What started as a class project has turned into a national movement dedicated to improving the lives of children battling cancer. It has been truly inspiring watching founders Brian Keller and Zachary Quinn pitch this business idea (as part of the University of St. Thomas ENTR 200 class), scale their brand, and even travel on a cross-country road tour—all in just over one year’s time. Read on to learn more about Love Your Melon (LYM), their amazing charitable work, their recent cross-country Smile Tour and what’s next on the horizon. Some background: The Love Your Melon Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) dedicated to improving the lives of children battling cancer through therapeutic treatments. Through its Buy One – Give One program, Love Your Melon provides comfy hats to give children something to wear during this difficult time. Love Your Melon’s gifts bring smiles to the faces of children and make them feel comfortable after losing their hair due to chemotherapy treatment. For every product purchased, another of equal value is given to a child battling cancer.
But they didn’t stop there…
A Q+A with Love Your Melon Founders Brian Keller and Zachary Quinn
So you had an idea to buy a bus…
“It all began when we sat down in the library at the beginning of December,” says Brian. “Zach looked at me and said, “I want to get a bus.” I thought there was no way we were going to be able to do that, but as I thought more about the idea, the more I knew we had to. If we hadn’t pursued it, we always would have wondered “what if.” Zach and I live by the decisions we make. We decided right there that night we were going to take our simple concept of giving, and bring it to as many cities across the nation as we could. That’s exactly what we did.”
From that December day, Brian and Zach kicked things into high gear to prepare for a January 12th departure. As Brian said, “We figured out what would need to happen in order to make it happen and started crossing things off the list.”
Zach adds, “Part of the reason we are successful – we always do something new.” In this case, Love Your Melon was traveling to college campuses and hospitals across the Midwest and East Coast. “The tour was amazing because we had a team supporting us” said Zach, “We were all working toward the same purpose —to make a difference.”
College Ambassador Program
Brian says, “The most gratifying experience thus far with Love Your Melon was seeing other college students so inspired on our tour to get involved. When we began the tour, we weren’t 100% sure how it would all go. On each campus, we would set up our event and instantly other students were interested. Many didn’t want to just buy a hat, but wanted to begin getting involved in their own communities. This led to the beginning of what we are calling our College Ambassador Program.”
In order to scale nationwide, Love Your Melon will be sending out boxes of hats so Campus Ambassadors can host their own local events. “With the connections we have made on the tour with the local hospitals, these students will be able to go into the hospitals to give away hats to the kids for each one they sell. After this we will start to get the structure in place to continue and spread to other colleges and universities across the country” says Brian.
You’ve had a great deal of success marketing Love Your Melon on social media.
Can you tell us about your process?
“Facebook has been huge for us,” says Zach, “On Facebook our engagement has been extremely high, especially after posting tour updates in photo and video form.” For events, bother Facebook and Twitter were key as people would arrive already knowing about the events. “We had student contacts at each campus. They would post on their personal social networks – inviting all of their friends to the event, creating awareness across campus” said Zach. On Twitter campus reps would retweet it, and in some cases so would the schools and campus organizations. LYM also posted the journey on Instagram and created orginal video content posted to Facebook.
In addition to their own promotional efforts, LYM has landed some major media coverage, including a segment on The TODAY Show.
Now that you have a bus, an office and loads of inventory…what’s next?
“We bought a bus with 995,000 miles on it, so Brian and Zach are putting it to good use – kicking off the “Million Mile Tour” in May heading to the West Coast” says Zach. LYM has a goal of including more students and doing more in the cities they stop in. They will also branch out to tourist locations, army bases, and other key event venues.
“A lot of our second tour is vaguely planned, but with much more time before this tour we are excited to get creative and plan some awesome events for these children battling cancer” says Zach, “Know any country artists who would want to be involved?”
“Where I really see the impact – goes further than just giving away hats” says Zach. LYM has done helicopter rides, airplane rides, and adventures with the goal to, “Make somebody feel happy for a day” says Zach, adding, “People always think ‘what you do must be so sad,’ but we’re not the nurses or doctors delivering treatment and news – we are creating the happy moments. It motivates us so much.”
Interested in the College Ambassador Program or Volunteer Opportunities? Contact LYM.