Kind founder Daniel Lubetzky cares deeply about his company's social mission -- just so long as it doesn't become a distraction.
"Businesses have an enormous opportunity to impact society," he said Thursday at the Inc. 5000 conference in Orlando. "But, at least for me, I don't believe the social mission should drive."
It's an unusual statement coming from the founder of a company that says its "focus is on making the world a little kinder, one snack and act at a time." Kind, founded in 2004, is primarily known for the fruit-and-whole-nuts bars that are less processed than many of the other granola or protein bar brands. But Lubetzky also baked a community awareness into the company, which every month gives $10,000 to a cause submitted by an individual or organization.
Still, he warns that it's a lot easier for would-be social entrepreneurs to bite off more than they can chew. He knows this well from experience. His earlier company, PeaceWorks, had the ambitious aim to foster peace in the Middle East by selling food that Israelis and Palestinians had worked together to produce.
But Lubetzky says his fierce desire to make a difference in the world hurt his ability to focus on the important fundamentals of his business--including whether or not the products he sold even tasted good.
"I wanted to use business to bring people together, but we tried to do too much, and be everything to everybody," he said.
It's an experience Lubetzky discusses extensively in a book published this year, Do the KIND Thing. "The mission does not sell the product; the product sells the product," he wrote.
The Kind founder has a remarkable backstory: Son of a Holocaust survivor who emigrated to Mexico, Lubetzky grew up there until age 16, when the family moved to Texas. (He still drops self-deprecating remarks about his accent and occasional malapropisms. He mentions some in his book, including "Don't throw the baby out with the bathtub," and "look under the skirt" of a business opportunity.)
Lubetzky also became visibly emotional on stage as he recounted his family's experiences at the Dachau concentration camp during the Holocaust. Despite his horrific time there, Lubetzky says, his father also credited his survival in part to a Nazi guard, who gave him a potato when he was in danger of starving.
It's no coincidence, then, that Lubetzky first conceived of Kind in 2003, the year that his father passed away. As he said Thursday: "My father only survived because of the kindness of strangers."