When Ashley Kane was eight years old, her family lost everything in a devastating house fire.
But two decades later, what has stayed with the Philly native more than anything else about that tragedy isn’t loss. It’s compassion.
“I’ll never forget firefighters showing up the next day with Easter baskets for my brother and sister and me,” Kane says. “Those are the kinds of people I want to be like. They didn’t know us; they deal with emergencies constantly; and yet they were still kind enough to think about three kids who didn’t have a house anymore.”
The transformative power of simple acts of kindness is now the guiding principle behind Live Life Nice, a five-year-old startup Kane runs with Christian Crosby, the ebullient in-arena host for the Sixers (and, with more than 59,000 Instagram followers, a bona fide Philly social media star).
Crosby had been toying for years with iterations of do-good content—a YouTube video here, a Tweet there, an inspiring homemade t-shirt the next day—before he partnered up with Kane to formalize his passion. He describes Live Life Nice as a cause-driven digital media and apparel company. “Our sole purpose is to inspire, empower, and motivate nice,” he says.
“I think that the time is right for a brand like Live Life Nice to have a real opportunity to succeed,” says Seth Berger. “Clearly in our society, the more light that we can shine on good things right now, the better our society will be.”
The duo executes that mission through several interdependent channels. There’s the Live Life Nice website, with its list of more than 500 suggested random acts of kindness. There’s the company’s social media presence, regularly featuring the charismatic Crosby performing random acts of kindness around town—giving out flowers (and, on request, hugs) to passersby at Independence Hall, distributing Dunkin’ “donut bouquets” to commuters in University City.
There are the company’s do-good partnership events. They’re rallying people to join them on March 31st for the 7k portion of the Philadelphia Love Run half-marathon, with a mission of raising $100,000 for Legacy of Hope, which funds research and supports financially-distressed cancer patients in Philly. Soon after, on April 13th, they’ll be putting their efforts behind the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Big Climb Philly, with the goal of rallying 100 people to join their team.
And then there is the Live Life Nice apparel, a line of hoodies, beanies, and tees in a cozy-cool palette of black, white, and gray emblazoned with the word “nice” in cursive. The garments are printed locally, in Clifton Heights, and Kane says they source their products from brands which ensure “nice” business practices as often as they can. For now the line is sold on the company’s site, where, if you sign up to take the company’s Nice pledge, you get a 10 percent discount code; at sporadic pop-up shops around the region; and at the Foot Locker Power Store in Wyncote. Crosby and Kane hint that an expansion of products and distribution channels could be on the horizon, though they couldn’t say much more at this time.
Trendy as giving back may be in 2019, Crosby’s desire to encourage and highlight acts of goodness is far more than a fad; it’s deeply rooted in his upbringing. Growing up in Philly and South Jersey, he watched his parents feed the homeless, lead theater arts programs for impoverished children, and do community counseling. “My parents are very selfless, and I grew up wanting to be like that,” he says. But with a knack for being silly and entertaining—hence, the arena gig—he was conflicted. “I wanted to do good, I wanted to entertain, and I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I struggled with how to do all of that,” he says. Working in marketing and events for the Sixers for 10 years, he began to take note of how, in the world of media, negativity gets the most attention. “I didn’t like that—and I wanted to do something about it.”
So far they’ve spearheaded a campaign to get 100,000 letters to military overseas, donated about 1,500 pairs of shoes to Goodwill, collected hundreds of toys for CF Charities, and donated several hundred pieces of sporting equipment to The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Philadelphia.
Kane, meanwhile, was bartending at Time, the Center City whiskey bar where Crosby would regularly head after working games; the two became fast friends as Crosby, who doesn’t like to drink, relied on Kane to pour him sweet alternatives to his buddy’s beer and liquor. “I always say we became friends over a pink drink,” Kane says. As timing would have it, Kane had begun questioning her bartending career around the same time that Crosby needed someone to fill a role in one of his do-good videos. So Kane stepped up—and, according to Crosby, killed it. “From that point on, Ashley went from being the random person who came to save the day one time, to being my right hand throughout this journey,” Crosby says.
The company’s mission may sound lofty, but skeptics take note: It’s one of just seven companies that’s been vetted and validated by the Sixers Innovation Lab Crafted by Kimball; the startup incubator, based in the Sixers Camden training facility, is run by Seth Berger, the visionary entrepreneur who, with his partners, successfully launched, built, and sold sportswear brand And1 (and is now the basketball coach at Westtown School).
“I think that the time is right for a brand like Live Life Nice to have a real opportunity to succeed,” Berger says. “Clearly in our society, the more light that we can shine on good things right now, the better our society will be. And Christian and Ashley really want to do that.”
After Crosby and Kane pitched Berger and earned a spot in the lab in 2017, Crosby quit his day job in Sixers marketing; now, when he’s not at the arena for games, he and Kane devote their full-time attention to Live Life Nice.
Their hard work is paying off. With Live Life Nice’s Instagram following of nearly 12,000 (and growing), so far they’ve spearheaded a campaign to get 100,000 letters to military overseas, donated about 1,500 pairs of shoes to Goodwill, collected hundreds of toys for CF Charities, and donated several hundred pieces of sporting equipment to The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Philadelphia. About 1,000 people have made the online pledge to complete a Nice act. And while, for now, the company’s main revenue stream is apparel, they’re hoping to regularly monetize their videos through sponsorship deals, as they did with their Dunkin’ video.
“I think Live Life Nice has the potential to be a really impactful brand, whether it goes beyond Philadelphia or beyond the east coast and then becomes a big U.S. brand or becomes an international brand,” Berger says. “At the end of the day, as long as it’s having an impact, making a difference, and spreading positivity, I’m happy to be a part of it.”
That arguably one of the most successful sportswear powerplayers of our time—in its heyday, And1 ranked only behind Nike in basketball market share—is drawn to Live Life Nice not for its apparel, but for both its moral bottom line and potential financial one says as much about the times we live in as it does about Kane and Crosby’s character. “It’s gonna sound corny,” Berger says, “But I think Christian and Ashley are two incredibly nice people, and I was attracted to their spirit.”
The feeling is mutual. “In the business world, having names like the Sixers and Seth Berger behind your name obviously helps,” Kane acknowledges. “Seth is a powerhouse, and he will make sure the fire is lit to make you keep pushing towards that goal.”
So what is the ultimate goal?
“We have no intention of staying local whatsoever,” Crosby says. Negativity, Kane points out, is not a problem that’s unique to Philly or the U.S.
Adds Crosby: “We want to be international yesterday.”