Impact Brands: 3 Stories to Snack On

By Roderick Kelly

Co-founder, K+L Storytellers

I recently walked the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago, trying the many varieties of beef jerky, hot pickles and health bars. Yes, health bars. I could hear my wife Michele whisper in my ear from 40 miles away: “Pass on the beef jerky and eat healthier.” And so I did. Well, kind of. LOL.

As I sauntered the aisles and talked to people, I came across three companies that really impressed me because of their impact brand stories.

Story #1: Kiwa

This Ecuadorian-based manufacturer of premium vegetable chips has a great story about working directly with regional farmers to provide them with an improved way of life.

Kiwa sales manager Maria Jose Guillen.

Kiwa sales manager Maria Jose Guillen.

Through its direct trade with farmers, Kiwa provides self-sustaining economic success to small, impoverished farmers, many of whom farm unique vegetables that are only native to South America. “We work with development organizations to help farmers get out of poverty,” said Maria Jose Guillen, sales manager for Kiwa, whose chips can be found in more than 30 countries. In the Chicago area, the many variety of chips many varieties of chips include plantain, beetroot, cassava and native potatoes share shelf space with more recognizably-named chips at Mariano’s and Pete’s Fresh Markets.

“Think about the many men and women working in remote fields and villages, left behind and oftentimes forgotten by a world that continues to move faster and faster. We proudly connect small farmers in Ecuador and Peru with world markets. Every time someone enjoys a Kiwa product, the collective heart of humanity beats a little louder,” says Kiwa co-founder Martin Acosta. That’s impressive, and the chips are delicious. Never thought I’d eat a beetroot chip. (Full disclosure: Kiwa is a client of K+L Storytellers).

 Story #2: This Bar Saves Lives

Emily Baker, social media and retail marketing specialist.

Emily Baker, social media and retail marketing specialist.

If this company name doesn’t scream: “Listen to my story,” I’m not sure what does. And listen I did. With each bar sold, this Los Angeles-based company provides a portion of the proceeds to nutrient packets, which are delivered to malnourished children around the world.

“Every time you buy a bar, we give life-saving nutrition to a child in need. We eat together,” is the company’s mantra said Emily Baker, social media and retail marketing specialist for the company. This Bar Saves Lives has provided millions of nutrient packets saving thousands of children around the globe, she said.

That’s a feel good for everyone.

Story #3: Fresh Toys

At first glance, I thought Fresh Toys was like a McDonald’s Happy Meal. Inside each box of gummy candies, there is a miniature toy from one of eight collection themes: fairies, pirates, ponies, kitties, puppies, warships, ivy schools and homes. The packages and toys are all designed by 20 young moms and dads whose intent it is to “make kids smile, and give a boost to their imagination, good heartedness and happiness,” according to co-founder Alex Polanski.


Being a creative myself, I marveled at how the company’s goal is to have children use these toys to create stories and to fantasize, much like our generation did by playing with green plastic US Army men or doll houses with miniature rooms and furniture. “Our ultimate mission is to provide affordable, safe, and fun novelty toys. And that’s what we do," according to Polanski.

Even the company’s title focuses on the toys rather than the candy. Founded in Europe, the company has only recently distributed in the United States, although to find them in stores, you will have to travel to Pennsylvania or Wyoming until distribution ramps up.

 Great stories, cool products and impactful brands. Now, where did I put my stash of beef jerky?

These Five Young Authors Wrote A Book. What Can You Give Away?


5 young authors. 3 stories. 1 published book. THEY DID IT!!!!



What do you know that you can give away? How can you change young people for life? What is your legacy, that leave-behind to the world? 

Two years ago, I started a program called Your Extraordinary Story to teach middles-schoolers how to write a short story in teams.

This past year, I was invited to bring YES to an after-school program at Washington Middle School in Aurora, Ill. What an honor!!!

We published an anthology of short stories called 3 Lessons. When you write a short story, you get creative confidence - not just about writing, but about creativity and about your ideas.

THANK YOU to Dr. Burton, WMS principal, the My Genius Now grant leaders Pat Swanson and Ann McBride, and the Dunham Foundation for believing that the arts transform all of us, especially our youth. And thank you to these young authors who, with a pencil, a spiral notebook and their imaginations created beautiful, unforgettable stories.

What do you have in your wheelhouse to give away? What knowledge, tools, advice, mentorship, passion can others benefit from? 

A Salute to Our Youth

By Roderick Kelly

Co-founder, K+L Storytellers

One hundred seven young men donned identical tuxedos. Their dates wore beautiful white debutante gowns with matching gloves that extended beyond the elbow. These young adults were experiencing their first “grown up” event where they were treated as equals. The setting was the Drury Lane Oak Brook ballroom, bulging with more than 800 attendees. The event was Marmion Academy’s “Salute to Youth” gala.

It sounds like a cliché, but these are our future trailblazers.

For the first hour of mingling and eating of appetizers, many of the seniors approached me with their right hand outstretched, a smile on their face and a “hello Mr. Kelly” on their lips. They introduced their dates and we engaged in small talk. I saw our son doing the same with other parents.

