Today’s young people are as concerned with making a positive impact on the world as they are with making money. A whopping 94% want to use their skills to benefit a cause. Meanwhile, only half of Americans have confidence in the free market system, down from 80% just 15 years ago.
Against this backdrop, social enterprise has taken off as a new formula for success, combining capitalism with a do-gooder mentality. These self-funding, for-profit businesses also have a mission to tackle global issues such as alleviating hunger, improving education, and combatting climate change. To achieve their high-minded goals, the companies might fund specific programs, partner with governments or existing philanthropic entities, or follow a one-for-one donation model, and work on either the local or international level.
I spoke with several leading social entrepreneurs, all of whom are incredibly enthusiastic about what they do for a living because it allows them to live their passion, embracing a career with meaning. Here are five reasons why they believe social entrepreneurship is the new business model:
1. It connects you to your life purpose.
Honeycomb is a social impact SaaS platform bringing businesses and philanthropy together to make the world a better place. The company has facilitated over $2.4 million in social impact to over 500 non-profits in less than four years.
Honeycomb cofonder Melissa Levick said, “ Having social impact built into your business model allows you to live your life on purpose. It’s about connecting your brand’s why with how it can be used authentically to serve the world. It’s not a gimmick or a marketing tool. It’s a genuine mechanism to solve social problems while feeling connected to a higher purpose.”
2. It keeps you motivated.
Ido Leffler had tremendous success with one of his first businesses, the natural beauty brand Yes To (Carrots, Cucumbers, etc). When thinking about what to do next, he and his business partner Lance Kalish decided to build their company on three key pillars: working with incredible people, making great products, and benefiting an impactful cause.
Leffler created Yoobi to make school supplies fun again and solve a big problem along the way: Teachers in the U.S. spend an average of $500 out of their own pockets every year on school supplies, and millions of kids don’t have the tools they need to realize their potential in the classroom. For every Yoobi item sold, the company donates supplies such as colored pencils, staplers, and notebooks to schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Why found a social enterprise? “I think the biggest question once you’ve reached success is one of motivation,” Leffler said. “What keeps you going? For us, it was this idea that we didn’t want to just be ‘widget guys.’ We wanted to make a real and lasting impact on people’s lives. It’s that simple. At the end of the day, giving back in the way that we are is much more rewarding than any business success I can think of.”
3. It brings you lasting happiness.
Corporate360 is a multi-million dollar outbound marketing data software start-up that founder Varun Chandran created without external funding. The company also runs an NGO in Chandran’s hometown of Padam, in Kerala, India.
The social enterprise’s main programs include improving sanitation, drinking water, and housing for the villagers. The company has gifted a school bus and an ambulance to the local government. Every academic year, the Corporate360 team distributes school kits consisting of bags, books, umbrellas, and lunch boxes to the local students. In addition, through its SmartWorker software, Corporate360 hires women, youth and physically challenged individuals from low-income families, training them to perform simple digital data tasks and connecting them to a life-changing source of income.
Chandran himself grew up in Padam extremely poor, the son of a farmer. This is a big reason why, for him, the definition of success includes making a difference in other people’s lives. “I have discovered a larger purpose,” Chandran said. “My biggest happiness so far in life is being able to go back to the village where I was born and ‘adopt’ it. When I first made money, I traveled to 32 different countries and bought everything that I had ever wanted, but I realized that I still wasn’t happy. I found real, lasting happiness through my social impact work. At the same time, it makes me feel more responsible for working hard to build the business so that I can contribute even more. It’s a win-win situation, and I enjoy it to the fullest.”
4. It helps you help others discover their life purpose.
NEWaukee, based in Milwaukee, is the only social architecture firm in the country that operates on a social enterprise business model. “We believe that the place in which a company is located and how invested that company is in the local community have a direct correlation to the ease with which it sources the talent needed to make its products and the customers needed to buy its products,” explained NEWaukee co-founder and CEO Angela Damiani.
The social enterprise model allows NEWaukee to offer hundreds of events and programs annually to the public for free, build public parks and works of public art without the need for taxpayer or philanthropic investment, and support twenty-four different non-profit organizations at no charge. “We’ve developed a mechanism for corporations to put the human back into human resources while simultaneously making the Milwaukee community a more equitable, accessible and vibrant place for all to enjoy,” Damiani said.
On a personal level, Damiani feels honored to “live and breathe this work every day.” She said, “Not only have I found my own passion through creating this business model, but also I am delighted to help others find their own life purpose through our projects and programs. We are serving our clients while shedding light on their potential to be their best and brightest.”
5. It is what today’s consumers want.
WE’VE provides hand-selected, skilled artisans from Cambodia, India and the U.S. with a global online marketplace for their goods. All the eco-friendly products are sustainably created. In addition, WE’VE collaborates with the artists to support their families and local communities.
WE’VE Founder and CEO Eve Blossom said, “As consumers, we have redefined ourselves as citizens of the world. More and more people are interested in products and services that align with their values. We are considering our purchases in a holistic sense, examining the price of products not only in terms of the amount paid at the register, but also the total cost of production along the way, including pesticides and poisons used, sweatshops employed, and other, broader human consequences. A whole industry has grown around this revelation, as businesses are being built on a smarter framework of ecological, economic and social sustainability. The most fulfilling goods and services are those that connect us in relevant ways to other people and help us live in concert with our values .”
Image Credit: Studio Emp, Kendal Lovejoy, Varun Chandran, Jason Klein, Rick Dean
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