“Can you be a great marketer and an ethical person … really?”
Abiah’s story begins in 2004 with a young Christian named Guy Richards (that’s me). I struggled with this question every day I went to work at a marketing agency in Philadelphia.
I’ve always been skilled at managing perception— I understand what makes people like something or hate it. The problem is that when you run with the big dogs in the marketing space, you get pressured to use those skills to do some not-so-ethical things. It becomes your job to package “evil as good and good as evil.”
But Jesus Christ had changed me. I loved Jesus and wanted everyone to know it. And that meant that I was not going to fit into the traditional marketing environment.
So my wife Heidi and I founded Abiah: a boutique marketing agency. “Abiah” means, “the Lord is my Father.” We started taking on clients, and within a year, we were recognized in the top 100 rebrands on Rebrand100.com—alongside Coca-Cola. We had helped a startup Surfing Artist International strike a deal with Bertalzman, who took the company to 60+ countries and over 10,000 accounts in less than 12 months.
By 2007 I had built some momentum in the conventional business space. I had been considering repositioning Abiah to help Christian organizations, but I didn’t want to lose the momentum Abiah had with value-based businesses. I went back and forth on this until I went on a very important golf trip.
Prayer, golf, and a new direction
In 2007 I made an agreement with my friend Chris Einwechter: for a week, we would both share one prayer request and pray once a day for each other. After the week was up, Chris brought me golfing and kindly asked if I was in some kind of sin or rebellion against God.
It was kind of awkward.
Chris asked me that because he felt God would not let him pray for the growth of Abiah. Once he said that, I knew what God wanted for Abiah. It was time to let go of my doubts and put my talents to work for my brothers and sister in Christ. I was convinced God wanted me to focus on helping Christian organizations.
The next day I changed the corporate tagline on Abiah’s website from “Solutions that make a bottom-line difference.” to “Helping Christian Businesses grow.”
Within just a few days, Abiah received an email from a representative of Pastor Bill Hybels with interest to develop his personal brand. It confirmed the new direction to me: God was giving me the green light to push ahead boldly.