Cakes & coins

I went to Law School in Brazil for a few semesters before advertising - and London - allured me.

I remember sitting down at the back of one class every Friday after break counting coins.

Back then I used to volunteer at a group that every christmas would make this huge event for kids from poor communities and give them a day filled with fun, after which they would get a kit full of stuff to get home.

Each kid got a godparent to pay their kits, and while these weren’t massively expensive, they weren’t cheap either. Especially for students.

So I figured that, rather than asking people to pay the bulk for each kid, I’d ask people for their change.

So every day during the break - at the time people would go off to buy coffee, drinks or snacks, I’d go round asking people to give me their change. 5, 10, 25, 50 centavos at a time.

This was money that would make no difference for them then, and they were willing to part with it quite easily.

After a while, people started to know me and they were giving less and less.

So I decided to change tactics.

It was a friend’s birthday, and we got her a cake. There were tons of leftovers, so I sliced them up and went around selling them to the people who already knew my face.

They didn’t take the cake, but they gave me money.

The cake was a way of initiating a new conversation. I was no longer just asking them for something - money - I was offering them something in return - cake.

But people were not so keen on the cake. They would rather just give me the money.

It might have to do with the fact that I was going round when people had just bought their snacks. They were already looking forward to that day’s chosen treat, and their change was still easy at hand. Based on their immediate needs, they didn’t need the cake and they didn’t need the change either.

The most interesting thing was that some people donated enough money to get a slice, and still didn’t want it. So I walked away with a tray full of cake (which my friends happily took home), and with a box full of coins.

It was a one day venture, but the cake-effect lingered. The whole thing was just a few weeks-long, but it got me experimenting with problem solving, it got me occupied during a really boring class and, most importantly, it help a bunch of kids.

By the end, some people had decided to donate the full bulk of the kits, some agreed to volunteer and one person whose parents had a company even got a sponsorship for the event.

I was in advertising even before I knew it. And it made me happy, which is something I don't hear ad people saying a lot.

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