Need a little inspiration? Check the creative spark behind these socially conscious business models.
A new generation of consumers, influencers, and entrepreneurs has come of age--and its outlook on doing business is revolutionary. Millions of children born between 1980 and 2000, commonly known as Generation Y, have matured into adulthood with a unique worldview that is firmly entrenched in the beliefs that anything is possible and anyone can make a difference.
This is a generation that had front-row seats for the crumbling of "secure" institutions such as Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual, people who saw firsthand how the greed-mongering practices of jerks like Bernie Madoff ruined the lives of thousands.
Gen Y fundamentally knows that there is a better, more ethical way to do business--and its everyday behaviors reflect this mindset.
From college dorm rooms to apartment "offices" across the country, Gen Y entrepreneurs are building new businesses with social responsibility infused directly into the DNA of their business model--as a forethought, not an afterthought.
Thousands of these businesses launch every month--all with the goal of making a difference and a profit.
5 That Inspire Me
As founder of Roozt.com, I sell products from some of the most inspiring social entrepreneurs across the country. The following brands are shining examples of just some of the social-entrepreneurial brilliance we are seeing out there in today's environment.
They already inspire me. I hope they also provide you with inspiration and motivation to harness the power of your business to make a difference in the world.
This footwear company strives to develop a thriving middle class in Africa by creating fair-wage, sustainable jobs in the heart of Ethiopia--and business is good. Recently named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business, Dehtiar currently produces in Ethiopia, Liberia, and Kenya--with plans to expand Oliberté to Cameroon, Congo, Uganda, and Zambia.
The for-profit company has harnessed the untapped potential of women in Africa, creating a safe environment for them to develop valuable skills for the workforce. The Oliberté product is eco-friendly, and the company's business practices are ethical: The high-quality kicks are made with all-natural crepe rubber tapped straight from trees, with 100% pure leather from free-range, hormone-free goats, sheep, and cows.
You may not have heard about Oliberté until now, but this is a brand that's about to break out. Oh, and did I mention their kicks are seriously cool?
Unfortunately, it is a little known fact that the deadliest war in the world since WWII is happening right now in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Aid groups report that more than six million people have died in the past decade as casualties of the war, and yet the conflict goes largely unnoticed to the Western world.
After a journey landed them in the DRC, the founders of Falling Whistles, Sean Carasso and David Lewis, became determined to do something about the atrocious conflict. Falling Whistles started as a journal about the young Congolese boys who are sent to the frontlines of war armed with nothing but a whistle, but it quickly became a movement tens of thousands strong of people wanting to help.
The nonprofit organization, which uses a commerce-based business model instead of relying on donations, began selling incredibly fashionable metal whistle necklaces to encourage people to become "whistle-blowers for peace" in Congo and raise awareness about the deadly war. To date, Falling Whistles says, it has sold well over 50,000 whistles.
Beyond the whistle, the group has developed partnerships with community leaders on the ground in DRC to assist in the rehabilitation of those who have been exposed to the atrocities of war. Through education, art, sports, music, vocational-skills training, medical treatment, and nutritional services, Falling Whistles is giving those affected by the war in Congo the tools and skills they need to stand for peace for years to come.
3. Jack's Soap
Did you know that, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, more than 5,000 children die every day from diseases that could have been prevented simply by washing their hands? That's a horrifying statistic that Jack's Soap founder Bridget Hilton could not live with.
So she took action and--over a period of just three months--created and launched a for-profit company that, for every bar of soap sold, donates one to a child in need. These luxurious soaps are made with organic ingredients, use recycled packaging materials, and are vegan and cruelty free--making them both PETA and USDA approved.
To ensure the perpetuation of good hygienic practices, Jack's doesn't just donate the soaps but also educates the recipients about the importance of good hygiene. Who would have thought washing your hands could be so rewarding?
Talk about innovation: When Indosole founder Kyle Parsons traveled to Indonesia, he heard about landfills spontaneously combusting due to the amount of tires thrown in every year. In response, he created Indosole--a for-profit shoe company that creates stylish, hip sandals and shoes made from repurposed Indonesian motorcycle tires.
With every two pairs of shoes it sells, Indosole saves one tire from hitting the landfill. Additionally, Indosole creates sustainable local jobs with a clean, fair, and healthy working environment, and invests in the community of its Balinese workers by raising money for kids to attend school.
Light Gives Heat is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that is run like a first-class for-profit company. Its fashionable line of women's jewelry, bags, and clothing all but conceals a mission to provide sustainable jobs to women in Uganda. By helping these women break the cycle of poverty, Light Gives Heat can change an entire family's economic status.
LGH has gone above and beyond taking care of its workforce, actually installing solar cookers that provide the workers and their families with the ability to boil water and create clean drinking water. To top it off, workers also receive weekly literacy and health classes so that they can further their own growth and learn skills for self-reliance and community benefit.
Light Gives Heat is fundamentally committed to the Ugandan communities it serves, reinvesting 100% of profits back into projects that benefit the people of the community--setting up bank accounts for its workers, for instance, to help them save money for homes and education fees. The company says it has an average 100% compound annual growth rate since 2007--proving that doing good can, in fact, be good business.
BRENT FREEMAN is a serial entrepreneur who is passionate about social entrepreneurship, technology, and youth education. He's the founder of Roozt, a Web 2.0 marketplace that connects trendsetting cause-oriented brands with online shoppers. He also founded a pilot program in Los Angeles with the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) to mentor and teach for-profit social entrepreneurship to low-income, at-risk high school students.