Marketing can make the world a better place — Cory Ames, CEO of Grow Ensemble

Cory Ames CEO of Grow Ensemble wearing yellow beanie and jacket

Fun fact: Cory dropped out of university and began working at a multi-million-dollar marketing agency. He quickly climbed up the ranks from Assistant Project Manager to CEO within 18 months.

Though I would never suggest anyone to take ditching school lightly, sometimes it can work out for the best.

Cory first reached out to me to update some content for his podcast and I jumped on board immediately because I loved its mission. I’ve been following Grow Ensemble, his marketing agency and consultancy for purpose-driven companies, ever since.

He and his team have helped hundreds of social enterprises, lead by similarly passionate entrepreneurs, grow. Indeed, profit and purpose can exist in perfect harmony.

So whatever they tell you about sleazy marketers trying to sell you snake oil, it’s not always true.

His background makes him the perfect first guest on Boundless Human so I didn’t hesitate to ask him for an interview. But enough from me, I’ll give Cory the stage now.

In our most ambitious frame of mind, we want Grow Ensemble to inspire a cultural transformation—one where we begin to think more communally, rather than hyper-individually.  

Cory Ames

1. Where does the desire to do good come from? What inspires you in this regard?

First, I know I am insanely privileged. There has been little in my life that I’ve wanted to do that I haven’t been able to. And really, that’s all a product of luck. I was lucky enough to be born into a middle-class/upper-middle-class family, have extremely supportive parents, and be a skin color (white) that’s preferential to receiving “opportunities” in America. 

I didn’t do anything to deserve this; I didn’t earn this in any way, it was all by chance. And so, I feel obligated to use my privilege to ideally make the world a (truly) better place for those who aren’t as lucky. 

Second, I’m really not sure what could be a better or more meaningful use of my own skills and capacities than to work towards reducing the unnecessary suffering of others and leaving the world a more just, equitable, and habitable place for all of us, not just some of us. If we have skills, if we have resources, and if we have time, it should be spent thinking about and working towards making others better off, no? 

2. You dropped out of university to pursue digital marketing and went on to become the CEO of a multi-million dollar marketing agency in just 18 months. You clearly like to “colour outside the lines”. Do you embody this ethos in other aspects of your life?

Definitely. And honestly, I feel that the quality of mine might cause me some distress. I can often be so committed to doing things the exact way I want to, at the time I want to, where I want to. I can shy away from or procrastinate on maybe more mundane, repetitive, but still very important things. Sometimes the things that I have to do, but don’t want to fall to the wayside. 

3. Imagine an ideal future and the ultimate impact you want to make with Grow Ensemble. What would that look like?

We started Grow Ensemble because we wanted to create a community around ‘bettering the world.’ Research shows that we are more lonely and depressed than we ever have been. We hope that Grow Ensemble can be a vehicle for inspiring others to do good in their day-to-day lives with a like-minded, like-valued community. 

In our most ambitious frame of mind, we want Grow Ensemble to inspire a cultural transformation—one where we begin to think more communally, rather than hyper-individually.  

4. What’s your favourite book / podcast / song / etc. (choose one) and why?

Player Piano, by Kurt Vonnegut—I’m eternally grateful to my partner, Annie, for this recommendation. 

To quote Vonnegut himself, “This book is not a book about what is, but a book about what could be.” He published Player Piano in 1952. Vonnegut’s predictions about “what could be,” were eerie.  

The book is set in a completely ‘automated’ American society. Through automation and technology, every single one of our conveniences has been met. This book had me questioning our obsession with “progress” and technological innovation. 

Is progress for progress’ sake really what’s best for us both individually and collectively? What are we ‘optimizing’ for? 

As we watch automation wipe out hundreds of thousands of livelihoods and we create another widget to make it easier to do something insignificant like brushing our teeth, or finding a new T.V. show, I can’t help but wonder, is all the “advancement” in fact improving our lives? 

5. ‎What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

This is interesting. I don’t consider myself to be particularly courageous and boiling that down to one single moment doesn’t really seem to fit with how I think of myself. I’m very reflective and analytical. I think through potential life choices and actions I can take rather exhaustively. 

And then, when the event comes, it feels almost “normal,” or exactly what I should be doing. 

Leaving university early didn’t feel all particularly courageous at the time, because I felt extremely certain of what I wanted to do. If anything, the bravest things I’ve done revolve around moving or travel. 

Of anything, I’d say those experiences have taken me the most out of my comfort zone and maybe have rewarded me the most. 

While I’ve spent some significant time traveling/living within different countries, most meaningful may have been my move from Washington state to Texas. This felt like a ‘starting fresh’ of sorts, making new friends, finding new routines, and spending significant time away from my family. 

And now, I’m so endlessly grateful I made the move as the universe certainly “rewarded me” with meeting my now partner who I plan to spend the rest of my life with. 

If you want to learn more about Cory and his mission, check out his personal website, Grow Ensemble and the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Podcast.

2 Comments

  1. Good piece! Talking with leaders, and the heads of industries is a great way to spread that experience and wisdom to others! Articles like this are truly a resource for people on their personal growth journey.

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