'Tis the season, which can be a time to take stock of all that we have to be grateful for and open our hearts to help those less fortunate. Some company founders and staff go a bit further and make that their job year round.
Here are three exciting social entrepreneurs who are building companies for the greater good. In other words, they are for-profit companies with products and services that boost the bottom line while also benefiting a disadvantaged community. By doing well they are doing good.
Personal drones sales are reaching new heights as a desired gift this holiday. Zipline, on the other hand, uses this cutting edge technology to deliver urgently needed medical supplies and medicines to people in hard-to-reach locations.
In fact the government of Tanzania recently announced a partnership with Zipline to make up to 2,000 flights a day through the use of 100 drones in four distribution centers. Also operating in Rwanda, adding this market means that East Africa is now the world leader in drone delivery.
Like any tech startup, Zipline focuses on an efficient customer experience so that the product can reach the buyer in record time. Users (usually health workers at remove clinics and hospitals) can order by text message, starting a rapid chain of activity. The product is mobilized from near by distribution centers, prepped, packed and sent on its way by drone flying at 110 kilometers per hour. Delivery takes an average of 15 minutes.
But they're not just saving time, they are saving lives. Jackline Ugirambabazi needed a blood transfusion after giving birth, a feat that would have been impossible given the circumstances. Zipline got the call and delivered in 30 minutes. She received life-saving medical support in less time than it takes to get a pizza.
Operating a bit closer to home, Aunt Bertha uses an online search tool to connect people with programs. Often those who depend on social services such as food pantries, emergency housing, child care and subsidized housing can get lost in a disconnected web of different agencies. Aunt Bertha removes the hassle for both recipient and caseworker.
Aunt Bertha is an Austin-based Public Benefit Corporation. Now in its seventh year of operation, they have served more than 800,000 "customers" in all 50 states. From parents struggling with rising rent in big cities, to family members caring for aging parents in rural locations, their work enables people to find, get referred to and ultimately receive the help they need.
In doing so, they are also supporting large companies execute with greater efficiency. Legacy systems and siloed operations make it challenging for them to "talk" with social services organizations. Aunt Bertha's advanced database technology links customers like Anthem, Dallas Community College and AARP to agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services, creating a common language that deploys support faster.
Food logistics is an area ripe for disruption. Companies all around the globe are in hot pursuit of ways to get more product in the hands of more people, faster. Copia takes this to a new level in an effort to solve hunger.
It turns out that America is a massive food waster, throwing away three times more food than there are mouths to feed. It's difficult to imagine why one in six Americans go hungry that in a country with such vast resources. It turns out it is not a scarcity problem, it's a logistics problem. And Copia is doing something about it.
Businesses with a surplus of food, whether they are producers or businesses that simply ordered a little extra can use Copia's web and mobile platform to request a pickup. Thanks to an advanced matching and logistics technology, the food is quickly matched and delivered to partner nonprofits. Even prepared and highly perishable food is now safe for re-consumption.
But as with many social profit businesses, the end user isn't the only one who wins. Businesses are able to realize increased tax savings and remove the burden of dealing with excess inventory. Copia welcomes partnerships of all kinds including a collaboration with the San Francisco 49ers. They have teamed to provide more than 10,000 meals of the high-quality fare that fuels athletes to those in less fortunate circumstances.
Everyone Needs Community Support
Don't be fooled by these successful social enterprises into thinking that building a double or triple bottom line is easy. These companies have the same challenges as any business - creating a desirable product or service, accessing a large market, hiring a qualified workforce, getting pricing models right to allow operating and profit margin, scaling effectively - as well as the pressure to meet the needs of very challenging circumstances.
So what makes it work? Support from programs and platforms such as incubators, accelerators and co-working communities are a great place to start. A proven model for startups, a social impact focus enhances traditional mechanisms like mentoring and access to resources with subject-specific support. In addition, founders can connect with other like-minded entrepreneurs to learn about what approaches have worked, and which pitfalls to avoid. Sometimes seeing others who share the same challenges makes all of the difference.
In fact, Techstars, one of the most successful startup accelerators in the country, has recently announced a new effort to support social enterprises. The Techstars Impact Accelerator leverages their proven model and network, investing $120k into startups sourced from around the world.
You Can Do It, Too
So do you have a grand idea to save the world? Can you turn your talent for creating high-impact companies into ones that can solve pressing problems for those in need? It turns out that the challenges and process are all the same, but the challenges are much more dire. Think about your area of expertise, your experience, your networks and your capabilities. Now get creative and consider how these can be mobilized to change the world.