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Owning his own business when he grew up was furthest from Michael Kleiner’s mind when he was young. Writing was always at the forefront. There was a book, Wendell the Football, from the ball’s perspective, when he was 10 (and living in Norway), political satire at 11, first paying job at 15, covering Germantown Friends School sports for the Germantown Courier, sports publicist, school communications director, and finally…
Owner of a public relations and web site design business since 1999. He foresaw, that web sites would be an extension of any organization’s public relations.
“I’ve changed my earlier attitudes about business,” he said. “The idea we can have our principles and a business is enlightening. Would never have thought I would be President of a business association (Mt. Airy in 2006 and 2007).”
Michael wrote the feature stories about SBN’s Level 4 members.
“I was impressed by how different everyone’s story was,” he said. “Nobody took a straight line to the work they do now. I’ve always loved interviewing people and writing their story. I believe that – and my activism – is partly due to my maternal grandmother continually telling the grandchildren her immigration story. At 12 or 13, she was the oldest of four orphans after a pogrom killed her parents and two siblings in Russia. At Ellis Island, when a judge wanted to send one of her brothers back, she demanded that he be kept here."
Michael’s love of feature writing was borne out when in 2003 he received The Communicators Award of Excellence in Feature Writing-- an international award-- for his story about the first Latino president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, and the national organization.
His first client was West Mt. Airy Neighbors for its 40th anniversary. The organization is dedicated to ensuring racial stability and quality of life in the neighborhood. Dr. Lois Young-Tulin became his first author client and remains a client after 14 years.
“Michael is creative, competent, hard-working and has integrity,” said Dr. Young-Tulin. “He is always looking for opportunities to publicize his clients’ work and follows through in a timely manner.”
Authors and small businesses became his targets, and, “Making the Unknown Known,” his tagline.
“It came to me seconds before we went to press with the promotional material,” he said. “There’s a pattern in my career, successfully promoting small institutions, women’s sports, important community organizations and reflected the clientele I sought.”
His beat as a sportswriter at the Montgomery Newspapers chain was high school girls sports. Michael was Sports Information Director at what is now, Philadelphia University, the small college in the shadow of the Big 6. All 18 sports were publicized, but the highlights were the two national PR campaigns around men’s basketball coach Herb Magee’s quest for his 400th and 500th career victories. As a result, Michael gained a reputation in the media as the hardest working SID in the city.
After taking time to get a master’s degree in Educational Media from Temple, he was named Director of Communications at Abington Friends School. He churned out press releases, that were used as examples by reporters. The school’s 300th anniversary in 1996-97 was the highlight and included a visit by Rosa Parks. He opened the door to the gym for her.
After three years, now married and wanting to have better work-life balance, he started his own business. He joined the Mt. Airy Business Association (MABA).
“I noticed many business owners not only ran their business in the community, but lived here as well,” said Michael. “When a prospective business came to us for support, MABA evaluated the merits from the viewpoints of a business and a resident.
“Initially, the discussions at meetings centered around the interests of storefront businesses. They were different from those faced by the home-based businesses.”
Michael co-founded the SOHO (Small Office Home Office) group in 2000. It met monthly for six years, with members presenting their programs. In 2003, Michael received the Home-Based Business Advocate Award for Region III (PA, DE, MD, VA, DC, WV) from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
He would continue his advocacy for home-based businesses. While serving on the planning committee for SBN’s Social Venture Institute in 2012, he and Colleen Bracken shared that the B Corp Assessment was difficult to complete for home-based businesses. They planned a panel for SVI on Sustainable Business Practices for Home-Based Businesses and Business Service Providers. Michael talked about community involvement, Colleen leadership, and Andy DeSanctis of the Energy Coordinating Agency, about what can be done in the home.
“Anything that we do that contributes to the betterment of the community should count,” explained Michael. “About 99% of the recommended questions were implemented by B Corp.”
In 2006, he published Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, which traces the development of his affinity for the country, people and culture, though he is not of Norwegian descent. His family lived there for a year when he was 11. He attended a Norwegian school. He has returned seven times, including attending the International Summer School at the University of Oslo with 500 students from 70 countries. “These multicultural experiences have helped shape the person I’ve become.” For each sale, a tree is planted in an area hurt by deforestation.
The Jewish Children’s Folkshul, which emphasizes history, culture, values and ethics, also played a role. He was a student there, taught in the mid-80s, and his son graduated in May. For the last six years, he co-chaired the Social Action Committee. “We choose a theme every year and have to make it relevant for all grades and the adult community. I have used SBN as a resource. Since last year, a link to SBN and a Sustainability Link of the Week has been included in each week’s newsletter.”