Image of founder John Hoyt working with staff.

Pyramigo Profile: John Hoyt

An Interview with our Founding Partner

Posted: Apr 7, 2015

Every day we’re excited to come into the office. Not many people can say that. But we can, because we know the work we’re doing matters. We believe we can change the world. Each of us has a different story to tell, a different story about why doing good in the world matters to us. We thought we’d share it with you. Get to know the Pyramigos!

First up, our fearless founder John Hoyt. Originally from Buffalo, NY, John grew up committed to becoming an advocate for civil rights and social change.

Image of founder John Hoyt working.

Let’s dig right into our conversation.

So, John, what’s your story?

I grew up in an activist family. When my mom said the words “field trip” it meant something different to me than it did to other kids. We spent many nights licking envelopes at various headquarters instead of doing homework. After college, I ended up traveling the country with the Mondale campaign for a year as an organizer and crowd builder. Learned the power of persuasion and how to mobilize and excite people about what we could accomplish in a short time if we all worked together. It was old-school organizing, fueled by beer and pizza.

And you worked for Disney at one point, too, right?

Yes, I travelled the country with Goofy and other Disney characters while working for Burson Marstellar in NYC. I always wanted to write an op-ed comparing traveling with Goofy and travelling with a presidential candidate, but somehow I never got around to it.

Not long after, you founded Pyramid.

It struck me that there weren’t enough people building communications strategies for the most important issues: the staggering disparities in Indian Country, the need for affordable housing, protection for our ancient forests, an end to childhood obesity. I wanted to see if a company that just focused on progressive causes and issues, working with like-minded partners, was a viable model. So Pyramid began—and was run out of a second bedroom for the first year of our existence.

Fast forward to now. What would you say you’re known for professionally? What do you have a knack for?

I think I have a knack for connecting the dots and bringing people from various backgrounds to the table, around pressing issues in our community. I love working with really smart people here at Pyramid and smart clients to solve problems that sometimes feel unsolvable.

What projects stand out to you as you look back at the work you’ve done, or maybe are working on now?

Projects in Indian Country, where we are working with communities that have the greatest disparities—health, income, etc—of any in the nation. I really enjoy the work we're doing with the Blackfeet Nation to protect the sacred Badger-Two Medicine and love all the work we get to do to protect natural resources that are important to Native people, whether Lummi, Yakama, Swinomish, or others. And I love all the projects where we're trying to make this city a better place, especially our work in affordable housing.

Indian Country is a phrase that’s used to describe self-governing Native American lands and communities. Something special about Pyramid is we’ve been working with tribes and Native organizations since our founding. So how did you first get connected with these communities and these projects?

I think my first connection was growing up playing lacrosse on Indian reservations in western New York and canoeing throughout Canada, where we would visit summer fish camps periodically. In Washington, it was starting work with Sealaska Corporation back in the late ‘80s and then working with the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes in Montana on various issues.

Tell us about some of your personal passions.

I'm pretty passionate about my 13-year-old son Jack Hoyt. I'm passionate about house design, garden projects, and playing squash. I’d bike and exercise all the time if I could.

And lacrosse?

Not so much any more. That was about 30 some years ago.

You’re also a passionate volunteer, right? What organizations are you working with these days?

I'm definitely passionate about the need for more affordable housing in Seattle and as a result I'm on the board for Capitol Hill Housing Foundation. And I'm passionate about the need to eliminate nuclear weapons and proud of the role the Ploughshares Fund has played in being a strong advocate for that. As a result am on the Ploughshares Fund board.

Are those your favorite nonprofits? Maybe that’s an unfair question to ask of someone who works almost exclusively with nonprofits.

Well, two of my favorite nonprofits are ones we haven’t worked with: Fare Start and Real Change. Fare Start is a culinary job training and placement program for homeless individuals and Real Change is a weekly newspaper sold by homeless and disadvantaged vendors, which advocates for economic and social justice.

What is it about those nonprofits that inspire you?

It's great hands-on mentoring, teaching, building confidence in people and giving them something they can be proud of—making a living selling newspapers or learning the craft of serving and being able to move into the workplace pretty quickly.

What haven't I asked that I should ask you?

Why do I come to work every day after 23 years?

Great question. So, why do you come to work every day after 23 years? 

I think I still come to work because I so much love the people who I get to work with here at Pyramid. I love that we're passionate about the issues that we get to work on.

Even after so much has changed—staff, projects—what has stayed the same at Pyramid?

That's a good question. What's stayed the same is Pyramid is laser-focused on connecting with and understanding communities, projects, and issues that matter. And what's stayed the same is Pyramid hires and works with the best minds you could ever imagine having on staff.

Founder John Hoyt going over a project with staff.

Even with all these big issues we tackle, you’re known to be a joker. Why do you believe in not taking yourself too seriously?

I really believe that it's a serious world… so you have to laugh as much as possible. It's finding humor in everything and always being entertained by those that are humorous. Laughing is very, very important in everything we do. I'm always joking around; whenever I can, I will. Almost to a fault.