The world – our world – needs a few more Jeremy Cowarts. There, I said it.
Jeremy Cowart, that’s who.
It’s unlikely you’ve heard his name but you’ve probably seen his work. Once a struggling artist then a struggling graphic designer and now a photographer with an awareness and sensitivity rarely seen, Jeremy shoots album covers and portraits of the glitterati.
The colorful names of A-Listers tumble forth like so many Skittles across a kitchen counter. Taylor Swift … Britney Spears … Sting … Tim Tebow … Kelly Clarkson … Emma Stone … Heidi Klum … Courtney Cox … Ryan Seacrest … and countless others. His clients include ABC, FOX, A&E, F/X, Discovery Channel, ESPN, People, US Weekly, VIBE, E!, Universal Records, Sony Records and Warner Brothers Records. He’s been published in Rolling Stone, ESPN Magazine, People, USA Today, Fast Company, NYTimes, TIME, and more.
You get the picture (pun absolutely intended).
Nashville to Tinseltown … and home again
I recently had the truly awesome experience of hearing Jeremy speak. With such credentials, one might expect him to take the stage in a glorious flurry of light, sound and projection, like a rock star emerging before his adoring throngs. Not the case.
“I was told I needed some ‘speaker pants’,” he said after taking the stage, sounding a bit sheepish as he looked down at rumpled, ordinary pants one might kick around in outside of work. “So, these will have to be my speaker pants.”
Though he’s only been shooting for a dozen years, it didn’t take long for Jeremy to realize photography was paying him much richer dividends than flirtations with fame and fortune, it afforded him a platform. And it’s a platform companies who believe in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) might want to share.
A platform for The Forgotten.
In 2010, he traveled to Haiti after the devastating earthquake to create a photo essay that went on display at the United Nations and helped raise more than $10 billion in relief funds. A year later, he went to Rwanda to document the spirit of forgiveness, capturing images of survivors of the genocide standing alongside the very same people who had wiped out their families — all of them smiling, these days.
There’ve been many more Jeremy-driven, altruistic ventures and they all share a common thread — whereas one person, caught up in the ever-accelerating pace of modern society, might breeze past a homeless person, a child, or a stray animal and never even realize it, Jeremy notices.
He hasn’t forgotten The Forgotten.
And if you really, really want a glimpse inside this 30-something man’s soul, check the backstory for The Purpose Hotel. It’s a CSR opportunity waiting to be seized!
“Hello, I’m Room 121 …”
At present, it exists only in the form of renderings, animation and financial pledges but the concept and growing movement around The Purpose Hotel is real beyond imagination. It began when Jeremy checked into a typical hotel a few years back and there was a notecard that read: “Hello, I’m Room 121.” This led Jemery to think, “What if, when you walked into your room, you saw a child’s face and their name above or below the room number? What if the room was giving a dollar or two dollars a night to that child? What if every room was sponsoring boys and girls all over the world who are in need, who are orphaned, etc.?”
Jeremy’s “What if?” button had been pushed. Rather than a solitary, cycloptic focus on corporate profits, what if a hotel chain chose parallel tracks and pursued profitability while also promoting a … purpose?
“Change the World in Your Sleep”
Welcome to The Purpose Hotel, whose promotional slogan reads, Change the World in Your Sleep. It promises to connect the utilitarian nature of a hotel stay, the reality of having to cover costs and turn a profit, while also serving the dire needs of the less fortunate around the world. Consider:
- All furniture in The Purpose Hotel will be handmade by artisans in poor countries.
- Coffee will be sourced only from ethical growers who pay workers fair wages.
- Soaps and shampoos will be handmade by women survivors of addiction, violence and poverty.
- Linens and blankets will be handwoven by people in struggling Third World countries
- Art in sleeping rooms and common areas will be sourced from and/or depict diverse cultures around the world.
- Inspiring social documentaries will be close-broadcast on flatscreen televisions. Upgraded internet fees will go directly towards the elimination of human trafficking (and if you don’t believe it’s a real thing, consider what happened in that broiling trailer in San Antonio several days ago. At least 10 died and more are fighting for their lives.)
- And each room will be graced with a picture of a child in need with a percentage of that night’s proceeds going toward the child’s education fund.
Materials mentioned above will be sourced from those who need an assist, a helping hand, a job to do, and a wage that’s livable.
The Purpose Hotel is still early in its fundraising stage but, already, nearly three-quarters of a million dollars has been pledged. Nashville, one of the country’s red-hot hotel markets, will be home to the first Purpose Hotel with a dream of catalyzing to cities and countries around the globe.
For corporations in search of a meaningful CSR initiative, this is an opportunity to get onboard – both in the planning and development phases, and as a supporting patron and philanthropist once the ribbon has been cut and the artisan-carved front doors swing open to the public.
There is so much waste in the hotel industry, good dollars that could go towards great causes. How many nights a year does your weary head hit the pillow in a hotel room in AnyTown, USA? How many little-used, mini-shampoo/conditioner sets did you toss in the trash before leaving? How many barely used bars of soap were left in the shower dish when you checked out?
Chefs routinely prepare more meals than needed to avoid running short. What happens to that wastage? Some goes to food banks but a lot – too much – goes in the dumpster. It equates to flushing dollars bills down the toilet. Imagine those funds being channeled towards those in need …
Getting involved in the movement known as The Purpose Hotel could be one of the greatest CSR opportunities out there for corporate interests.
There’s Got to Be More, There’s Got to Be a Purpose
How many times have you returned from a business meeting or event that was a huge success but something didn’t feel quite right? You nailed the lucrative account. You got a standing ovation after your speech. Your client told you, “We couldn’t have pulled this off without you.”
But … there’s this thing, an emptiness, that leaves you unfulfilled.
You were successful but … did you really make a difference?
Scott Harrison, founder of Charity: Water, said: “Reject the apathy that is so easy to succumb to and use the resources you have to make a difference in the world.” That resonates and makes me think of Jeremy Cowart, and all the other Jeremy Cowarts this world – our world – could use so desperately. He may make a nice living capturing rich images and experiences but Jeremy’s real reward is in helping the forgotten reclaim their dignity.
Me …? I can’t wait to stay at The Purpose Hotel!
So, my question today for you (and for me): “What resources do you have that could make a difference?” Give it some serious thought. You just may surprise yourself … and make the world a better place.
Ask yourself, “What resources do you have that could make a difference?” Give it some thought. You might be very pleasantly surprised.
Until next time,
P.S. – To learn more about Jeremy and to sign up for updates on The Purpose Hotel, go to www.jeremycowart.com.