The most inspiring people you meet as an entrepreneur aren't always in business. Sometimes you find them in the most unexpected places -- like a small village in Africa -- and they can open your mind to totally new ways of doing things.
Last year, my family and I went to Kenya with ME to WE to help build a school in the Maasai Mara. I knew going in I'd be inspired on a personal level, but I didn't expect to be inspired so profoundly from a business standpoint, too. Together with the local community, we helped build more than physical structures; I went home feeling like we helped a growing economy build a brighter future.
When I returned from the trip, my head was buzzing with ideas for how to bring the experience to the people at my company. But I quickly realized the only way to get the true value of the program is to go. So this summer, we're sending eight employees back to Kenya on their own ME to WE journey.
Giving Back Inspires a Culture of Caring
To me, giving back isn't about keeping up appearances. The key word is responsibility: as leaders, we have an obligation to give back however we can. We're following the lead of companies that use corporate social responsibility (CSR) to help make the world a better place: like Coca-Cola, who has partnered with the Global Environment and Technology Foundation to support access to clean water in Africa; and General Mills, who donates over $100 million each year to programs dedicated to improving food quality and nutrition education.
The best part is that programs like these have reciprocal benefits: they give employees a sense of purpose and they increase engagement. And as long as you're doing it for the right reasons, volunteering can contribute to a healthier, longer life.
It's Not About What You Do -- Just Do Something
Anyone can make a difference in many different ways. It doesn't matter what the charity is -- just get out there and do something for a cause that speaks to you. We could have chosen a charity closer to home or more relevant to our industry, but to be an authentic participant and advocate, you need to truly believe in the purpose of the organization.
ME to WE resonates with who we are and what we aspire to do at O2E Brands. If you walk through their offices, you'll find the same vibe as ours because our company cultures and values are so aligned.
Sharing the trip to Kenya with my family was an invaluable experience. Now, I'm excited to pass the experience on to our extended O2E Brands family. By sending our employees abroad, we're broadening their perspectives so they can come back and share with the the rest of our community -- because inspiring others starts with being inspired ourselves.