On little ideas, big anniversaries and great joy

My dear friend and business partner, Teresa Coles, wrote this post in honor of our company’s 29th birthday on October 19th. So many amazing things have happened since she brought her smarts to C.C.Riggs (now Riggs Partners) a quarter of a century ago, not the least of which is CreateAthon. A joint thought brought the initiative into the world, yes. But it has been Teresa’s vision, drive and passion that has turned the little idea into a national movement that has generated $24 million in marketing services for nonprofits around the country. What a joy and honor it is to bask in the glow of her work and heart. We have just completed our 19th CreateAthon at Riggs, and in celebration, I am happy to share the love here.


On Riggs. CreateAthon. And more than a little grace.

by Teresa Coles

Twenty-nine years ago today Cathy Rigg said enough. Enough to mediocre thinking. Enough to creative short cuts. She left her job on a Friday, bought a Mac SE with money from her grandmother, and opened up C.C. Rigg’s on Black Monday, October 19, 1987.


what a little vision and a lot of believin’ looks like


There were a million reasons why this company would fail.

And yet, here we are. 

Nineteen years ago, she and I wondered if there might be something more for our company. A higher calling, if you will. So we came up with the notion of pulling an all-nighter to help nonprofits that couldn’t afford professional marketing.

There were a million reasons why this idea would fail.

And yet, here we are. 

So what matters in all of this? What have these markers in our collective history taught us about our work, our lives and each other?

Consider it all joy. 

On this birthday of Riggs and the eve of CreateAthon 19, I’m mindful of the cords of grace that have bound us over the years. The unspoken covenant that held us together when we just didn’t think we could do One More Thing. The willingness to listen generously to each other’s point of view in order to solve the unsolvable. The abiding sense of teamwork that pulled us out of chaotic seasons and returned us to a place of peace.

I’m grateful for every one of these challenges and foibles. They are testament to both our humanity and to what can be accomplished when we uphold each other in pursuit of something that’s bigger than any one of us.

Riggs Partners hasn’t been in business for 29 years because we’re smarter than anyone else in marketing. CreateAthon hasn’t delivered more than $24 million in pro bono service because we came up with the idea first.

It happened because we had faith in each other. And we knew that by standing as one, there was nothing we couldn’t accomplish – even if it wasn’t always perfect along the way.

Tomorrow morning, CreateAthoners will walk into the WECO building and breathe air that is electric, inspiring and humbling. We will bear witness to our very best selves. And we will see that as much as our CreateAthon clients may benefit from our gifts, the joy we receive will be tenfold.

That, my friends, is more than enough to say grace over.



The Four Feathers

I first started to notice the feathers a couple of years ago. I was going through a particularly stressful time, and suddenly they were there: falling from nowhere in our pantry; waiting on my doorstep when I got home from work; on the air conditioner vent outside our WECO building in the middle of a long CreateAthon night.

I believe each feather is sent to me by the angels, a reminder from God that I am loved.

It has been a long time now since I last found one. Weeks. No, months. Then I woke up early Friday morning, and enticed by the deep blue of a morning after the storm sky, took my camera to the back yard for the sunrise.

Not so spectacular after all, that particular sky. And then I looked down.


A feather. White and soft and delicate against the brown of our winter yard. And not just one. Two feathers, there at my feet.



Today I get these posts on my Facebook wall from my friend (and Chief CreateAthon Evangelist) Peyton Rowe, who has been in town for a few days of focused CreateAthon planning. She and her crew headed to Edisto this morning for an impromptu beach overnight.


peyton one
peyton 2


Thank you, my sweet angels. My heart is happy.



Day 15: Honor, Gratitude, and The Good Night

It was the kind of night you know will stay with you for a while, for a thousand different reasons. But the most significant is one I didn’t expect; a comment made so casually in a quick moment it might easily have gone unnoted; a fleeting bit of small talk passed between two acquaintances, just one of hundreds of layers of cocktail chatter.

But it didn’t disappear, her comment to me. It couldn’t, in that place, with those people.

All our candles together burn brighter, she said, and she smiled and turned to walk away.

It was a night in which we were to be honored—the volunteers of CreateAthon and those of us who started the whole thing 15 years ago—by The Cooperative Ministry, an organization that works tirelessly to meet the needs of the working poor in our community. The Cooperative Ministry was recognizing us for our philanthropic work with nonprofits over these past 15 years.

I was deeply grateful. And I was humbled, to be sure, recognizing how much more significant the work is of those who were doing the honoring. I said as much to Yolanda, who works with The Cooperative Ministry, standing there with me at the bar. We should be honoring you, I said.

All our candles together burn brighter, she said.

And so I smiled, too, and walked back toward the celebration.

My business partner, friend and CreateAthon co-founder Teresa Coles on the left. I'm on the right. It was a Good Night.











30 Days of Grace

Day 5: When Gratitude is Deep and Far and Wide

September 15th, 2011 marks the 14th time our team at Riggs Partners, along with a band of fearless creative volunteers, has devoted 30+ hours (straight) to solving the marketing challenges of local nonprofits. And every year, the chorus from those we serve is the same:

You will never know how much this means to us.
We are overwhelmed with the gift of this work.
We will never be able to adequately thank you.

Now I understand those sentiments. Because this year, our friends at Emulsion Arts in Charlotte joined us for the crazy marathon that is CreateAthon. And this time, we were on the receiving end of an incredibly beautiful and generous gift.

The grand story of CreateAthon 2011, perfectly told by Joanne Hock and her team of fearless creatives. We are humbled and deeply, deeply grateful.

30 Days of Grace

Day Three: The Beauty of a Post-It

My sweet friend and apprentice Kathryn White (I recognize both her handwriting and her spirit) must have left this post-it on my keyboard last week. I have no doubt I gave the note a quick glance, then moved it aside intending to resurrect it the first moment I could give it the love and attention it deserved.

The gentle message stayed there, growing more and more lost amid the papers of a thousand projects. This is CreateAthon week, the busiest week of the year for all of us at Riggs. On Thursday / Thursday night / Friday, we and a band of fearless creative volunteers will work 24 straight hours—yes, without sleeping—to develop desperately needed marketing materials for 12 area nonprofits. It takes a village to get ready for this monstrous event, and when you layer on the work required to keep our regular client work on track while we shut down for 48 hours … well, you get the picture.

I overloaded my backpack with work to bring home tonight, and one thought played in my head like a vinyl record with a needle stuck in its groove:  I will never get all this done in time. I will never get all this done in time. I will never ….

Then right there, peeking from under an unread research report and a half-finished creative brief, a quiet little unassuming post-it reappeared in my life.

Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, remain still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you unasked. It has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

I can tell you right this very moment that note will get me through this insane week. And in the long night that is CreateAthon, when doubt and stress and exhaustion begin to wreak havoc on me—mind, body and soul—I will remember the promise and be grateful.

30 Days of Grace