The story of my work to-date, how Ticco came to be, and why this isn’t just any social network. Written by Katie Rispoli Keaotamai, Founder & CEO of Ticco.
My Work Prior to Ticco
In 2012 I was graduating with my Bachelor’s degree in Long Beach, California and went to work for a local construction company. I was tasked with checking in on job sites, assisting with bookkeeping, and obtaining permits for most of our projects. While some were smaller, I often obtained permits for multi-million dollar developments and adaptive reuse projects. After a year I was asked to begin managing projects myself, starting with the renovation of an Mid-Century Modern high rise in 2013.
Around this time I began working towards my Master of Heritage Conservation degree in the USC School of Architecture. As I became familiar with historic preservation and continued my work in construction, I was very aware of the lack of young people around me. It seemed so counter intuitive that we were building places for future generations, but not engaging them in the process.
While in my first year of grad school, I was assigned the relocation of a historic building at my job. I loved the project, but wanted to allocate my energy to engaging young people with our work. At 23 I left to start a nonprofit organization that used vacant and dilapidated buildings to teach youth about the built environment. I was lucky enough to receive a lot of help - first, my former boss encouraged me to transition the building relocation project to the nonprofit, and second, I was awarded a grant to help cover two years of organizational expenses.
In 2015 I received a phone call from Taco Bell corporate. The first Taco Bell, located in Downey, faced demolition and needed to be relocated. Since I had experience in relocations, they asked if I could help. I ended up landing the opportunity of a lifetime, and was hired by Taco Bell to document the building, plan its relocation, and oversee the saving of “Numero Uno,” the world’s first Taco Bell. Moving Numero Uno gave me a national platform to advocate for “unconventional” preservation efforts. I began to travel around the country and ask preservation groups of all sizes to step outside of their comfort zone by implementing youth programs, letting go of red tape, and saving cultural sites.
I knew my work in preservation did little good if it didn’t tie in with intersecting professions. To many who work with the built environment, preservationists are known as gate-keepers are who are against progress. Especially after I worked in the development world, I felt obligated to connect the profession with others so we could work together and grow beyond our differences.
Promoting Collaboration with Ticco
Collaboration is the backbone of Ticco. The idea came from a conversation I had in 2017 with Each + Every, a design studio in Kent, Ohio. They heard about a project of mine and asked if I could replicate it in their community. I knew that I would need a planner, a preservationist, and a construction crew who knew the community well and were up for a forward-thinking project.. but when I tried searching, I ended up with hundreds of results and no way to know if their perspective was a fit.
I started dreaming up a network where people were connected by philosophy as well as profession, and where we could bridge the gap between our fields by focusing on our common goals. After sharing the idea and listening to feedback from about 200 practitioners nationwide, I realized that it was feasible to pursue. Last May I dropped most everything else to begin working on Ticco full-time.. and here we are!
How We Do Things Differently
Ticco is a self-funded tech startup. Rather than seek Venture Capital or other investors, I started this company with my personal savings and loans. It wasn’t easy to do, but I felt it would be unethical to give ownership to outside groups who aren’t familiar with our work and don’t understand its impact on all residents’ quality of life.
Not accepting outside capital gives us the ability to take risk and pursue a vision that prioritizes our members over a financial return. Because Ticco is driven by social impact, I’ve often been asked, “Why isn’t it a nonprofit?”
My experience running a nonprofit taught me that philanthropy prioritizes the distribution of resources to white, well-connected, and wealthy nonprofit leaders. Although progress is being made, I’ve experienced this dynamic before and couldn’t risk it squandering the potential of Ticco. Additionally, I believe that successful businesses should be accountable to humankind by empowering others and practicing sustainability. We need more businesses showing that profitability and doing good are not mutually exclusive. Since Ticco does not need grant funds or donations to operate, there really isn’t a reason for us to be a nonprofit. Rather, we can illustrate how social innovation can and should creep into the for-profit sector in order to improve the lives of people everywhere.
To start, we’ve pledged to donate $25 for every member, every year to support educational initiatives and programs that diversify our members’ professions. I hope that by increasing the number of professionals who share experiences with those they serve, we can further embed equity, accessibility, and compassion into the way that we shape cities. We’re also taking steps to become a certified B-Corporation and join 1% for the Planet by the end of 2019.
As Ticco members, I hope that you’ll use this platform to expand your horizons, grow your understanding of other fields, and gain confidence in your perspective. As you do these things on Ticco, we promise to advocate for you as professionals, provide you with new tools that enhance your ability to do good work, and push our professional institutions away from the status quo.
As we begin, we want our platform to evolve in order to meet your needs. I encourage you to share your feedback, suggestions, and thoughts on how we can improve Ticco. You, as members, are our primary stakeholders. Our team at Ticco works for you, and is here to accommodate your needs above anyone else’s.
I am so grateful and excited to have you here with us, and I encourage you to reach out anytime directly. Thank you for your passion, your work, and for becoming a Ticco member!
Katie Rispoli Keaotamai