From Olsson to Africa with Love

Joe Duggan, Communications

March 19, 2020

An easy-to-overlook issue during a rebrand campaign involves deciding what to do with employee swag featuring the former corporate logo.

Olsson publicly unveiled our new brand on Oct. 15, 2018. In the weeks prior, we invited employees to trade existing T-shirts, hoodies, and other gear emblazoned with Olsson Associates (OA) for new apparel with the new logo.

Kelly Petersen, a creative leader with the firm, took on the responsibility of rounding up the pre-owned corporate merchandise. She recalls a few chaotic days as she wore the hat of Olsson brand merchandise officer.

“There was a lot of stuff with the old brand on it,” she said. “We had over 1,000 backpacks in circulation.”

While the clothing could be shredded and recycled, Kelly and other employees hated the idea of destroying or discarding so many high-quality backpacks. She made it a goal to find a way to donate them.

She removed one of the embroidered logos, but it took almost an hour to complete the chore with a stitch cutter. So, she started researching how to donate the backpacks to schools in a developing nation.

Her research uncovered an important issue: Some donations can have the unintended consequence of hurting demand for locally manufactured goods. Eventually, she found Develop Africa, a nonprofit organization that identified places where our donation would not have a negative impact on the local economy.

We packed the backpacks late last year with basic school supplies, loaded them into reusable plastic shipping barrels, and transported them to Develop Africa’s U.S. office. We also included a monetary donation to help the organization ship the supplies to children in Cameroon, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Ghana.

Develop Africa sent back a warm thank you note and photos of smiling students showing off their OA backpacks, much to the joy of our employees.

At Olsson, we pride ourselves at finding solutions to serve clients and improve communities. So, you could say Kelly’s backpack solution was solidly on brand.

“It’s pretty humbling,” she said. “These children feel so grateful to have our backpacks. That’s so rewarding for me.”

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