Working hard is essential, but entrepreneurs also have a unique opportunity to make the world a better place in the process. Here's how.
I don't get many opportunities to relax and watch TV. So when I do, I often veg out and watch fun shows that allow my mind to stop turning.
So I was shocked a few weeks ago when my tune-out was interrupted by a Salvation Army commercial so arresting that it brought tears to my eyes. It featured people--former crackheads, alcoholics, meth addicts--sharing the struggles they had come through.
Although the organization is associated with thrift stores, disaster relief, and red kettles, this commercial meaningfully illuminated the bottom line of what the Salvation Army aims to do--rehabilitate people's lives.
What Good Do You Do?
It triggered me to think for the umpteenth time that it's not only non-profits that are making such a powerful impact on the world. Entrepreneurs can do so too--by striving toward meaningful missions and executing thoughtful operations.
This also got me to reflecting on what my company, Heritage Link Brands, really does. Through wine, we connect people to African culture. That works in a couple of ways:
One: Because the human race descends from Africa, we focus on sharing courageous stories about our common homeland that are less frequently told in the media and may even be new information to many.
Two: Through marketing and selling wine from indigenous African producers, who just 20 years ago were forbidden from owning land, our supply chain demonstrates the underdog persevering against the odds. It also allows our consumers, through their purchase, to be active participants in the journey--and feel good about that. And, in the end, wine creates a way for people to celebrate with their families and friends!
Yet, it's often not easy for entrepreneurs to choose--and stick to--their missions. In addition to the typical search for the right niche and audience for your product or service, entrepreneurs face additional pressure to be more innovative, socially responsible, and personalized than does traditional Corporate America. Those are, of course, all good things. But that doesn't mean they're not difficult or scary at times.
Choosing a Meaningful Mission
Even if you aren't a social entrepreneur, I really advocate that you try to find at least one element of your operations that will make this world a better place--whether that be community involvement, hiring practices, or sponsorship. Choosing a meaningful mission is such a key decision. Once you make it, cling to it, tout it, raise awareness about it, and stay true to it.
That's exactly what Bed-Vyne Wine has done. Its mission is to enhance and simplify the wine-purchasing process.
It achieves that through thoughtful operations that improve the community. This boutique wine shop, owned by four friends and located in the heart of the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, helps restore the neighborhood to its previous glory. The owners purposely sought to have a business that serves the entire community, not just those who have recently arrived. In addition to reinvesting money into the neighborhood through jobs and community programs at the local YMCA, they are also currently participating in the Hurricane Sandy relief effort by accepting donated items at the shop that they will deliver to areas severely affected by the storm.
The work they are doing is exciting, meaningful, and that's right...profitable!
Growing Your Giving
For many, the year-end holidays comprise a set timeframe for giving thanks and giving back. But why be limited to a certain period when you can make your business operations meaningful daily?
Deep inside, I know that every entrepreneur is capable of making the world a better place. On some level, you probably agree with me. Whether doing so is your bread and butter, a core element of operations, or a string of small but purposeful activities, there is room to do more, or make what you already do more meaningful.
And as cliché it may sound, I can tell you from experience--focus your business on doing good for others, and it will most definitely end up doing good (arguably, the most good), for you.