Conspirer Profile: Katie Robinson - Fortuity
Name: Katie Robinson
Title: Founder & President
Conspirer Status: Frequent Conspirer
Here’s a nice little ice breaker. What was your first job?
My first job was actually as a DJ at a local radio station in Bellefontaine when I was about 12 years old. Family friends owned the station and hired me to come in on the weekends for a few hours. I played records and every once in awhile broke in with a station identification. I don’t think I was able to choose the music - which at that age was probably a good thing!
What was your first project with Conspire?
Hmmm….we’ve done so many projects together I’m not sure. But I believe it was a brand refresh project for Clarivoy. We needed to update our website but it didn’t make sense to do it without updating our messaging. Conspire was able to help us tighten our value proposition and communicate it in a visually compelling way.
How did you discover / hear about Conspire?
We had an office at 400 W. Rich where Conspire was located at the time. I got to know Jeremy and really liked his work and the process behind it.
What was the ah-ha moment that made you think “contact center for good”?
We always knew we wanted to build a business that did good things for the people living in Franklinton and the surrounding inner city neighborhoods where there isn’t a lot of economic opportunity. We ended up deciding on a contact center because Fred and I both have a background in that area (Fred opened and ran centers for Checkfree/Fiserv and I was at Alliance Data for 16 years) and knew that it was one of the only industries where we could create a large number of jobs that could provide people with no relevant education or experience the opportunity to advance and lift themselves out of poverty.
Your business model of having on-site partners for healthcare, child care, job readiness training, and food, along with external partnerships, to help support your staff seems very “yeah, all offices should have this. This would help SO many people.” Why do you think other companies aren’t doing this?
Because it’s expensive. Fortunately we were able to secure grants, New Market Tax Credits and low interest loans thanks to partners who believe very strongly in the model we are creating (thank you Finance Fund, CapOne, ODSA, Franklin County, JobsOhio and the City of Columbus). Our low cost of financing makes it possible for us to co-locate and support nonprofit agencies that support our employees.
These partnerships are one way of creating a culture for your employees. What are some of the other perks or workplace features that you wanted to make sure Fortuity offered to help promote the office culture?
Our location is one of our biggest perks and our most important asset. Fortuity is located in Franklinton at 775 West Broad with the #10 bus stopping in front of our building every 10 minutes. Most of the call centers in Columbus are located in the suburbs where it’s really difficult to use public transportation and be on time consistently.
We also wanted to make sure that the work environment at Fortuity was bright and welcoming - a place people want to come to work in every day. So we’ve spent a lot of money renovating our building to create bright, naturally lit wide open spaces. Each employee will have their own 4 foot desk with locked storage so they can hang pictures of their kids or cats and really make it their own!
What is the biggest unexpected hurdle you’ve had to overcome in the process of starting Fortuity?
Just one?? Seriously though - one of our biggest learnings has been how much harder it is to try and do some good vs. just trying to make money. We really had to be creative in how we financed the project. Traditional funders want to see a large return and our plan has been to reinvest in employee training and support services creating much lower returns on an already low margin business. It took a lot of meetings and telling our story many, many times to find funders who understood our vision and wanted to be a part.
You’ve done the corporate life, the tech start-up life, and now a social enterprise. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned throughout it all?
Patience and persistence. I’m very deadline and schedule driven and when trying to do something that really hasn’t been done before in our community you just can’t expect everyone to “get it” and jump on board right away. And just because you don’t get a resounding “yes” during your first meeting doesn’t mean you won’t somewhere down the road.
What advice do you have for someone just starting out?
Find a mentor and listen.
If there was only one thing you would want people to know about Fortuity, what would it be?
Doing good is good business! Fortuity was founded because we wanted to do good things for people in the community. But we also wanted to use our business and call center backgrounds to build a quality, successful business that provides great service. Companies who partner with us have the opportunity to improve operational efficiency and offer their customers a better level of service.
Want to know more about this amazing company?