A lot of people are out to change the world, and a good many of them are entrepreneurs. After all, if you're not convinced you're doing something great, there are much easier paths to choose in life than entrepreneurship.
Even so, most of the business owners I meet deny they're doing anything special. One of them is David K. Reyes, CEO of Reyes Holdings, a food and beverage distributor that is the country's 11th-largest private company. We met at a dinner hosted by Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, who most definitely is out to change the world, by ending extreme poverty by 2030. (And he means it: Reminders of the mission have been everywhere at the bank's headquarters, painted on the elevator doors and even on the sidewalk outside.)
Reyes seemed humbled by the sweep of Kim's goal, as anyone would be. Compared with ending world poverty, he said, distributing food and beer was not a complicated business. On the other hand, he allowed, Reyes Holdings does employ 17,000 people, and he added, "I like to think that in every market where we compete, we're the best place to work."
While I share Reyes's deep admiration for Kim, it's worth pointing out that the best way to eradicate poverty is to start more uncomplicated businesses like Reyes's in the developing world and here. Creating 17,000 decent jobs is a social good by anyone's definition. So, for that matter, is delivering food and drink to more people more reliably and more efficiently than the competition. If you want to change the world for the better, in other words, you have to start with entrepreneurs. It's their job.
As usual, this issue of Inc. is full of founders doing that job very well. Writer Tom Foster, in "Reprogramming Retail," depicts what is being called a "post-Amazon world," in which scrappy, inventive retailers use quality, high-touch service and an appeal to customers' hearts to compete with the online giant's massive economies of scale.
In "Iconic Design," a panel of luminaries assembled by Inc. honors a handful of entrepreneurs for products that add both beauty and convenience to their customers' lives.
Finally, don't put this issue down without reading "Making It Work," Jeff Chu's moving profile of five businesses leading the fight against a quiet social crisis--the growing number of people on the autism spectrum who come of working age every year. There is no solving this challenge, either, without entrepreneurs. One thing that unites Chu's small businesses with Reyes Holdings: All are changing the world for the better, whether they set out to do so or not.