Social Impact Heroes Helping Our Planet: Why & How Kevin Kaminyar Of Yellow Tree Marketing Is Helping To Change Our World

An Interview With Martita Mestey

Martita Mestey
Authority Magazine

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Be nice to everyone, you never know where each connection may lead. I’ve made lead-to-sale connections from my previous jobs’ professional network, while walking my dog, at coffee/ice cream shops, at Lunchclub, walking on the beach, at conferences, and more. In fact, I’d estimate it’s 10X easier to make a sale when you have an existing relationship than by way of outbound marketing.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin Kaminyar.

Kevin Kanimyar is a marketing expert, nature lover, and social activist with almost a decade of experience in marketing. His company, Yellow Tree Marketing, is dedicated to making an impact on climate change, by partnering with One Tree Planted to plant a tree for every new client and an additional tree every month the client continues to work with them. Activism has always been a focal point in Kevin’s career and prior to launching his own marketing firm, he founded a nonprofit that provides market-based literacy education for children in Nicaragua.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

Jim Rohn said that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. I am the average of my childhood experiences and the time spent with my parents, Stan and Irina, both of whom are physicians. They instilled in me the importance of hard work, perseverance, and empathy. It is through watching them provide medical care that I was inspired to start my second social impact-driven company. After successfully founding and running Embracelets Connect, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing market-based literacy education to impoverished children of Nicaragua, I started Yellow Tree Marketing to ensure that the next generation of our children has a habitable future.

You are currently leading a social impact organization that is making a difference for our planet. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

We’re trying to change the meaning of “making a difference.” Contrary to the common perception of the phrase, each and every one of us can make a difference pertaining to fighting climate change. Not everyone has to create an electric car, but everyone can play a role in reducing our carbon footprint. It is estimated that a tree will sequester approximately 22 lbs of carbon dioxide annually for about 20 years, or 440 lbs in its lifetime. One thousand trees can remove 440,000 lbs of carbon dioxide. Our goal is to inspire the world to plant more trees.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

Years ago I did the flower challenge with my brother Bogdan who lives 3,000 miles away in New York City, I live in Los Angeles. The flower challenge is simple, take a photo of a flower and send it to the person you’re doing the challenge with. It must be a different flower each day and you cannot miss days. A few days into the challenge I started noticing beauty everywhere because I’ve trained my mind to subconsciously look for flowers. It’s an amazing exercise that brings us closer to nature. I then became obsessed with all things nature, specifically trees. I read The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate — Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben, and was moved by how similar trees are to all living beings and the integral role they play in our survival.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

I’m not big on “Aha Moments,” or I certainly did not have one with founding Yellow Tree Marketing. I believe that mood follows action. For me, inspiration comes from action. In fact, I’m a firm believer in “do first, think later.” Oftentimes great ideas don’t go anywhere because we overestimate perceived risk. Instead, I like to think about the cost of inaction, e.g., if I don’t do this, the world can be deprived from xyz.

Many people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

I wanted to start a marketing agency that would excite people on a deeper level than just driving more revenue or increasing brand awareness. I analyzed hundreds of agencies and thought about what would make us different. I wanted potential clients and career seekers to feel that they’re making a difference by working with us.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

The most interesting observation I’ve made since founding Yellow Tree Marketing is that everyone I’ve met gets excited about planting trees, regardless of where they live geographically or where they fall on the political spectrum, literally everyone loves the idea of planting trees. Our clients get excited because we plant trees for every month of working with us, and they get to choose where to plant the trees.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

The biggest mistake I made was when I worked for Embracelets Connect and thinking that as long as people care about our cause, they will buy/wear the embracelet regardless of design. We spent months figuring out the manufacturing for the embracelet but did not think of it from a design perspective. The goal of the business was to have people donate, then receive an embracelet in the mail, then wear it and get other people excited about wearing one. Unfortunately, most donors did not wear our bracelets. Lesson learned to market research and find out if anyone will actually want what you’re selling.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

Nobody does anything alone. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have amazing mentors and a support system, dating back to being raised by parents, to the mentors I’ve been surrounded by in my professional life.

Are there three things the community, society, or politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

  • Create less food waste: The carbon footprint of U.S. food waste is greater than that of the airline industry -more greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture than from several forms of transportation combined. The environmental consequences of producing food that no one eats are massive. Instead, make a point to use up all the food you purchased before buying more groceries, check those expiration dates, and by thinking about the food your household wastes every day, you can help create positive change to conserve some of the earth’s most valuable resources.
  • Ditch your grass: There are an estimated 40 million to 50 million acres of lawn in the continental United States — that’s nearly as much as all of the country’s national parks combined. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, maintaining those lawns consumes nearly 3 trillion gallons of water a year, as well as 59 million pounds of pesticides, which can seep into our land and waterways. Replacing your turf with a drought-tolerant garden is a great way to cut your water footprint and exercise your “green” thumb.
  • Affect change on a larger scale: Educating those around you is a great way to multiply your efforts. You can also write to local officials and vote for laws that help your county, state, country, and planet be more climate-friendly.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

More than ever consumers want to align to brands that are social impact focused. Research has shown that inaction in taking a stance on an important societal issue, e.g., supporting Ukraine, can dissuade consumers from purchasing a product or a service from the company. Employees also gravitate to companies committed to doing good with nearly 70 percent saying they wouldn’t work for a company without a strong purpose.

There’s an example from a study I read in Accenture years ago. When asked “What attracts you to buy from certain brands over others (beyond price and quality)?”, 62% of the surveyed consumers said “The brand believes in reducing plastics and improving the environment”.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Be nice to everyone, you never know where each connection may lead. I’ve made lead-to-sale connections from my previous jobs’ professional network, while walking my dog, at coffee/ice cream shops, at Lunchclub, walking on the beach, at conferences, and more. In fact, I’d estimate it’s 10X easier to make a sale when you have an existing relationship than by way of outbound marketing.
  2. Work with clients that support what you are doing, not just from a social impact standpoint but more so from what you offer as a business. For example, you could spend hours presenting case studies/examples on how a specific marketing strategy can drive more revenue to a client, but if they don’t believe in marketing it can be a big waste of resources/time.
  3. Create a model that can be replicated. Read Built to Sell by John Warrillow. It will change how you think about starting a business.
  4. Focus on sales. I remember thinking if I just have this perfect website/search presence first, then I’ll be ready. Sales are everything to the company. Start building a predictive sales model.
  5. Have amazing onboarding. First 4–6 can make/break a relationship. What they’re looking for is immediate response times to emails, meeting deadlines, and showing up to every meeting like they’re your number one customer.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Not to sound morbid, but there’s no plan b. This is an existential crisis. At the current rate of global warming, our planet is likely to see temperatures rise by 2–4 degrees celsius, which will result in catastrophic melting of the ice sheets causing sea level rise that would flood most major global coastal cities.

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

A passage from a speech by Teddy Roosevelt, commonly referred to as the Man In The Arena quote. I love it because those who try to create something different don’t give themselves enough credit for being in the arena.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

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’ve been really inspired by Greta Thunberg. Greta is a Swedish environmental activist who’s done so much to advance the message on climate change. She’s received countless criticisms but has never stopped trying to push the message forward. She’s amazing!

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow us at @YellowTreeMarketing on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook, and TikTok.

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

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