When Ashley Kane was 8, her family lost everything in a house fire.

But, two decades later, what has stayed with the Philly native more than anything else about that tragedy isn’t loss. It’s compassion.

“I’ll never forget firefighters showing up the next day with Easter baskets for my brother and sister and me,” says Kane. “Those are the people I want to be like. They didn’t know us, yet they were still kind enough to think about three kids who didn’t have a house anymore.”

The transformative power of simple acts of humanity is now the guiding principle behind Live Life Nice, a five-year-old startup Kane runs with Christian Crosby, the ebullient in-arena host for the 76ers (and, with nearly 63,000 Instagram followers, a Philly social media star).

Crosby had been toying for years with iterations of do-good content — a YouTube video here, a tweet there, an inspiring homemade T-shirt the next day — before he partnered with Kane to formalize his passion.

He describes Live Life Nice as a cause-driven digital media and apparel company. “Our sole purpose is to inspire, empower, and motivate ‘nice,’” he says.

The pair execute their mission through interdependent channels:

  • There’s the Live Life Nice website, with its list of more than 500 suggested random acts of kindness.
  • There’s the company’s social media presence, regularly featuring the charismatic Crosby performing one of those random acts — giving out flowers to passersby at Independence Hall, for example, or distributing “doughnut bouquets” to commuters in University City.
  • There are the do-good partnership events (they’ve rallied followers to join them on fund-raisers like the annual Philadelphia Love Run Half-Marathon).
  • And then there’s the Live Life Nice apparel — a line of hoodies, beanies, and tees in a cozy-cool palette of black, white, and gray emblazoned with the word nice in cursive. The garments are printed in Clifton Heights, and Kane says they try to source their products from brands that embrace fair business practices. For now, the line is sold on the company’s site, at pop-up shops around the region, and at the Foot Locker Power Store in Wyncote.

Trendy as giving back may be in 2019, Crosby’s desire to encourage acts of goodness dates to his upbringing in Philly and South Jersey, where he watched his parents feed the homeless, lead theater arts programs for impoverished children, and counsel neighbors in times of need.

Like them, he says, he wanted to do good but struggled with how to mesh that desire with his love of entertaining and hope of being an entrepreneur. He was also dismayed by how negativity gets the most attention in the media.

“I wanted to do something about it,” says Crosby.

Kane, meanwhile, was bartending at Time, the Center City whiskey bar where Crosby hung out after working games. The two bonded, as Crosby, who doesn’t imbibe, relied on Kane to pour him sweet alternatives to his buddy’s beer and liquor.

“I always say we became friends over a pink drink,” says Kane.

Coincidentally, Kane had begun questioning her bartending career around the same time that Crosby needed someone to fill a role in one of his do-good videos. So Kane stepped up — and, according to Crosby, killed it.

“From that point on, Ashley [was] my right hand,” Crosby says.

The mission of Live Life Nice may sound lofty, but skeptics take note: It’s one of just seven companies that’s been vetted and validated by the Sixers Innovation Lab Crafted by Kimball. The lab, a startup incubator based in the Sixers’ Camden training facility, is run by Seth Berger. He’s the visionary entrepreneur who, with partners, launched, built, and sold mega-sportswear brand And1.

“I think the time is right for a brand like Live Life Nice to have a real opportunity to succeed,” says Berger. “It’s going to sound corny, but I think Christian and Ashley are two incredibly nice people, and I was attracted to their spirit.”

After Live Life Nice earned a spot in Berger’s lab in 2017, Crosby quit his 10-year day job in marketing and events for the Sixers. Now, when he’s not hosting games at the arena, he and Kane devote their full-time attention to Live Life Nice.

Their focus is paying off. Using the company’s Instagram following of nearly 12,000 to mobilize action, they’ve spearheaded a letter-writing campaign to get 100,000 messages of appreciation to military overseas; donated about 1,500 pairs of shoes to Goodwill; collected hundreds of toys for teen-development nonprofit CF Charities; and donated loads of sporting equipment to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Philadelphia.

For now, the company’s main revenue stream is apparel, but Kane and Crosby hope to monetize their videos through sponsorship deals, as they did with the doughnut video with Dunkin’ Donuts. (They also hint that an expansion of products and distribution channels could be on the horizon.)

“Live Life Nice has the potential to be really impactful, whether it goes beyond Philadelphia or the East Coast and becomes a big U.S. or international brand,” Berger says. “As long as it’s making a difference and spreading positivity, I’m happy to be a part of it.”

So what’s next for the dynamic promoters of living life nicely?

“We have no intention of staying local,” says Crosby. After all, adds Kane, the problem of negativity is not unique to Philly or America.

“We want to be international yesterday,” she says.

Supporters of Live Life Nice strike a pre-event pose before the 2019 Philly Love Run Half Marathon.
Ronnie Polaneczky / Staff
Supporters of Live Life Nice strike a pre-event pose before the 2019 Philly Love Run Half Marathon.

This article first appeared in The Citizen.