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Gabrey Means: “Grow, your team has the space and desire to make a difference”

The nonprofits we love are all struggling and they need our help. If, similar to Grow, your team has the space and desire to make a difference — dive right in and reach out to a group you admire and just offer your services. They will take it! Giving back has the double rainbow effect — you are doing […]

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The nonprofits we love are all struggling and they need our help. If, similar to Grow, your team has the space and desire to make a difference — dive right in and reach out to a group you admire and just offer your services. They will take it! Giving back has the double rainbow effect — you are doing good and helping important causes AND your team will be inspired by this work and gain a greater sense of purpose while helping others.


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gabrey Means, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer for Grow Marketing, an engagement marketing agency headquartered in San Francisco. Founded in 2001, Means and her partner, Cassie Hughes, have built their women-owned, small business from a two-person consultancy into an award-winning agency that creates engagement experiences across the country and around the world for top global brands, including Google, Airbnb, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Netflix, TED and Salesforce.org.

Prior to co-founding Grow, Gabrey served for four years as Experiential Marketing Director at Banana Republic and before that cut her teeth at Condé Nast Publications in New York.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a little about Grow Marketing and how the Grow Together program came to be.

Grow Marketing is an engagement marketing agency I started with my partner, Cassie Hughes, 20 years ago. Before Grow, we were competitors at rival brands — Levi’s and Gap — and decided to leave the corporate world to hang our own shingle and have been lucky to have created award-winning campaigns for some of the world’s best brands including Google, Airbnb, Netflix and Target.

When the world became upended in March, much of our client work was disrupted, but we saw an opportunity to redirect our talented team towards making a difference during this dark time.

A few things we were experiencing led to the creation of Grow Together.

I was taking dailys walks with my daughter as a coping mechanism for both of us to become grounded — and we both felt immense gratitude for Mother Earth and her ability to give us peace when the world felt rocked. It was among the trees that we were able to find some sense of ‘normal’.

I saw parents with young kiddos really struggling to keep children inspired, busy and away from screens with school from home.

The nonprofits we love were really struggling with donor funds constricting and traditional fundraising vehicles disrupted.

So with all of this, Grow Together was born — a campaign where we harnessed the collective energy of 6 amazing environmental nonprofits to drive support of and access to Mother Earth AND inspire little scientists across the country with our STEM-based Field Guides — accessible to all!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began Grow Together?

My favorite part of Grow Together is that its conception and evolution is really reflective of the time we are in right now. It started as a spaghetti project — thrown against the wall with good intent to see what might stick. We didn’t know what it would be, but we knew we wanted to make a difference and we just started reaching out to folks and nonprofits we admired to see who wanted to participate. Everyone was in. All of the nonprofits that all play in the environmental space — and would normally compete for funds or support — all saw the bigger idea and were excited to come together as a collective and share audiences and energy. Everyone was also completely ok with imperfection and building the plane while we flew. This is a time when striving for perfect no longer matters and authenticity is truly valued. It is about having a good heart, great ideas and just going for it — trying and evolving and saying let’s just do this and make a difference.

Can you describe how Grow Together is looking to make a significant social impact? How can other companies find ways to give back during tough times?

The nonprofits we love are all struggling and they need our help. If, similar to Grow, your team has the space and desire to make a difference — dive right in and reach out to a group you admire and just offer your services. They will take it! Giving back has the double rainbow effect — you are doing good and helping important causes AND your team will be inspired by this work and gain a greater sense of purpose while helping others.

How do you define “Leadership”, especially during COVID times? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership during COVID means finding and celebrating moments of joy when the world feels dark. Being realistic, but also imparting optimism to your team. It also means being ok with imperfect and creating a culture that encourages trying new things and being open to evolution. If you as a person, a leader, a team, a company don’t evolve during this trying time, you have missed a real opportunity for growth.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I challenge all leaders of companies that have historically focused on for-profit companies to dedicate 20% of their time, energy and team to making a difference and supporting causes you are passionate about. Grow Together inspired us to think differently about the work we do and I encourage others to do the same — it will feel good, do good and be something you and your team will be incredibly proud of and energized by.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and the Grow Together collective?

Grit & Grace are words we live, work and laugh by at Grow. There has never been a more challenging time when deep reserves of Grit & Grace have been called upon — we needed a super-sized dose of both to weather this terrible storm and find light and optimism at the end of the tunnel.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would give anything to break bread with Michelle Obama. I have always loved her, but after reading her book, watching the Netflix documentary “Becoming” and hearing her speak the truth at the DNC — I fell in love over and over again. She is the Queen of Grit & Grace and her connection to helping working families find healthy solutions to both everyday and extraordinary challenges is a big part of the spirit of the Grow Together effort, and I would love to believe she would see the value of this work.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

The best way to reach me online is LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gabrey-means-aa922517/

Readers can find and follow content from Grow Marketing at:

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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