United Fray is no stranger to the difficulties that come with navigating the fallout from Covid-19. For a company that relies on bringing people together, to hit the pause button, we’ve been hit considerably hard. Revenue has dropped to nearly zero while the bills, expenses, and payroll keep coming. But we aren’t giving up.
Currently, United Fray is helping with a fundraiser run by the Social Sports Foundation, which gives people the opportunity to win a Land Rover Defender while supporting sports and events small businesses. Entry prices range from 10 entries for $10 to 200 entries for $100. A portion of proceeds also go directly to community relief funds, including Support Our Stripes, the Restaurant Association Workers Relief Fund, the I.M.P. Family Fund and theatreWashington Relief Fund. More donations will be made in the coming weeks.
So how did we come up with this project? Our CEO and founder Robert Kinsler is here to shed some light on this pursuit.
District Fray: Tell us a little about the Rover’s history. How did you come to own it? Did you buy it as is, or was it a rebuild project?
Robert Kinsler: I bought it about five years ago from a friend of my wife, who brought it back from Spain. I’ve always loved older Jeeps and Rovers like this, but what really spoke to me was how it represented the vision I had for the company at the time. [At the time] we were called United Social Sports, and we were working through a rebrand of the business. The Rover really captured my vision for the feel and energy I wanted [for the company]. Rolling up to the beach, piling out of it, setting up some volleyball, or driving it to a concert [and] tailgating out the back of it were all images I had in my head. It helped us form the vision of Fray we have today.
Was it something you always planned on using in a fundraiser?
I did not intend to use it as a fundraiser before, but I was thinking about how I could offer something of value that aligned with our company culture and values to help our team and other small businesses. I didn’t just want to do a typical GoFundMe campaign, I wanted something that invoked and spoke to our mission and our values.
At what point did you decide to go ahead with this fundraiser?
I came up with the idea on a Friday and had it up on a Sunday after spending way too many takes trying to get a video for it shot on my cell at a local park. My wife was encouraging, [telling me] that it was a fun idea and might really take off. A unique aspect of this fundraiser is that it serves as not only one for United Fray, but other local businesses and organizations as well.
How did you arrive at the decision to include others? Did you have some in mind already or did they reach out? How do you plan to choose the future recipients going forward?
Community is one of our values here at Fray, and I believe deeply that we are stronger when we work together. Fray is hurt, badly, but so are others. Many are hurting even more than we are. I wanted to do our part to help the broader community, so the idea to give a portion away to others as well just made sense.
The groups we have given to so far are a mix of local small businesses that we’ve worked with in the past, and other groups that [I understood] how hard this challenge [would] be for them. It’s ironic, our company is built on shared experiences and now the entire country is going through one, but those who really will be able to relate are the ones that share some commonality on how this challenge [affects them]. Those in the entertainment, recreation and discretionary spending space are in a really tough spot right now, and while I’m optimistic for the future, I know the brutal facts is that it’s going to be a hard road.
Why set the goal at $1 million? What was the impetus for that number, and do you actually think you can hit it?
When thinking about how to get the campaign to stand out [and] putting my marketing hat on, I knew we needed something that made the campaign jump out to the media. Some of our values include innovation and courage, and through trying ways to draw attention to the story, the idea came to put a big and bold goal on it. We’ve since rolled that back; thinking more about the people landing on the page and making the decision to give and donate, it’s important they know even $10 is a BIG help and one we are deeply grateful for. Having the really big number as a goal, I think, made people feel like they weren’t really moving the needle. The truth is, every single dollar helps and matters right now. We’ve updated our goal to $30,000 and if we hit it, we’ll decide on a new goal.
Will you be sad to eventually part ways with the Rover?
I’ll be sad to see one of my favorite toys drive away, but be happy to know that it served an outsized purpose in my life in the formation of my company, and hopefully in the reinvention and saving of other companies as well. It has a higher purpose to serve now. My hope is that whomever wins it really enjoy its and that it delivers on our mission – to make fun possible – for them.
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