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Welcome to the Companies That Care podcast, where I highlight business leaders who are making a difference in the world. I have a passion for companies that care and give back to their communities. The first three episodes of Companies That Care, launched on Earth Day, focused on sustainable fashion, food, and corporate philanthropy.
In this episode I interview Danielle Meadows-Stinnett. Danielle owns Octane Design Studios and is also a podcaster, mentor, wife, mom of four, and lover of cosplay. She also loves “Lovecraft Country”! A grassroots developer & curator, Danielle has helped brand and launch over 100 local businesses across America.
Danielle is from Kentucky, where they love their bourbon, grass, bare feet, and horses, but Danielle has found the state is also full of amazing, creative people.
She has always had a love for telling stories, pursuing speech and debate in middle and high school and double-majoring in print journalism and technical theater.
“All through my adolescence I had a love for writing and wanted to tell good stories.”
Danielle comes from a long line of entrepreneurs, so it was an easy decision to start her own firm 12 years ago.
Octane Design Studios is a digital marketing firm, woman led and Black owned. I highly recommend subscribing to their newsletter, as it’s always fresh, creative, and full of great ideas, #morethangraphics! You can subscribe at the bottom of their website.
“We like to think forward and we like to act forward. Our mission is providing tools, knowledge, and empowerment through the realm of digital marketing and visual communication.”
About 35 to 50 percent of Octane’s work is done for nonprofits such as Kerrington’s Heart, some paid work and some volunteer. Danielle is a founding board member and marketing director of Kerrington’s Heart, an organization that supports children with heart defects.
“They came to us with this amazing story of these children who are absolutely superheroes in every single possible way, defeating some defying odds. One in 100 children are born with a heart defect, and more than 50 percent don't live to see their first birthday.”
Danielle’s work with Kerrington’s Heart is more than graphics and marketing, like her hashtag #morethangraphics represents.
“We want to tell their stories but tell them well…not only am I going to tell your story, but I want to be in the room. I want to be able to hold your kid’s hand and wish them a happy birthday because every birthday is an absolute celebration of life… I want to be able to come alongside parents when they're feeling the grief or the weight of knowing that their kid may not be able to move on to the next stage…those are the type of things that we talk about, being a company that cares.”
Danielle has created a creative, fun space to work for her team of three. Her assistant Melissa gave her a compliment, telling Danielle that when she comes to work, it’s never a chore. It's always a fun adventure with something happening each day, and she is excited to be a part of it. This fills Danielle’s heart with joy.
“It's like my little piece of Pixar that I always wanted when I was a kid.”
Danielle and her team meet hard deadlines, but they balance that with teamwork and positive energy so they can enjoy what they do.
“I try to walk into every team meeting as much energy as I possibly can, knowing that's going to get them through the rest of the week.”
We talked about the ways Black and brown people have been affected by the pandemic, especially how women have been losing jobs. She believes that corporate America needs to provide more options to women, and she pointed out that women of color can often be misunderstood in the corporate world.
“Because we speak our mind, we’re often called too loud, or because we are assertive, sometimes we're seen as being a bully.”
We agreed that companies need to create spaces that are more open and accepting of different personality types and cultures. I shared the story of my friend Joy Fowler, who I interviewed for the Finding Fertile Ground podcast. Joy is a Black woman who moved to Oregon from New York City and worked in the finance world. She was told she needed to tone down her personality to be successful. Joy didn’t realize she had shut herself down completely until she left banking and took on a new job in an environment that welcomed her whole, unfiltered self.
“I think that companies really do need to be very tactical about how they're going to create welcoming spaces, in particular for Black women.”
I asked Danielle if companies can do anything to boost generational wealth in the Black community.
“Invest in both Black and white communities, financially and emotionally.”
She explains that it’s not just financial investment. What’s needed is an investment in the whole journey.
“It really is this journey that you're embarking on with them from the very beginning and passing the rewards of that journey down to the next generation.”
Danielle uses her podcast, More than Graphics, to amplify voices and stories to inspire and evoke change. It’s a platform for women in tech, creatives, and all women in general.
Octane Designs also has a Clubhouse group where they talk about Canva, an online graphic design portal, and a club for Kentucky Creatives. (Clubhouse is a new app that allows people to participate in audio discussions about a variety of topics.)
I could tell from my conversation with Danielle that building community is an extremely strong value for her, whether that’s women in tech, nonprofits, or creatives in Kentucky.
Danielle believes that to create a company that cares, you should ask yourself this important question: What do I care about? Do I really care?
“Our actions and our words have to match, and that is the ultimate fact check for anyone who is saying that they care about something. Where does your money go? Where do your hands go?”
Danielle uses this philosophy all the time with her four kids, saying “Your words and your actions need to match a little better.”
She walks her talk by dressing up in cosplay costume in her spare time and volunteering with children.
“They have a superhero 5K-10K where I dress up like a hero. We color and we hang out and we race if we need to race or we take pictures together.”
She also has a summer internship program where they teach high school students design and technology, to help propel them into their career paths of choice.
“It was really important for us to not only say that we're going to be a part of the community, but really start getting our hands dirty and investing not only in ourselves, but in the future.”
Toward the end of our conversation, I asked Danielle about her favorite superheroes! I guess this is a hard question to ask a cosplayer!
First of all, she recommended WandaVision on Disney Plus, her first choice for a Marvel superhero. We spoke in March, and at the time Danielle was cosplaying for Women’s History Month, playing one of her (and my!) favorite characters from Lovecraft Country: Athena Blue, or Hippolyta.
“As a mom, I so relate to the power of the ‘I am’ episode, the revolutionary episode that really opened up her character arc.”
Danielle could relate to Hippolyta going through all the phases of who she is, yet choosing, at the end, to be a mom and wife.
“And that is totally me. I'm shouting to the heavens: that's me. I want to do all the things and explore new territories and be the explorer that I know I am. I'm just exploring in a different way and taking a different path to get to that exploration.”
During May, Danielle is sharing her motherhood perspectives as a techie mom all month long:
Socials focus on techie product spoofs for mom
Blog sharing reflections and insights from Danielle's journey as a techie mom
Free printable affirmations for moms on her website
This was the third podcast episode in which my guest has brought up “Lovecraft Country” (the last one was last week with Nono Osuji), and if you have not yet watched it, I highly recommend it, along with my guests!
Next week I interview Christine Carino on the Finding Fertile Ground Podcast. Christine is a queer nonbinary immigrant from the Philippines. Her coming out was bumpy because she was sent to conversion therapy when her family found out. She also moved to the U.S with just $100 to her name. She has reclaimed her story to use it to help people as a transformation coach. The following week I’ll be back to Companies That Care with my former colleague Ozzie Gonzalez, founder of P3 Consulting, who calls himself an "urban ecologist."
The Companies That Care podcast is brought to you by Fertile Ground Communications. If you enjoyed this podcast, please give us a rating and subscribe to hear our next episode.
Contact us if you can use some help with your writing, editing, communications, or marketing. With 30 years of experience in the environmental consulting industry, I am passionate about sustainability and corporate citizenship, equity & inclusion, businesses that use their power for good, and doing everything I can to create a kinder, more sustainable, and just world. We help organizations and people discover what makes them special and help them share that with the world.
Fertile Ground Communications LLC is a certified women-owned business enterprise, disadvantaged business enterprise, and emerging small business.