I have known these young men for four years, some of them longer. I’ve watched them grow from boys to men.

And the tone was set for the rest of the evening. The speeches were predictably genuine and heartfelt, and with each, the students could get a glimpse into their future – as independent-thinking adults, as future parents and as groundbreakers.

And then the spotlight shone on them. The 107 senior students and their dates beamed with nervous pride as each couple walked up on stage for their introductions. Each man graciously deferred to his date as she curtsied to the attendees. Each smiled and visibly exhaled as they left the stage, arm in arm.

“Salute to Youth” is their reward for four years of hard work. It’s their swansong before graduation.

Regardless of the path each takes, I know their future is bright, and they will make this world better. In fact, they already have.

Salute to our youth.

Our son Peter and his date Sophie.

Our son Peter and his date Sophie.

Manufacturers Update Security Defenses Against Cyber Attacks

By Roderick Kelly

The ear-popping screeches came in two parts with a low shrill separating them, much like the sounds of a child when a door slams on their fingers and they suddenly realize the magnitude of what happened.

What the “H...E...double hockey sticks” is that? I remember shouting when a newly-installed facsimile machine announced its inaugural transmission. People scurried from all departments to hear that piercing, yet catatonic sound. Twenty sets of eyes stood over the machine that was tethered to a telephone jack, and we all waited many minutes for the 1,200-baud computer to spit out the final word of the single-page letter sent from one phone to another.

We were witnessing history.

Fast forward 30+ years. I was left similarly slack-jawed at the Valley Industrial Association Annual Collaboration Conference when I learned that some manufacturers and other companies are still using Windows 2003, XP and Vista operating systems in their offices, plants and on production lines. The manufacturing industry has the most Windows XP operating systems in motion, according to the 2016-17 Annual Threat Report by the Dell SonicWALL Global Response Inteligence Data.

But there’s an explanation for why some manufacturers are playing catch up. In 2007 and 2008, many manufacturers were in survival mode. As a result, information technology projects often were postponed. Ten years later, manufacturers still are experiencing side effects from the Great Recessions, says Philippe Schmitt, chief operating officer of motherG, a Chicago IT managed services provider that consults with manufacturers, service providers, associations and other businesses about cyber security.

Additionally, manufacturers may have aging lines of business applications and personal computer control equipment, such as data acquisition, production control, quality control and CNC Machining. Many manufacturers are working at updating aging on-premise servers, installing new software and upgrading aging applications, Schmitt says.

In the meantime, as mission critical technology replacements are undertaken, companies remain susceptible to cyber attacks and industrial espionage. Schmitt encourages (actually, he insists that) companies include the IT department on the senior executive team. That move can ensure an across-the-board understanding of protections required to insulate sensitive information and mission critical data from malicious cyber risks.

According to the SonicWall 2016-2017 annual report:

  • Ransomware (a threat to publish sensitive information if a ransom is not paid) has become the predominant threat. In 1Q 2016, 30.9 million ransomware attempts were made and that jumped to 265.5 million attempts were made.
  •  There were 7.3 trillion web connection s made in 2016, up 38% from the 5.3 trillion connections in 2015.
  • 70% of the Distributed Denial of Service attacks occurred in the United States in 2016, which cost businesses an average of $22,000 per minute.

But manufacturers can reduce the cyber risk to their facilities by having a seat at the executive table and establishing a cyber security strategy, which Schmitt says includes:

  1.  An internal compliance and risk assessment
  2.  A well-designed cyber security protection plan
  3.  The deployment of that plan
  4.  Training of all employees on the plan
  5.  Measuring the efficiency of the plan and improve upon it

So even though automation and technology has help increase production, improve delivery of content and make employees more accountable, it also opens a crack to potential criminal activity.

Moving forward keeps us from staying behind. Just like that day I witnessed history.

I’ve got to be honest. I’d welcome that two-toned screech emanating from the machine that translated 0''s and 1's that were delivered from one phone and received by another. Just once for old time sake.

Where You Go, I Will Go

So honored to have been asked to write a poem for the Marmion Academy Mothers' Club Spring Luncheon. The composition entitled "Where You Go, I Will Go" gives tribute to the special relationship between mothers and sons and is thematically rooted in the Book of Ruth.

By Michele Kelly

 My son, my little one

“Where you go, I will go”

“Where you stay, I will stay”

Oh, Ruth, you knew

My son, my little one

Time plays tricks

Forever seems as endless as the sky

And the tiny violet your chubby hand so carefully picked just for me

I thought it would last forever


All those muddy knees

And little broken hearts

So many sidelines where I stood from afar

Watching you learn and grow, fail and triumph

Ruth, you knew


That little boys grow up to be young men

Brave and resolute and unwavering

Sons of our Lord, soldiers of Christ

Again, we return to the sidelines, the sidelines of our son’s life

We watch as he walks silently toward his purpose


My son, my little one

You will always be with me

Because a mother’s heart

Is a place where time does not exist

A place where love lives without condition or reason


My son, my little one

“Where you go, I will go”

“Where you stay, I will stay”

Forever remember this, my son

My little one