Member Profile: Chuck Westerberg, Animo
August 30, 2015
Chuck Westerberg wastes no time in declaring that the only regret he has about his startup, Animo, is that he didn’t begin work on it sooner.
Earlier this year, while still working full time as a denturist, Chuck founded Animo, a social media/marketing platform that will allow consumers to identify businesses that support environmental and social causes. Still its early stages, Animo hopes to become a full certification, advisory, and marketing organization, along with a mobile app that will connect consumers to businesses which share their goals and values.
Soon, Chuck hopes, Animo will be helping businesses distinguish themselves for their environmental stewardship and support of local communities. He recently sat down to explain what exactly attracted him to philanthropy, as well as how he believes Animo will change the way businesses market themselves to the new generation.
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What inspired you to found Animo?
I’ve always tried to volunteer some of my time to help underserved populations, but about a year ago I realized that I wanted to have a profession in which I could be doing good full time.
How has Animo transformed since you first started working on it?
My original goal was simply to create positive cultural and environmental change, and that goal has remained the same. I didn’t initially know, however, how I would turn that into a profitable business. The process of monetizing Animo has caused a lot of changes to my original model, but I think we’ve kept our spirit of altruism; we’re still planning to give a huge cut of our profits back to communities through charity.
What certifications will you have and how will they be awarded? What resources do you have to assess businesses?
We’ll have four badges to award: environment, workplace, community, and administration. As for how we’ll assess, we’ve been working to assemble an advisory board that will eventually consist of people with great credentials representing a variety of industries. We’ll have a few experts for each badge we award, which will enable that group to conduct really detailed and thorough assessments.
Will Animo be primarily a certification system or will it also provide active marketing services?
It will ultimately serve primarily as a marketing service, which is what will allow us to bring attention to the good things that companies are doing—things that the average consumer isn’t usually aware of. We’re developing a platform that will allow businesses to articulate how they’re supporting social, environmental, and community causes, and we hope to ultimately integrate a social aspect, which will allow consumers to find businesses that are doing good things.
Would a client company have to be certified in all four areas?
No, and that’s one of the great things about what we’re trying to do. Most of our competitors calculate aggregated scores that claim to represent the entirety of a business. We’re trying to enable companies to brag about whatever they’re doing really well without being forced to go through holistic assessments like that. If a company is really proud of how they treat the environment, they can simply pursue that certification without having to worry about anything else. We’ll have “Purpose Advisors” that will help businesses raise their score in other areas if they’re interested, but that won’t be required.
How would a business get involved?
We’ve determined that pursuing certification will be free for any business, and we’re currently trying to figure out how to monetize the actual services that would accompany that certification. We’ve been playing around with membership rates based on an á la carte model in which businesses could pick and choose which services they’re interested in.
How will you start building a network of members?
We hope to start by locking down Boise business that already get credit for being environmentally friendly or great places to work. We’re looking at the Co-Op, Balihoo, Mountain West Bank, and a few other places that are known to be awesome businesses. We hope to certify 10-20 local businesses just to test the model, and from there we’ll look to expand to a few liberal enclaves across the region—Seattle, Portland, Berkeley, Boulder. We think those places would be most receptive to what we’re trying to do.
How do you hope to build credibility for your certifications?
Most of that is in developing an exceptional advisory board that people can trust and respect. But it’s also important to remember that each of these certifications will be based on a detailed assessment of empirical data. Every business will be required to submit a large amount of statistical and technical information for us to analyze.
What’s been your greatest success with Animo?
I joke that my greatest success is that the dream is still alive, but the honest answer is that the idea continues to be validated by everyone I’ve talked to. That has really encouraged me to keep pushing forward.
What role has Trailhead played for you?
I’ve been a Trailhead member for two months, and it’s been huge for me. I’ve met a lot of people that have a lot to offer Animo, both at networking events and in random interactions throughout the day. That has been awesome.
What advice do you have for early-stage entrepreneurs?
It’s important to make sure you have a good network of people to support you. Entrepreneurship is a tough road; it will be exciting, daunting, exhausting, and everything in between, so it’s nice to have people who will always be there to give you a boost. The other thing I would suggest is to learn something new every day, whether or not it’s related to your business. You never know when a random tidbit will help you make a pitch, sell a person, or make a connection.