Passion for change is the first quality that all social enterprise founders start with before embarking on a journey to raise awareness, grow funding, solve problems and meet needs. A social enterprise is a for-profit company that has two goals - achieve social, cultural community good and to generate revenue in order to sustain itself, sans donations and grants. Essentially, social entrepreneurs earn their living by making a positive change. 1Face Watch is a company that through their mission has changed over 1 million lives since its inception. In this case, they are product focused. I spoke their CEO Fam Mirza, CEO of the branding firm that owns 1Face, about what makes a successful social impact company.
Passion First, Product Second
The best social companies began with the founders passion for change. In Mirza's case, he grew up in the slums of India, so from personal experience and being in the position to do something to impact people in need, he created a company with mission at its core - the 1Face Watch. Each watch represents a different cause and metric - for example, the red band will provide AIDS treatment for 8 people. "I wanted to build a connection and create a vessel for the people of the first world to help those in need," says Mirza. "1Face has changed over 1.4 million lives and I would like to see it get to 100 million in the next five years." Once he knew he had to make a change was able to carry out hi by strategically partnering with established charities. Essentially, you can't simply attach a charity to a product - consumers see through it and view the company as ingenuine.
There are a lot of financial support systems available for social enterprises like The Skoll Foundation or Social Enterprise Greenhouse but it's important to target large networks as your brand can benefit from crowdfunding websites as well. Typically, social enterprise companies do well on websites like Indiegogo because the amounts of shares are typically high. "My first experience raising money was with crowdfunding. If you were to ask me again if I would do it, I would say yes and as a matter of fact you can check out my Indiegogo page now," notes Mirza. "Crowdfunding was a success for two reasons - the pre-orders and the press coverage drove the revenue and massive amount of awareness we needed our first 30 days." Crowdfunding can also be a tool that you use in order to test and measure future success of your social enterprise. It can give you an instant read on how your community takes to your idea. Generally speaking, shopping with purpose is more and more popular and I can see how crowdfunding for support would make sense. Websites like Upworthy and Change.org are great case studies for the power of traction in support of causes.
Social media is one of the most underutilized tools for many startups. This can be one of your most valuable tools as the call to action (in this case purchase) can remain consistent long-term. It has the opportunity to unite a community against an issue. Mirza notes, " A social good brand is just that, social! Social brands have the highest form of brand loyalty. The consumer shares, posts. Photos became the essential ingredient in our growth" he also points out that "without these brand evangelists typing captions under their photos of how they fed 10 children in the Horn of Africa we would not have been able to change a million lives. No marketing is powerful than the word of mouth." And, nowadays word of mouth translates to personal social media handles.
These three core tips on how to successfully develop a social enterprise product are just the beginning. The takeaway is this, if you don't start with a passion for purpose, your brand will appear disingenuous and have an opposite affect on your growth. Trends seem to be moving in that direction, more and more companies are putting purpose before profit and I'm looking forward to a future where we think about more than just our financial bottom lines.