Good Work for a Good World

Gavin Thomas leads with a deep commitment to making a positive difference.

by Sofia Tokar

Gavin Thomas

Gavin Thomas started TGW Studio, a marketing agency, in 2012 with co-founder Lisa Kribs.

Full-time employees spend about one-third of their waking hours each week on the job. In a perfect world, shouldn’t a sense of purpose go hand in hand with making a living — and maybe even turning a profit?

That line of thinking led Gavin Thomas ’06 and fellow marketing professional Lisa Kribs to consider starting a business, one where they could make a positive difference and help others doing likewise.

“We realized that we’d been spending the vast majority of our energy each day on work that didn’t necessarily align with our personal values,” recalls Thomas. “And we both wanted our daily work to contribute to something greater than ourselves.”

So in 2012, Thomas and Kribs cofounded TGW Studio, a full-service social impact marketing agency based in downtown Rochester, New York.

TGW, which stands for “This Good World,” wears its values on its digital sleeve, so to speak. Online the company touts being woman-owned, LGBTQ-owned and -operated, and a member of 1% for the Planet (meaning it donates at least 1% of its annual revenue to environmental nonprofits). TGW is also one of only 2,000 for-profit businesses globally certified as a B Corporation, a business committed to making a positive impact for its employees, the community, and the environment.

“We’re an unabashedly progressive company that supports like-minded brands and organizations doing impactful work in areas such as social justice, equity, inclusivity, and the environment,” Thomas says.

That stance, he admits, has cost TGW some lucrative contracts along the way. But after nearly a decade in business, the net result has been dozens of successful partnerships — regionally and nationally — across a range of industries, including renewable energy, health care, manufacturing, and tourism.

“A lot of marketing agencies today either have or are developing verticals in the social impact space,” says Thomas. “What sets us apart is our stated focus on this work since day one. We love this city, and are committed to being good citizens — both as a business and as individuals — in our community, but also in terms of the country and the planet. That’s our North Star.”

Thomas traces his personal commitment to the greater good to growing up in the small town of South Colton in northern New York. “You see the same people every day; everybody knows everybody,” he says. “You had to be kind, whether that meant waving and saying hello, or helping people fix flat tires or shovel their driveways.”

Drawn to Nazareth College for its similarly close-knit community as well as its business program, Thomas studied business administration (now business leadership). “The campus, the classes, the people — all of it emphasized close relationships and the importance of taking care of each other,” he says.

That lesson has stayed with Thomas as he helps steer a not-just-for-profit company toward sustainable growth — especially during a pandemic. In the wake of COVID-19, he and Kribs instituted a four-day workweek to prioritize their employees’ mental and physical well-being. This radical rethink of work-life balance was even featured in Time magazine.

Ultimately, Thomas believes that a good world starts with good work. “It’s awesome to see our team’s creativity and productivity expand,” he says. “And giving our people an extra day off allows them not only to take care of themselves, but also to be more involved in their community.”

Sofia Tokar is a writer in Rochester, NY.