Jeremy and Krista Carroll were living in New York. The Minnesota natives were chasing the American dream. Jeremy had grown up in the printing world and was now a top seller in the industry. But the closer the couple seemed to achieving the American dream—or some significant aspect of it—the larger the hole grew in their souls.
“We were struggling because … we were both feeling very discontent that ‘We’re not living out our values,’” Krista recalled about those years. “Our faith was very much in a box. We’d take it out on Sunday, or we’d take it out every night and pray with the kids. It was very much like … it was just kept in a very nice little box.”
Krista recalls the day Jeremy sold the biggest job of his career.
“Oh, I feel sick about this,” Krista remembers him saying.
The hole in their souls—particularly Jeremy’s at the time—was making him feel emptier than ever.
A trip to Haiti
A few months later, Jeremy was on his way to Haiti with Jeff Gacek, co-founder of Healing Haiti. Jeremy and Krista continued to struggle with what they felt was an emptiness in their lives and thought maybe the trip would give Jeremy some direction or answers.
“I was so excited for him to be open to God meeting him there,” Krista said.
Krista remembers asking Jeremy if he was scared to make this trip, unsure about what God might reveal to him.
“I’m scared to come back,” Krista recalled Jeremy saying. “I know life is not going to be the same when I get back.”
The first day in Cité Soleil, one of the poorest cities in the world, Jeremy saw small children who had no food, clothing, education or water. When he saw one particular child, he remembered Jesus’ admonition about how our treatment of “the least of these” is the same thing as our treatment of Jesus himself.
That incident made him think: “I’ve been wasting all of my God-given gifts on me and my family. I haven’t been sharing them with humanity.”
The entire trip was overwhelming for Jeremy, and he began to develop some ideas for what he was going to do with his life upon his return to the States. He wanted to use the talents God had entrusted with him in order to serve humanity.
A return home
“He came home, and I was like, ‘Thank God,’” Krista said. “‘This is awesome. God is going to be at the center of our life.’”
The couple believed that God was calling them to something different but not necessarily to be missionaries. They believed God wanted them to use their skill and abilities to serve Him, and those skills and abilities were in business.
Jeremy wanted to start a commercial printing company. He didn’t want to purchases equipment but instead leverage his existing relationships to serve their clients and also give 50 percent of the profits to people living in poverty.
They had one major problem, however.
In 2008, about one month before the market crashed and pulled the U.S. economy into a several-year slump, the Carrolls had purchased a small apartment in New York. As with everything in New York, it was expensive, and they knew that selling it wasn’t an option in the current economic landscape.
“How about we pray about it for a little bit?” Krista suggested.
That night, Jeremy had a dream.
“This man was walking by with this wheelbarrow of pieces of leather and came up to Jeremy in Cité Soleil and he said, ‘Do you want this leather?’” Krista recalled. “Jeremy was like, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘What are you going to do with it?’ Jeremy couldn’t think of what to do with it. ‘I guess you’ll have to find someone else to give it to.’ The guy took off down the maze of shacks and shanties. Right as he left, Jeremy was like, ‘I could have made shoes for all the kids in Cité Soleil.’ So he’s running, trying to find this man in this maze.”
But he can’t find him.
In fact, Jeremy woke up from the dream soaked in sweat. He ran to the bathroom and became sick. The dream had literally made him physically ill “knowing that he’s missing an opportunity to serve every day that he’s not doing this,” Krista said.
The next night, Jeremy had another dream.
He was standing in an auditorium telling those gathered about his business plan to give away 50 percent of the profits. A man who was in the back row and who looked a lot like Jeremy said, “How are you going to do that? How are you going to feed your kids and give away 50 percent of your profits? It’s irresponsible.”
Jeremy woke up and audibly said, “God will provide for the day.”
The couple was now convinced about God’s new direction for their life.
“We decided … that Jeremy would quit his job right away,” Krista said. “The wave of peace came over us. We just got this amazing peacefulness.”
However, that same obstacle still blocked their path: the apartment.
But right when the couple decided Jeremy would quit his job, “Jeremy’s email dinged,” Krista recalled.
It was the neighbor downstairs asking if they would be interested in selling their apartment to him. The neighbor was planning to expand his apartment and needed the Carroll’s to complete his plan.
“We were like, ‘God, you are so good,’” Krista said.
It was November 2009.
New business, new goals
Things moved quickly after that.
The couple—along with two others—ran with the initiative they believed God had instilled in them and founded Latitude, which is a print, design and advertising agency with numerous high-profile clients.
“Our roots are in printing,” Krista said. “We started Latitude as a print production company. Our focus is on retail. We partner with retailers to heighten and elevate their in-store experience.”
Account executives and project managers occupy the New York offices, while production and creative teams are based in Minneapolis.
But what makes Latitude unique among its competitors is its commitment to give 50 percent of its profits to nonprofit groups working to reduce poverty around the world.
“In the first year, we sold $2.2 million,” Krista said. “We gave $50,000 away. The next year was $9.4 million; we gave $250,000 away. Then it was $12.1 million; I believe we gave $574,000. Last year we sold $17 million, and we gave $674,000 away.”
The company is approaching its fifth year this November and has given away a total of $1.7 million.
Initially, Krista said, they would have been thrilled to give away $1 million in five years.
“[God’s] surpassing the earthly goals we’ve set—that we thought were big goals,” she said.
Latitude partners with three main nonprofits, including Healing Haiti, Opportunity International and International Justice Mission, along with a handful of other groups.
“At the end of the year, every client gets an annual report that sums up what their business has been with us and what the impact has been from their profits,” Krista said.
Latitude employees also get to witness the result of their efforts with Latitude’s nonprofit partners. Once a year each employee has the opportunity to go on a trip to meet the people the company serves.
Considering the crossroads in life the Carrolls experienced some five years ago, Krista says she reminds herself daily that God’s version for her life is the best version, even if it flies in the face of what she expects.
“I think we all have this idea of what our life is supposed to look like and if we hold on to that, we’re missing out on what He wants our life to look like,” she said. “His version is the best version. Even when things are super hard and super stressful, it brings joy.”
Even though Latitude has grown to become a successful company with significant clients in a highly competitive field, Jeremy and Krista know that it is still God’s company.
“As long as we’re showing up every day, working our hardest, praying about the decisions that we’re making and keeping Him at the center of those, it’s His,” she said.
Learn more at www.latitudeelevates.com.
— by Scott Noble