Meet Krista Carroll, co-founder and CEO at Latitude, an award-winning strategic design agency based in Minneapolis. They've worked with clients like Adidas, Ring doorbell, and FootJoy. Krista was inspired to start her company after a trip to Haiti that changed her life and her perspective. She came to see that "most of the problems of humanity can be solved with design" and truly believes great design can ignite business growth. Latitude is unique in that it's a design firm and also a social enterprise; her company has contributed over $7.5M to charitable efforts that support women and families, and alleviate poverty since its launch in 2009.
Q: You started your company 21 days after a trip to Haiti. What was so impactful about that visit that made you want to start a business?
Visiting Haiti was life-changing in that I saw first-hand extreme poverty. Hearing and reading about extreme poverty was so different from meeting children whose daily reality is dire. We spent time in Cite Soleil, the poorest slum in the Western Hemisphere, where over 300,000 people live without access to clean drinking water or education, and are experiencing extreme food insecurity.
Many children in Cite Soleil live in Restavek, a form of modern-day child slavery. Very few have the opportunity to go to school and develop their potential. Their daily reality is a fight for survival. It was absolutely overwhelming to interact with children who I couldn’t help. Everything that I had learned throughout my life about God and His call for us to serve each other suddenly felt full volume. Full color. After meeting these children, I knew I had the opportunity to be a part of the change these kids deserved. My husband and I were convinced that we could use our talents in business to create an engine to fuel the nonprofits that were creating sustainable change.
Q: You’ve said that “many of the problems of humanity can be solved with design.” Tell us more about that.
Outside of natural disasters, the root of most problems is often some aspect of broken human nature: selfishness, greed, etc. As we have partnered intimately with nonprofits over the years to address some of humanity's biggest challenges, we’ve realized that strategy and design work in tandem to unlock solutions for anything—whether it be a successful consumer campaign and experience or sustainable change in a community.
The definition of design is to “do or plan with a specific purpose or intention in mind.” There is tremendous power when we approach things intentionally with a very specific purpose. This purpose, coupled with a deep understanding of the current state, assets, needs, and obstacles, allows solutions and experiences to be designed with maximum impact.
Q: What does great design mean to you?
Great design ignites growth. It solves a problem and maximizes potential, and is felt in a user experience that achieves a desired outcome. Sometimes great design leads to a “wow” moment, and other times it goes unnoticed because it creates such a seamless experience that the focus is elsewhere. Ultimately, great design moves the world forward and is at the heart of all historic and meaningful moments and movements (think the French Resistance of World War II or the Civil Rights Movement).
Q: Your business is unique in that Latitude donates almost half of its profits to good causes. Why is generosity important to you as a founder, and how have you maintained that dedication to giving over the years?
One of my friends says those of us born in the U.S. have “won the lottery of life simply by the latitude and longitude in which we were born.” We have access to clean water, food, education, and freedoms that most of the world doesn’t experience simply because of where we were born. With that, we are responsible for sharing this abundance with those not living this reality. My Christian faith reinforces my belief that we are called to be generous with our means, influence, time, and abilities, and if we all live that out, our world could be one that is more just and equitable.
Regarding Latitude, the purpose has always been to empower others through business; having that as our compass has helped me to stay true to the model of generosity it was founded on. To date, we’ve been able to contribute over $7.5M in profits to help elevate communities out of poverty in over two dozen countries.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you wish you knew before becoming a founder?
The times that I have led with an abundance mindset rather than a scarcity mindset are when our company has experienced the most success and impact. An abundance mindset helps me put others first, believe in the best in others and the opportunities, and stay motivated. It reminds me that my role is to set up our team, our clients, and our nonprofit partners for success and remove the obstacles preventing them from reaching their full potential.
When I have been driven by fear and a focus on scarcity— the possibilities, and our collective potential shrink. I encourage anyone leading to do so from a belief that the world is full of enough resources and possibilities for everyone to achieve success, and generosity isn’t a liability.
Q: What’s the best thing about running a creative company in Minneapolis?
The best thing about running a creative company in Minneapolis is the people you collaborate with. The people I have gotten to work with over the years are brilliant, have a unique perspective on the world, are creative thinkers who are always up for a challenge, are passionate about making the world a better place, and have a ton of fun. Minnesota has a long history of philanthropic businesses that have paved the way for generosity, and I have experienced a uniquely benevolent and engaged community in Minneapolis. I often feel like I am living in a bubble of goodness.
Q: Finish this sentence: the future of leadership looks like:
I believe in the tenets of servant leadership: flexibility, empathy, stewardship, and listening. However, the future of leadership must also incorporate casting a bold and purposeful vision and supporting this vision through deep personal commitment, willingness to risk, and the ability to be vulnerable. People are sick of inauthenticity, so skepticism and lack of trust are high. If we want to earn the privilege of leading others, we must have a bold and compelling vision with a greater purpose at its core. And we must be all-in, willing to dare greatly, and humble enough to let others see our humanness.