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Building a company is hard, but building a mission-driven company is really hard. With the help of social enterprise platform Classy and the Red Bull Amaphiko Academy, Entrepreneur collected burning questions from up-and-coming social entrepreneurs and asked the founders of This Saves Lives — Kristen Bell, Ryan Devlin, Todd Grinnell and Ravi Patel — for answers.
Social entrepreneurs are passionate about making a difference, but the actual building of a business can be very challenging. Where did you find like-minded communities to support you on your journey? — Michelle Martin, founder and CEO, Travara
Ryan Devlin: We didn’t know anything about starting a social impact enterprise. We literally googled “How to make granola bars for retail” and then started sending emails to the people and firms that looked like they’d be a fit for us. More often than not, people were willing to offer advice, an intro, or simply point us in the right direction. Those small things added up over time, and we pieced together an education and a Rolodex that provided the foundation to launch our company. It was all about getting advice — like who’s a good lawyer or a PR firm — swapping war stories, and finding ways to collaborate. You can get five years of experience in a matter of months by connecting with people who are already doing what you want to do.
As much as we love what we do, many social entrepreneurs suffer from burnout and depression as we grow our organizations. How do you stay passionate and healthy in the hustle? — Lauren Wallis, cofounder and CEO, YouMe clothing
Kristen Bell: Running a company requires so much personal fuel. It’s inevitable that sometimes you will run out of juice. When I’m experiencing fatigue or burnout, I really try to focus on my physical health: I get diligent with my daily exercise, I eat as clean as possible, I try to squeeze in a therapy session. It’s very easy to blame lack of inspiration on external factors, but more often than not, it’s something internal that needs addressing. I do my best to make sure all the other facets in my life are in place so that when my creativity returns — and it always will! — there’s plenty of room for it.
We started a women’s collective in Malawi, selling locally made products to fund a cervical cancer clinic. As a niche social impact business, what steps can we take to grow beyond our immediate network and amplify our purpose without diluting our mission? — Megan Malone and Hunter Lambert, founders, The Akazi Project
Ravi Patel: Just by succeeding as a giveback company, you will succeed in amplifying your mission. Grow thoughtfully by determining a target audience who needs your product and with whom your mission will resonate. The key to minding philanthropy in your business model is to remember that the monetary amount you give toward your mission is a budget line item. Thinking of it this way keeps you under pressure to give as efficiently as possible, just as you would seek efficiencies across your entire budget. It might feel like compromising your mission, but when planning your business model around a giveback product, make sure it is scalable in order to ensure you can stay in business and stand by your mission as you grow.
Simon Sinek has famously identified the impact of “leading with why” as a way to inspire people to take action. When dealing with corporations and brands that often only want to focus on the bottom line, how can you “lead with why” and still effectively raise capital or gain sponsorship? — Paress Salinas, cofounder, Queens of the New Age
RD: People make emotional decisions when it comes to brand support; we buy the “why,” not the “what.” I work on an Apple computer and drive a Prius, not necessarily because they’re the best machines out there, but because they represent who I am as a person — or who I want to be. Why does your mission align with their values, and furthermore, why would that help their bottom line? The beautiful thing about social entrepreneurship is that doing good can be very good for business. If you can link the “why” to the bottom line, then it’s a win-win.
I’m the cofounder of an organization dedicated to helping startups grow in the city of Los Angeles. How do you communicate your impact and the stories of the people you’ve helped along the way? — Miki Reynolds, cofounder and executive director, Grid110
RD: We deal in huge statistics. Seventy thousand children are alive now because of the launch of our company and the support of our customers. But that’s hard to wrap your head around. So we focus instead on telling personal stories, like that of Planika. We have incredible videos of Planika learning to play soccer, going to school, writing out her first sentence — these amazing, relatable milestones. We also create annual giving reports for our subscribers, whether they buy one box of bars a month from us or more. Top retailers like Starbucks also get reports. Each year, we show them: This is your impact.
Why did you choose the social impact route that you did for your company? — Meymuna Hussein-Cattan, founder, Flavors from Afar
Todd Grinnell: We started TSL to create a long-term, sustainable funding source to provide food to children in need. If you’re looking to start a social impact company or develop social impact into an existing company, figure out what issue you’re most passionate about, educate yourself about the most responsible way to effect that change, set a lofty goal, and then keep that in your sights every moment of every day.
April 9, 2019 at 09:03AM