When you listen to certain members of the media talk about big business, entrepreneurship, and capitalism, you often hear negative connotations. People only want to talk about how greedy and self-seeking today's entrepreneurs are.

While there are certainly greedy business professionals and selfish business owners, the reality is that generosity and selflessness pervade modern entrepreneurial circles. In particular, we're seeing a lot of growth and innovation in philanthropy initiatives that advocate for children and teens in need of help and protection. This is both encouraging and refreshing.

The Illusion of Greed in Entrepreneurship

In the pursuit of wealth creation, there is certainly a healthy dose of selfishness. However, if you've listened to capitalism's biggest critics over the years, you'd think it's an entirely greedy system. Karl Marx always chose to emphasize the negative aspects of capitalism and free enterprise, highlighting cases where maldistribution of wealth created lopsided societies. However, what Marx and others have failed to recognize is that, in America, the entrepreneurial spirit and philanthropic values go hand in hand.

"What differentiates American capitalism from all other forms of industrial capitalism is its historical focus on both the creation of wealth (entrepreneurship) and the distribution of wealth (philanthropy)," says American Economist Zoltan Acs.

"Contemporary economic theory has largely ignored the possibility of philanthropic or altruistic behavior," Acs continues. "The vitality of American capitalism is testament to the importance of philanthropy, hence an economic theory which ignores altruistic behavior cannot adequately explain the real world."

This is why it's so refreshing to see a figure like Bill Gates, the wealthiest man in the world, take such a stand for philanthropy. The Gates family launched The Giving Pledge five years ago, which encourages the world's wealthiest entrepreneurs to dedicate a majority of their wealth to philanthropy. Gates is leading by example--pledging to give away virtually all of his wealth. Hundreds of others have already joined the cause.

The Surge in Child-Friendly Philanthropy

Over the past few decades, we've seen a rise in the number of philanthropists that choose to focus on child-friendly causes such as at-risk teens, child protection and abuse, child poverty and homelessness, and other societal pain points. Here are just a handful of the entrepreneurs leading this charge:

Mick Donegan

Mick Donegan is the founder of SpecialEffect, a children's charity that uses new technologies to advance the quality of life for children with disabilities. Specifically, SpecialEffect helps these young people, who are otherwise incapable, play video games. As the website explains, "We put fun and inclusion back into the lives of people with physical disabilities by helping them to play video games."

Kendra Stitt Robins

Kendra Stitt Robins is the founder of Project Night Night, a nonprofit organization that provides care packages for transient and homeless children living in shelters throughout the United States. Each year, Project Night Night delivers more than 25,000 packages to these homeless children so that they can feel safe, secure, and loved. It's a great cause backed by a great philanthropist.

Alezandra Russell

In many parts of the world, sex trafficking and child prostitution are hugely pervasive. That's why it's impressive and encouraging to see entrepreneurs like Alezandra Russell dedicate their lives to supporting the fight against these atrocities. Alezandra Russell is one such individual. She's the founder of Urban Light, which provides services and support to boys who are victims of sexual exploitation in Thailand. The ultimate goal is to give these children opportunities outside of the sex industry.

Toby Tanser

Toby Tanser is the founder of Shoe4Africa, a program that gives used running shoes to those who can use them in Africa. Since launching this program, Tanser has also expanded it to include the building of a school and feeding of children in poverty. He's also building what will be the largest public children's hospital in Africa. Tanser shows the importance of continually looking for new causes and strategically investing in them.

Courtney Apple and Bill Glaab

Did you know that five thousand children die every day from diseases that could be prevented by hand washing? Two philanthropists are trying to change this statistic. Courtney Apple and Bill Glaab are the co-founders of Hand in Hand Soap, a business that gives away a bar of soap to a child in need every time one bar of soap is purchased.

Eli Verschleiser

A National Study Revealed that America's leading public health problem is adolescent substance abuse. Eli Verschleiser is a co-founder and President of Our Place; an organization that has successfully helped over 15,000 teens that had substance abuse and related issues. Our Place offers "Whole Life Therapy", an integrated, far-ranging approach that provides the stable atmosphere that a functioning family normally would.

Philanthropy Produces Real Change

Not only are these entrepreneurs helping others, but there are also wonderful byproducts of this philanthropy. Namely, by targeting children, teenagers, and adolescents, these organizations are actually planting seeds that will hopefully lead to a future generation of philanthropic entrepreneurs.

Children are highly impressionable. They ultimately become products of their environments. This is why it's so hard to reverse large societal trends in a short period of time. However, by targeting children when they're young, entrepreneurs are able to do two things:

Satisfy a direct need.
Ignite future passion.

There's arguably no better way for an entrepreneur to express his or her generosity than by aligning with a child-friendly philanthropic cause. It's beneficial to both the child's current needs and future development.

Philanthropy and Entrepreneurship

In a time where capitalism is under fire and entrepreneurship gets a bad rap from the general public, it's good to remember that generosity does exist among those blessed with financial freedom and wealth. In particular, it's encouraging to see how many entrepreneurs are coming together to create and fund philanthropic initiatives that support children in need.

Kudos to these entrepreneurs and the thousands of others who don't get nearly enough recognition for their selfless actions.