 4,000 or so teens who are fixtures at the various clubhouses.
The Initiative was started in 2004 by a retired technology executive and his wife. Today, they continue to work tirelessly on their goal to take the program worldwide. If you live in greater Boston, count on a Music Clubhouse opening soon near you.
By the time they graduate from high school, some students at Chelsea High School, Lawrence High School, Malden High School, New Bedford High School and seven more schools in under served cities in and around Boston and Providence, R.I., will have the skills, academic training and practical business experience to start and run a business. In fact, some of these young entrepreneurs, like Anthony DeFilipo who started his first business while enrolled at the Met Center in Providence, are generating revenue before they receive a diploma.
A few years ago, Scott Kirsner of The Boston Globe wrote about Anthony and NFTE – New England (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship), the non-profit that transforms students from lower-income cities into entrepreneurs by providing them with the math, literacy and other skills necessary to build and execute a business plan. Since its inception in New England in 1991, NFTE has touched more than 12,000 students. 12,000. At the end of this rigorous course, which is fully integrated into a school’s curriculum, students compete for seed capital to helps them commercialize their idea.
Programs like NFTE and the Music & Youth Initiative, beyond providing important business and life skills that help ensure a brighter future, also motivate students to stay in school and away from the temptations so many others fall victim to.
IMHO, the Two Ten Footwear Foundation, Music & Youth Initiative and NFTE are three stories that simply write themselves.