The Design For A Difference Effect: From Businessmen to Businessmen of the Year

In 2013, IDG showroom owners across the US and Canada were challenged with a notion:

“Imagine the impact you could make on your community if you could bring together a group o f people to completely transform the space of a charity in need…”


But who would they bring together and how would they get something like this done? Better yet, how would they find time in their already busy schedules to take on such a project? These were all the questions zipping through the minds of these savvy entrepreneurs. And this, of course, was their introduction to Design For A Difference.

Cause Marketing (CM) is not a new concept. In fact, nearly all successful companies today give back to their communities. But what was being presented on that day was something bigger than a monetary donation, sponsorship, or a one-day rally to help a local charity. This was a real project that would allow each of them to showcase their products, build strategic relationships with other local businesses, and leave a non-profit in much better operational condition for a better future. The idea, was brilliant.

Today, we are sharing the stories of three businessmen who sat in that original meeting then subsequently seized this unique opportunity; and with it, have witnessed significant changes in the landscape of their businesses.


Matt Pfeiffer, Northern Flooring & Interiors

Detroit, Michigan – Cause Marketing was something that Matt Pfeiffer shifted toward just after the economy tanked in 2010. “For me, I got to a point where I was not having a lot of fun, and I was looking to either adjust the way I worked or sell my business. I had been in the flooring business since I was a kid, and the downturn made my job incredibly stressful and challenging. It was then that I decided to go against the grain by focusing solely on cause marketing within my community. Over the course of the next 4-5 years, I got involved and spearheaded little projects to help those in need on a regular basis.”

Matt PfeifferThese projects included making care packages for the troops, giving to “Bruce” the well-known local homeless man, making Northern Flooring a “drop-off” location for community giving, and providing new flooring in the home of a little girl battling leukemia.

Matt also volunteered at the high school for many events, but is especially fond of his experience with Real Talk, a full day of discussing current events and tough issues teens are dealing with today. “It’s a special time to spend this day every year with these teens. So many of them are at risk or are dealing with hardships, and our goal is to help them know that they are not alone.”

When it comes to Design For A Difference, Matt has sponsored projects in the Metro Detroit area every year since 2014, which has blended beautifully with his established CM strategy. He is currently heading up a $600,000 project at Crossroads For Youth, a charity that provides housing and care for children and teens from ages 7-17 who are victims of bad parenting, abuse or human trafficking.

“We are honored to have a team of talented professional designers this year who are working alongside an architect and contractor on the Mattis House, which will be a new home for the girls at Crossroads.” Pair this call to action with active leadership in his local Chamber, and you’ve got a man who has found a new purpose. And the benefits that are coming to him and his business are tenfold.

In addition to a booming bottom line, which now includes the interior design trade thanks to the inherent draw of Design For A Difference, Matt was named Business Person of the Year in 2015, Citizen of the Month, Chamber Board Member of the Year for the past three years, and is now serving his 2nd year as President of the local Chamber. This kind of exposure and awareness for our company is invaluable.


Fred Wee, Interiors and Textiles

Fred WeePalo Alto, California – Meanwhile, across the country, IDG showroom owner Fred Wee adopted Design For A Difference as a way to find partnerships within his major metropolitan area. “We were believers in cause marketing, but because our area is so large, it is challenging to outline a specific community from which to draw. Everyone is blurred together. But Design For A Difference is helping with that.”

Fred adopted the Design For A Difference mindset from day one and has never looked back. He qualified a local non-profit, gathered a team of design students from two different design schools, and set out to complete what would soon become a makeover that would change the way his city sees him… But he’s much too humble to tell you that. In his own words:

“We went in with the complete fear of the unknown. We just believed in what we wanted to accomplish, and began reaching out to our surrounding business owners to introduce them to our project. And when we did, sight unseen, everything started falling into place. I met the director of LinkedIn, who surprised us with a substantial monetary donation. And they were not the only ones. I think that what attracts many larger corporations to Design For A Difference is that they can put tangible value to what their donation is accomplishing. They see the impact it has on human life and as a result, feel the role that they are playing in it.”

Fred’s inaugural Design For A Difference project at Community Services Agency (CSA) was a great success, and he was recognized as the Hometown Hero by CSA at an annual breakfast that hosted over 200 influential business leaders. It was then that he announced his next project to benefit Community Health Awareness Council, an undertaking five times the size of his first project. Naturally, he has companies lining up to take part.

“To continue to be a leader in my community through DFAD is where the real play is happening. Consumers today are not attracted to traditional marketing or even placing a lot of value on high-end products. What they want is to invest in companies who are giving back to their communities, and run on integrity, which goes hand in hand with a quality product. And when it comes to other leaders in my once ‘blurred’ community, DFAD has brought us together, and that is priceless.”


Bob Tobe, Floor360

Madison, Wisconsin – And finally, we have IDG showroom owner, Bob Tobe, conquering giant Design For A Difference transformations annually in the Midwest. After witnessing the success stories of year one, Bob jumped onboard continuing the campaign.

Bob Tobe“Life is precious, and if you can do something good in the world while you are here, the emotional return is bizarre; in a good way. And it’s magnified when you lead a movement like this. There is no greater sense of fulfillment as a local citizen and business leader than to see that our makeovers are changing lives.”

Before Design For A Difference, Bob’s company would donate money to a variety of good causes like Breast Cancer Awareness and Habitat for Humanity. And while donating money is important, the feeling of doing something good that came with it was temporary. Unless your writing checks frequently, there’s an innate desire to make a long lasting, more meaningful impact.

Given the opportunity to spearhead a charity makeover, it became much more about partnering with the charity and supporting it long term. To accomplish this, Bob partnered with his local NBC affiliate and Brava Magazine to bring more exposure to the non-profit and its mission. This, combined with an eager team of passionate designers, skyrocketed their first makeover into one of the most talked about pro bono projects in Madison.

“Everyone involved in our first year project was not only energized, but they couldn’t wait to start planning for what would come next.” Floor360 is now going into their fourth year of $100,000+ makeovers, taking with them a spectacular team of 38- (Yes, 38!) designers who believe that design truly makes a difference; not only for the community, but for all of those involved.

Embracing Design For A Difference in this way was so effective for Floor360, Bob rebranded all of his marketing to include their new campaign. “All of our branding incorporates our DFAD makeovers, and all printed materials communicate that ‘We use design to make a difference in your home AND your community.’ Or we may use phrases like, ‘cool times, warm hearts,’ or ‘hardwoods, soft hearts’. Design For A Difference has actually made over my business.”

“Our showroom sales have doubled annually for the last three years. The DFAD recognition brought us instant credibility, and not only do our clients trust us, but we are attracting the right kind of talent to join our showroom team. And, I might add, it’s also changed me as a person.” He adds, “I have a comfortable life, but the most successful thing I’ve done in my career is head up Design For A Difference Madison, and I hope it continues long after I’m gone.”

Matt, Ken, and Bob are just three examples of the many IDG showroom owners who have embraced Design For A Difference, taking it from a mere idea to a movement that is transforming their communities and their businesses; one makeover at a time.


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