Nov 26

Impact Entrepreneurship–Business with Social Conscience

businessplanThough the term “Impact Entrepreneurship” is trending, the concept has been around forever. Simply put, it is the idea that people can build a profitable business while addressing a social need. Impact entrepreneurship can take on the face of a non-profit organization meeting needs of third world countries, and it can mean a company that supplies a needed service to a community and “gives back” through donations to its charities.
Peter Scott, on a trip to Africa in 1990, noticed the devastation foresting of the country’s trees had brought. People used wood for their heating and especially for cooking. Scott helped develop a new kind of stove that is fuel-efficient and does not burn wood. With that product, he built Burn Design, a corporation that manufactures and markets the units and expects to sell 3.6 million of them in the next ten years.
Sharon Schneider is the CEO of a website that sells “gently used” clothing for children. She became frustrated with the wasteful consumption of parents who bought clothing for children who soon grew out of it. At first, she tried to rent the clothing to parents who would subscribe to the service. Her sales and her impact were underwhelming. People just didn’t want the responsibility of ensuring the clothing would be returned in good condition. Now her website company buys children’s clothing that is gently used and resells it to parents of growing kids. Her sales at “Moxie Jean” are increasing at 50% a month.
That brings up an important concept. Although it may seem counterintuitive for a socially-conscious business to put profits first, it is vital. Even non-profits must have a business plan. Companies that don’t make profits cannot sustain their altruism for long. Maxim Gorin was a successful business professional in September of 2001. The terrorism that brought down the Twin Towers and resulted in the deaths of nearly three thousand people awoke a desire in Gorin to make a difference in his community by providing needed medical services. Gorin enrolled in classes to earn an EMT certificate, and he co-founded Lifeline Ambulance.
The company has a fleet of 100 ambulances and employs 300 people. It is Gorin’s vision of service that drives the company. It is Gorin’s expertise in finance and investment that enables the business to grow and serve the communities where it is based efficiently. The company constantly updates and upgrades its technology and its infrastructure and tailors its response to the facilities it serves, from nursing homes to large hospitals. Lifeline routinely donates to charities, hospitals and other public service groups. In addition, it offers free CPR classes to employees of businesses in the communities where it is located.
You can see Impact Entrepreneurship at work in almost every community and at almost every level. Companies don’t have to be non-profits to qualify as impact entrepreneurs. The factor that must be present is the drive to make a difference to society. Certainly, companies that can meet both the goal of business success and of social consciousness are of great value to a society where resources are already stretched.