Since 2008, Graf-Martin Communications, based in Elmira, Ont., has become a symbol of positive change in the marketing world. Founded by Ellen Graf-Martin, it has established itself as a leading integrated marketing and communications agency for more than 175 organizations seeking to do more good in Canada and around the world.

In the following article, Ellen shares an incredible story that highlights how God doesn’t forget anything and uses everything. It illustrates how God weaves our accomplishments, experiences and stories together with others to fulfil His plan, and showcases the importance of building something bigger than yourself.

In my dining room, a small blue dish sits on a glass shelf, reminding me of Josiah Wedgwood, an 18th-century potter from England. His innovative spirit made him the father of modern marketing and his commitment to justice changed the course of history—and shaped my own career path.

Culture Creator

Josiah, a fifth-generation potter, faced a challenge early in life when smallpox left him unable to use a potter’s wheel. Undaunted, he delved into the business of pottery, revolutionizing the industry with inventive products and game-changing marketing strategies.

In a time when pottery was inexpensive, primarily glazed in black to hide dirt and stains, Josiah dared to experiment, testing thousands of new glazes in white, cream and the iconic “Wedgwood blue.” His determination turned disability into opportunity, leveraging smart creativity and a drive for perfection, earning him the title “the Steve Jobs of pottery.”

Little did I know in 2008, that I was entering the family business: marketing for good. ELLEN GRAF-MARTIN

Josiah’s innovations didn’t stop at pottery. He established the first modern ceramics factory and pottery community of artisans in Stoke-on-Trent, England, an Industrial Revolution-era Silicon Valley, transforming ordinary stoneware into extraordinary opportunity.

The Father of Marketing

In 1765, Josiah caught the eye of royal tastemaker, social influencer and style-setter Queen Charlotte (who has re-emerged in popularity thanks to Netflix), changing the trajectory of Josiah’s career path.

An invitation was issued to potters across England to create and submit a “complete set of tea things” for Queen Charlotte’s use, leading to Josiah’s appointment as “Her Majesty’s Potter.” This launched Josiah’s Queensware, pioneering the concept of luxury for the masses and garnering him a strong following,including Russia’s Catherine the Great. Through creating new sales tools, such as catalogues, advertisements, money-back guarantees and door-to-door sales, he launched what we now know as modern marketing.

I’m certain that Josiah wasn’t an easy person to work with, moving quickly, full of ideas and drive and ambition, but he paved the way for generations of entrepreneurs and marketers to come. He also became extraordinarily successful and wealthy.

Well done, Josiah!

Ellen Graf-Martin's small blue dish made by Josiah Wedgwood
Ellen holds her family's dish

Campaigning for Justice

Beyond entrepreneurial success, Josiah used his influence, wealth and keen marketing mind for greater purpose. Josiah’s friendship with abolitionists Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce fuelled a deep commitment to using his wealth, along with his marketing and pottery skills, to advance the cause of the abolition of slavery.

The Wedgwood Anti-Slavery medallion, featuring the phrase “Am I not a man and a brother?” was produced and distributed by the thousands, free of charge—a revealingly generous decision for such a savvy entrepreneur. 

Although he didn’t live to witness the British Empire’s abolition of the slave trade or of the emancipation of enslaved people, Josiah’s family, especially his daughter, Sarah, took up this campaign of justice.


In 1910, Josiah’s great-great-grand-nephew, Nathan Wedgwood Medd, immigrated to Canada. In keeping with his family’s abolitionist roots, he married a Canadian Quaker and had nine children.

Nathan wasn’t a potter, but a talented musician, singer and a powerful force. While, like Josiah, he was difficult in his own ways, he also leveraged natural communications talent and became a justice advocate, driving thousands of kilometres across the country, campaigning for the rights of senior citizens and pensioners. Through friendship with the mother of the renowned politician and social reformer Tommy Douglas, Nathan’s advocacy helped secure Old Age Pension benefits for all Canadians.

Nathan was my great-grandfather.

Little did I know in 2008, that I was entering the family business: marketing for good. My entrepreneurial mission to use wise communications strategies to strengthen organizations committed to hope, generosity and justice wasn’t new to my gene pool, just forgotten.

While none of Josiah’s wealth had trickled down the family tree to us, we’d eaten off Wedgwood plates and seen photos of visits to the Wedgwood family museum, but no one spoke of the deeper mission behind the name.

My faith tells me that God had not forgotten. When I started my own entrepreneurial journey, I was led to specific words found in the Bible, in Isaiah 61. This chapter outlines God’s desire to use His people to communicate hope, to live generously and to pursue justice on behalf of those who experience injustice. And these words have kept me in this work, especially when it has been difficult.

Rooted in hope. Pursuing justice. Choosing generosity. And using marketing, pioneered by Josiah so many years ago, for good. This has been the legacy handed down to me.

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