Most entrepreneurs I know--even the die-hard capitalists--were born with a “do-good” impulse. The problem is, even the good-hearted among us don’t always feel like flexing that particular muscle. Sometimes it just feels too hard or too frustrating; or it’s simply too low on the priority list. But at the same time, you want to be the kind of person your mom is proud of for doing something that makes a difference.
I know I do.
This is going to sound basic, but the best thing you can do is start at the beginning. When that very first business idea comes to you and your mind is starting to roll down that amazing entrepreneurial rabbit hole, build in a social mission from the very start. Get it down on paper. No matter how disconnected the themes might sound at the beginning (back-scratching TV remotes that also help build wells in Sudan?); at least you start the conversation. You’ll find a way to connect the two things--especially if they are two things you’re passionate about.
At Yes To, we do this via our Seed Fund. We give grants to schools so that they can build gardens and help teach kids about nutrition and healthy living. My wife helped me conceive the Seed Fund from the very start, and after the seed was planted (no pun intended), it quickly became an amazing part of our brand DNA. Every product we make gives a portion of proceeds to the fund, we volunteer in local gardens as a team, and I’m even bringing a team member to Africa to see firsthand some of our amazing Seed Fund gardens in action.
Maybe gardens aren’t your thing. Check out brands like Toms Shoes, Plum Organics, and Patagonia, all of which are fantastic models for building a social mission into a business. Many start-ups, such as Soma, Bttr Ventures, d.light here in the Bay Area are taking this to the next level. It’s truly inspiring!
The best part about a top-down approach to doing good is that it starts to influence the types of people you attract as job candidates. Your company becomes full of folks who give a damn. Folks who care about giving back. Folks who will roll up their sleeves and weed at the local community garden--and actually love it. These shared causes become the fabric of your company culture. And more often than not, the company thrives because of it.
And, most importantly, your mom will be proud.