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Bright Idea: Cakes for a Cause

Let’s admit it: mental health is a topic most of us are still ashamed to talk about. In a culture where the latest buzzword for success is “grit”, the very idea that someone’s success might be hampered by his or her own mind is just unacceptable — never mind the fact that it’s highly genetic (i.e., NOT YOUR FAULT), and almost 20% of US population suffers from anxiety disorders and 15 million Americans suffer from major depressive disorders. That’s a lot of people. A LOT. And most people dealing with mental health issues are waging monthly, weekly, and daily battles — making them some of the strongest people you know. But the stigma is steeped in centuries of superstition that are awfully hard for a society to shake. Depressed Cake Shop is committed to ending that stigma, one gray cake at a time. The concept behind Depressed Cake Shop is simple: enlist a bunch of friends, acquaintances, and perhaps total strangers to hold a bake sale and raise money for mental health charities. Where DCS stands out from your typical bake sale is in its strong brand identity, community of advocates, and international reach. Baked goods must be gray, “to signify the gray cloud that can descend over a beautiful world when someone is struggling with mental health issues”. From there the donated treats are only limited by the sugar artists' imaginations, and the confections bakers create are in turns beautiful, sad, and thought-provoking.

Gray cakes are unexpected (surprise and delight!), and the simple palette lends Depressed Cake Shop a brand consistency most organizations only dream about — while allowing infinite creativity on the part of its participants. Speaking of which: community is absolutely central to Depressed Cake Shop. By embracing everyone who approaches them as a “co-conspirator” no matter their level of participation (full disclosure: I’m one of them), their brand engagement and brand advocacy is through the roof. And it’s totally organic and completely genuine. They’ve created a warm, safe space online for people to share their challenges with mental illness and the DCS leadership is incredibly active in sharing love and encouraging openness, responding to every post and email. We can all take a page out of their book. We’re seeing a huge social shift online from Pinterest-perfect pictures to the confessional conversation, and the Depressed Cake Shop walks the line between the two in a masterful manner. I could write on and on about this organization, but instead I’ll encourage you to see it for yourself. The next scheduled pop-up happens to be in Tauranga, New Zealand, but join their mailing list to find out when one might be popping up near you — new ones are added all the time!

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