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Talk Shop with verynice Founder, Matthew Manos

By Katelan Cunningham · May 2, 2016

When he was 16, Matthew Manos put his first copy of Photoshop to good use, doing some pro bono design for a local skate charity. Since then, he's gone from a freelance designer to the Founder and Managing Director of global design-strategy studio, verynice. Despite the fact that verynice has an impressive client list with companies like UNICEF, Google, and The American Heart Association, they've never lost sight of their "Give Half" business model. From day one, they've done half of their work for free that's $5,367,195 worth of work in the past decade! They even wrote a whole book about it.

The Give Half model is changing how brands and firms think about their time and services. We couldn't be more excited to welcome him as this month's Talk Shop speaker. On Thursday, May 12, come talk to Matthew about how verynice continues to give half of their work away and teaches other companies how to do the same. Learn more about Matt and verynice below and RSVP here.

 Talk Shop with verynice Founder, Matthew Manos

What is the typical first reaction when you tell people that verynice does half of its work for free? 

From someone familiar with social enterprise: "Wow, that is so awesome" From someone coming from a traditional business background: "Are you insane?"

You’ve gone from freelance designer to entrepreneur. What do you like most about the entrepreneur life?

Becoming an entrepreneur in many ways has allowed me to extend my vocabulary, regarding what "design" even is. I love the idea that business is just a medium of design — that it is something we can tinker with, learn from, and experiment with. The idea that it is not just about excel sheets and fancy numbers, but about creativity. A lot of people might answer "flexibility," but I haven't really found that. To be honest, being an entrepreneur is kind of like signing up to work non-stop. While that sounds scary, it is actually quite a privilege to work on something you love non-stop. I feel lucky.

What has been the hardest part of running a business that does half of its work pro bono?

Surprisingly nothing about giving half has been difficult. I think this is one of the things that has really blown people's minds about our model. It sounds insane, but once you actually do it, you realize it is incredibly easy. Emotionally, something that is always hard is the recognition that we can't help everyone. Whenever we are not able to accept a pro-bono project we all get pretty sad. 

The reality though, is that if we took on EVERY project, we just wouldn't be able to do a great job. The most challenging thing, mission-wise, is learning how to best communicate our systematic approach to pro bono service. Learning how to best toot the pro bono horn, and inspire others to follow suit. We've seen great success there.

 Talk Shop with verynice Founder, Matthew Manos
 Talk Shop with verynice Founder, Matthew Manos

Do you know how many businesses/designers have you convinced to give half of their work away for free with your book? 

There really isn't any way to know how many are giving half, but that's OK. We set "give half" as a high bar to reach, with the goal of just getting people to give something. With 20,000 readers of the book, and millions who have heard our story across other outlets, it is absolutely in the thousands if not tens of thousands. Whenever I get an email from someone telling us they have done pro bono inspired by us, I am at my happiest state.

Do you have any personal projects you’re working on? 

I am in the midst of finalizing a new book. I also have a series of poetry projects that I do when no one is looking. Namely a zine called Future Taco that I co-author with my friend Dan.


Come talk to Matthew about how he's building verynice's legacy and educating people about the benefits of pro bono at our monthly Talk Shop series at Lumi HQ. RSVP here.

When: Thursday, May 12. Talk is at 6:00 p.m. Feel free to come early and check out our HQ!

Where: 3828 S Santa Fe Ave, Vernon, CA 90058

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