The name that she gave her company--Earthkind--encapsulates the ethos that shapes founder Kari Warberg Block's entire approach to business. When she chose the name, Block says, "it was about laying the groundwork for long-term survival in a fast-changing world." It's a business name that defines her purpose, which is to run a company in a way that's sustainable and kind to all of the stakeholders involved, from suppliers and sellers, to consumers and growers.
Earthkind makes pesticides, but not the dangerous, poisonous kind that you might be accustomed to. Instead, they produce natural products made from commodities grown on farms. Think beets, flax, and other crops. According to Block, naming and defining a sense of purpose early on was a key factor in the company's remarkable growth; an astonishing rate of 40 percent year over year since she founded Earthkind in 2007. Block's purpose of running a company that makes people happy, healthy, and successful is, she says, "a driver for both innovation and decision-making as the company grows." Block offers these insights based on her own remarkable success to inspire you to define your company's purpose in a meaningful way:
Involve the grassroots.
Block has been at the helm of a number of her own businesses over the years, including a turn as a farmer. It was that work that motivated her to develop a business model that wouldn't just involve farmers, but would empower them She knows what it's like to be a farmer, and to struggle to get by. So Block works directly with the farmers that supply the materials for her product. The goal, she says, is to "find new ways to commercialize the products that small family farmers grow so that they can have more income and future control." It all goes back to her core purpose of working sustainably, healthily, and happily. For Block, being true to that purpose means being involved in every step of the supply chain, starting with the farmers who grow her supplies.
Involve grassroots in your purpose and the added (and invested) human capital will help you to be more innovative. Block's growers come to her with ideas about how to make a product more effective, or how to use a new crop. When your suppliers or vendors are onboard with a common cause and vision they will work and think hard about achieving greater success.
Block's company was one of the first to put environmentally friendly pesticides on the shelves. And they've pushed for environmentally friendly innovation in other ways, too. "We were one of the first businesses ever to have our entire packages made with solar power," she told me. While doing things green is mainstream today, it wasn't when Block started out. She had to demand more from her suppliers, and demand more from retailers, who had to be sold on green alternatives to pesticides.
When you have a purpose-driven vision you may have to demand more, coaxing others outside of their comfort zone and persuading them to take a chance on you. This is how leaders are born. You'll run into non-believers when you bring a new, innovative product to the market. Push through those barriers and stand by your vision.
Create instant brand ambassadors.
When you work with purpose, and build community in and around your company, you end up with an instant team of brand ambassadors. That's been very true for Block and Earthkind. "When everybody in your plant knows an elevator pitch and knows the purpose, they tell their family, their friends, and they all get excited about it. There's a whole network of people out there who are champions and advocates."
And a shared purpose doesn't just translate into excitement about your company, it also means more efficiency within your company. Suddenly, decision-making is more efficient. People feel motivated to work together toward shared goals. As Block puts it, it "eliminates waste when everyone is using the same decision lens."
Block recently traveled to Africa with a Presidential delegation that included the likes of Shark Tank's Daymond John and AirBnb's Brian Chesky. That trip inspired her to take the model that she pioneered in the United States abroad and localize her production model and supply chain to involve farmers in other countries. Farmers in developing countries face the same things as farmers here, but with even more difficulty. Seventy percent of the world's farmers are women and they live in poverty. "That's just not right," says Block. "I was a woman farmer, and I lived in poverty, and the way out for me was to commercialize what I grew."
Block hopes that her work "makes life a little bit better for other people and weighs the scales of equality a little bit better." What's the purpose behind your vision? How will you leave the world a better place?