A Peruvian girl hears music for the first time in her life.
LSTN is an LA-based audio company that makes headphones, speakers and more out of real wood. But they aren’t making plastic headsets for athletes: proceeds from purchases of LSTN products go to giving someone hearing for the first time through Starkey Hearing Foundation. They’ve garnered critical and commercial success of both their product and business model.
We sat down with founder Bridget Hilton to learn more about the possibilities for a social enterprise in music.
DMN: There aren’t many socially-focused headphone manufactures out there, much less music companies with philanthropic goals. How would you address the haters that would say charity is just an angle or gimmick for LSTN?
Bridget Hilton: My business partner Joe and I started the company after we saw a video of someone hearing for the first time. We literally would not have done this without the associated cause, it was the reason why we started LSTN. Consumers are smart and can see the difference between marketing gimmicks and authenticity. Our partner Starkey is the most authentic foundation I’ve ever seen and it’s been an incredible experience to be able to give the gift of hearing, not to mention play music for thousands of people for the first time.
Corporate responsibility is becoming more and more popular with B Corps and companies such as Warby Parker, but the technology world hasn’t adapted as quickly.
“When we get to play music for kids that have never heard before, it’s the best feeling in the world!”
DMN: Why choose hearing?
Hilton: I grew up in the music industry, first working in venues, retail and then for UMG and WMG. Music has always been the most important part of my life and I couldn’t imagine life without it. So when it comes to supporting different causes, I felt that hearing would be the most appropriate and impactful. When we get to play music for kids that have never heard before, it’s the best feeling in the world!
DMN: This is a crowded sector, with more headphone manufacturers entering every year. How do you compete against billion dollar brands in such an overcrowded industry?
Hilton: We concentrate on the quality of our products & the story. Our customers are our best marketing. We initially made the product out of wood because we thought it would sound better, however the biggest advantage has been how different they look than other brands. It gives us a leg up in the real world, for instance if someone is wearing them in an airport or walking down the street, it’s a talking point with others vs. just wearing black plastic headphones.
Our story has allowed us to attract amazing partners like Google and Delta Airlines to help further our cause. We’re just getting started and excited to see what’s next!