BU Students Launch Pro Bono Communications Firm

wtbu · BU Students Launch Pro Bono Communications Firm

By Varsha Subramanian


When the world was turned upside down earlier this year with the outbreak of the coronavirus, businesses worldwide shut down. Meanwhile, education was compromised as classes met remotely and internships were canceled. Amidst the continuous slew of bad news, students from different parts of the world came together in an attempt to do good, creating Empath Worldwide, a pro bono communications firm that is committed to assisting clients in creating an opportunity out of adversity. 

The firm was founded in June 2020 by a group of Boston University students. With 13 professionals and 25 creatives from Nigeria, Indonesia, The United States, and more, Empath Worldwide was launched on August 1 with 14 clients, including Aery, MEDIAGIRLS, and Savvy Sapiens.

The firm offers communication and marketing services that include media relations, social media, branding, and event planning. 

Maya Malekian, a senior in the College of Communication and the founder and co-executive director of ‘Empath Worldwide,’ said that the firm is rooted in empathy, and was born out of a desire to make a difference in the community amidst the pandemic by helping organizations create strong relationships with their communities.

“Empath Worldwide was born out of adversity—that’s something that we say all the time,” Malekian said. “We were born when the world was stacked against us, as aspiring professionals. And for our organizations and small businesses, it felt like we were stuck.

“But we said ‘No.’ We said ‘We’re not gonna just stay with this new normal. We’re going to reject the status quo, and we’re going to make something out of this hurdle, and find an opportunity. And we wanted to do so in a way that is going to be pro bono—’for good’—pro bono translates to that and Latin.

“And so we wanted to make sure that we’re taking this time that’s really teaching us about empathy, and about the importance of community building and relationships, to contribute to this moment in time, for good and to bring together organizations that are really mission driven together with creatives who are also very mission driven and passionate, to better their communities that they’re a part of.”

The mission of the firm is “creating synergy between creatives and organizations to turn aspirations into action. All pro bono…all for good.”

Malekian said that, while they don’t know what their future looks like, it is a constant topic of conversation. 

“[That] definitely has been a question that we are trying to answer every day,” Malekian said.

“Yes, we have something really incredible born out of this moment—it’s timely, it’s relevant. But how can that moment never expire? How can we be a place that any creative can come whenever they’d like to hone in on their craft, but also to give back to their communities?

“And for the same thing with small businesses and nonprofits—can we be a place where they feel like if they need that extra support they can come to. And that, again, is not going to be bound to the moment we’re in. And so we talked about—[the co-executive director] Geneve and I—talked about our six-month, one-month, five-years, maybe even 10-year plan, and we see how we can have that longevity.

“And we don’t have all the answers yet, of course—this is something that is so unconventional and so different to anything we’ve ever seen before, at least in terms of what we’re trying to accomplish. So there isn’t like a roadmap for us to follow; so sometimes we don’t have the answers to all of our questions, but it makes it really fun and exciting, and it makes the collaborative aspect of our agency so important.”

Malekian said that the firm’s tagline, “We overcame so that you can overcome, ” further emphasizes how the firm is driven by the empathy that comes from having overcome hurdles during the pandemic. 

“We don’t know what it’s like to be a small business and nonprofit, or at least most of us because we don’t have one. But we know what it’s like to be an aspiring creative, and to have the whole world turned upside down, and your opportunities that you once had no longer being there, or now there is a roadblock,” Malekian said.

“So we lived it, we know it, and so that is why [being] driven by empathy feels so natural too…It’s putting yourself in your in that other person’s shoes. But it makes it so much easier, when you’re actually in those shoes yourself, to have that empathy and understanding.

“And so that was why we felt proud and comfortable to say that we know what it feels like to have, [for] lack of a better word, the world stacked against you, or to feel like the odds are against you and all of that, because that was what it was like for us. Internships were canceled, the job market wasn’t welcoming us anymore. So we know what it’s like to be in that situation.

“And so that’s why we say we overcame it, because we could have said ‘Okay, this is how the situation is, we’ll wait till it gets better.’ But instead we said ‘No, we’re not going to just sit around and wait. We have the opportunity to change it in our favor, and to really adapt and use this as an opportunity.’

“And so that’s why we said, because we’re able to do that, it is only in our responsibility to help others who are trying to overcome this difficult time. And in the future that, you know, this isn’t just a COVID era, this was inspired and born out of COVID. But there are always going to be roadblocks in the future. There’s always going to be hurdles, maybe not a pandemic, but there will be similar things. And so now that we’ve lived through it, and we know what it’s like, we feel responsible to help others overcome any hurdles that may come their way too.”

Empath Worldwide is actively looking for inspired individuals to join their team of creatives and will be holding information sessions in the coming months.