Doing well by doing good

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May 7, 2012
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

Haberman bills itself as a company that tells stories about pioneers making a positive impact on the world.

That niche has proven especially successful lately. The Warehouse District-based communications firm had revenue nearly double in 2011. The company took in about $7.4 million in revenue last year with its net fee income roughly $4.3 million, said Fred Haberman, who co-founded the firm with his wife Sarah Bell Haberman.

“That is a reflection of how we’ve become more of a fully integrated agency,” he said. “We’ve gone from a PR firm to a more full-service agency.” 

Haberman has expanded its digital offerings, adding new designers and copywriters for marketing work targeted to a variety of media platforms. 

New clients include GNP Company, which hired Haberman to do branding and marketing work for its Gold’n Plump and Just BARE brands; the McKnight Foundation, which tapped the company to create a communication strategy for its Collaborative Crop Research Program; and Minnesota Reading Corps and Minnesota Math Corps — AmeriCorps programs that match tutors with students in pre-school up to eighth grade. 

The company also recently did work for Lundberg Family Farms. They helped launch a new campaign called Raising Organic Family Farms, which supports farmers by providing education funding, money for farm equipment and mentoring. Haberman created a website for the initiative and organized social media outreach. 

Some of Haberman’s long-time clients include Organic Valley, a cooperative owned by family farmers; Annie’s Homegrown, a natural and organic food company; and Volvo Cars of North America. The client list also includes innovators in technology, healthcare, sustainable living and companies working on advancing a variety of progressive causes.

“We’ve been in business 18 years in May,” Haberman said. “We’re very proud of the fact that we’ve grown our revenue every year. We’ve done well by doing good.” 

The common denominator among Haberman’s clients is that the people behind the companies are “genuine” and have an “authentic” story to tell, said Brian Wachtler, managing partner at Haberman. 

“Pioneers come in all shapes and size,” he said. 

Besides supporting social entrepreneurs on its client roster, Haberman has long worked on social causes of its own, too.

“We want to be pioneers ourselves,” Haberman said. 

One area the company has recently become passionate about is food deserts — areas that lack access to fresh, healthy foods. 

Haberman has partnered with Urban Organics, an urban fish and produce farm in the old Hamm’s Brewery on the east side of St. Paul — offering the farm business planning and marketing help.  

Urban Organics plans to use a system called aquaponics — a combination of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants in water). It has a goal of using wastewater from farming tilapia to fertilize one million pounds of fresh produce each year.

Haberman also shows its commitment to fresh food through its community garden in Delano, Minn. Known as the Dude Ranch, company employees get a chance to work in the garden and enjoy fresh vegetables. Extra produce is donated to a local food shelf. The unique employee perk has gotten press from the “Wall Street Journal” and “The New York Times.” 

While downtown isn’t a food desert, Haberman said there is a lot of room for improvement in expanding the availability of healthy food. He has a vision for Block E that he’s daydreamed about. From his office in the Kickernick Building at 5th Street and 1st Avenue, he can see the languishing entertainment complex. 

“If I had my dream we’d transform Block E,” he said. “One thing that is missing is some thing powerful, innovative and progressive that will attract people downtown at all times. Block E has not done that.”

Instead of turning Block E into a casino, as its owners have proposed, he’d like to see it become home to an innovative organic food production facility with a fresh food court for downtown workers.

In addition to the troubled Block E complex, he said he’s worried about the number of empty storefronts throughout the Warehouse District. “We need to make it friendlier for homegrown entrepreneurs.”


(Editor's note: This story has been revised to include an updated revenue figure.)