Good things come to those who hustle.
“Honestly, it was a long time coming when they showed up at our office. It was almost like, ‘Where have you guys been?’” Chase McAnulty, founder and CEO of Charlie Hustle, said of a new partnership between the startup and the Kansas City Area Development Council.
The agreement takes Charlie Hustle’s now-iconic KC Heart design and elevates it as the official global brand of the Kansas City region and opens the symbol for limited use in the public domain, the KCADC announced Friday.
KCADC’s existing branding will remain for its organization and affiliated program — with the KC Heart logo used to augment the overall identity of the two-state metro and surrounding communities.
The KC Heart design has been a key part of Charlie Hustle’s story since the apparel startup’s founding in 2012. Heart-related merchandise continues to account for about 20 percent of the company’s revenue, McAnulty said.
Click here to check out KC Heart wares and other offerings from Charlie Hustle.
“To Chase’s credit, there is no licensing agreement. He really is interested in completely opening this up to the community and he truly just wants it to be as big as it possibly can,” said Tim Cowden, KCADC president, stipulating the KC Heart’s intended use for promotions and marketing of the region, not additional merchandising.
“He’s gifting it to the community to use this way. There’s no money exchange,” he added.
Such generosity was an easy decision for McAnulty, who said the KC Heart was never his alone.
“Over the last seven years, we’ve used the Heart to raise over a million dollars for local charities and we’re supporting our community through it … that’s something we’re pretty proud of,” he said, further explaining the history of the KC Heart — which extends more than 100 years and includes ties to railroad workers and the Kansas City Monarchs Negro League baseball team.
Click here to learn more about the KC Heart’s background, the story of Charlie Hustle, and how the brand has diversified its apparel line with athletic licensing deals.
“With the right people at the table, we knew this thing could be amplified and elevated to that next level,” McAnulty said of the partnership, which he called the “perfect opportunity” to share the success of the apparel company with the city that stitched it — on both sides of the state line.
“When you look at those letters — KC — and that heart, it means so much to so many people. Everybody wears that shirt and affiliates with that mark wherever you live,” Cowden said, adding that selling a divided region is often the most difficult part about promoting Kansas City.
With the KC Heart, border war divisions are erased, he added.
“This is a regional organization. Both States, 18 counties, 50-plus communities, that’s what we go out and sell in the B2B market,” Cowden said. “But if you look at this, that K and C applies to everything … everybody. It’s not KCMO. It’s not KCK. Its KC.”
Jeff Jones, H&R Block CEO, has repeatedly noted the Heart’s impact on him when he first visited Kansas City.
“I literally walked out on the street in October  and everybody was wearing Kansas City merchandise — not just Royals and Chiefs, or Sporting — just the city! Of all the cities I’ve been to, lived in, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that much local pride,” Jones told Startland News in 2018.
Such a reaction is the goal of the KCADC as they rebrand the region, explained Ashlie Hand, vice president of communication.
“We obviously have relationships with 250 companies here in town and we hope that they all embrace it and get behind it and find ways to express it both internally and externally. Burns & McDonnell, they have offices all over the world — how cool would it be to have a little fabricated heart in all of their offices, just as a connection back to the home office,” Hand said, optimistic for what Kansas Citians and local companies and organizations might do with the symbol.
“It’s taking that Kansas City pride out into the world and sharing it and inviting people in to experience what we all love about Kansas City,” she added.
The first test of the initiative’s power will include an effort to mobilize the heart, nationally. Charlie Hustle and the KCADC will distribute more than 1,500 t-shirts Friday to attendees during its annual meeting.
“[We’re asking them] to find someone on their holiday gift list that doesn’t live in Kansas City and send the shirt to them, asking them to wear it as either an expression of, ‘I love someone that lives in Kansas City,’ or, ‘I love an experience I had in Kansas City at one time,’” Hand explained.
The initiative will be tied to a newly launched social media presence — KC Heartland on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook — where shirt recipients will be asked to share their Kansas City experiences.
The social media push is designed to drive those who are KC-curious to KC.org — the digital home of the Kansas City region, Hand said.
“It’s sort of an umbrella website that will drive people to the different organizations and resources that they need depending on their relationship with Kansas City,” she said. “We’ll drive people to Visit KC and to the Chamber and to the regional council …”
KC.org will centralize resources anyone new to Kansas City or planning to visit the metro might need, Hand added.
The metro will also house access to the KC Heart — part of the Amplify KC initiative — giving anyone digital access to the logo in various designs, enabling them to use it in digital spaces such as email signatures, websites and social media.
Click here to explore KC.org and Amplify Kansas City.
“Chase is killing it. He doesn’t need us to go out there and amplify the heart even more,” Hand said. “But I don’t think we can come up with something that would be any better or that would compete with this. Why would we start from Square One and try to build a new brand when we’ve got one that’s already working for us?”
Eager to see the region take ownership of the symbol his company helped elevate, McAnulty said exciting conversations that could further evolve the KC Heart already have begun.
“We’ve talked about wrapping the streetcar [with the Heart,] we’ve talked about putting it on top of buildings — doing different campaigns that really give back and support the community and elevate the economic growth in this city,” he added.
“It’s that one iconic piece that can be used to really celebrate who we are as Kansas Citians.”
While adding the KC Heart to Kansas City’s skyline might be a dream of McAnulty’s — a vision for which he encouraged others to voice support — the sky isn’t the limit for the KC Heart, he said.
Additional discussions surrounding development of a sculptural Heart at Kansas City’s new airport terminal have been in the works, he noted, linking the symbol to travelers already boasting the KC Heart on their chests.
“You see it in airports all the time. It’s kind of the go-to shirt for people when they’re traveling — which is amazing,” McAnulty said. “Now you bring that full circle, talking about putting a big sculpture up at the new airport — something that’s also really going to elevate Kansas City — it’s all pretty cool.”
The sculpture would serve as a landmark that welcomes guests to the heartland and signifies the pride of Kansas City, which is felt worldwide, McAnulty said.
“My wife and I were in Italy and saw a KC Heart shirt hanging from someone’s clothesline, up on their balcony — that is wild,” he reflected, sharing the unexpected impact the Charlie Hustle brand has made.