If you’re even thinking about starting your own business, good for you. Nothing is harder than figuring out how to start a new venture, and nothing is more rewarding than getting your own paycheck. You might even want to start a business that supports great causes and promotes sustainability. And you can do that. There are plenty of successful companies that do good without compromising the bottom line. If you want your social good business to succeed, you need to honestly think through these three questions:
- Is your business important to people?
- Can you deliver on your promises?
- Can you make money?
Your Business must be Important to People
Just like any other business, your company needs customers. There are two different types of customers for a social-good business: the ones who love you for your business and the ones who love you for your social impact. Most of the people who walk through your door will be the first kind, so you need to offer them something that’s worth paying for and helps you accomplish your social good at the same time.
Georgetown, a Republican city in Texas, became the first in the state to commit to running on 100% renewable energy. The big sell didn’t come from the environmental impact it could have. It came from the lower energy prices and the greater price stability over the next 20 years. How’s that for some amazing benefits? Think about how you can accomplish your social good while running a successful business. Your social good benefit may not be the big seller, but your business can provide it in tandem with other benefits.
You Must be able to Deliver
You might have an amazing idea that will change the world and give customers substantial value. But it won’t matter if you can’t deliver on your promises. Think about your idea and make sure that you can realistically make the leap from idea to successful venture.
One of my favorite horror stories is the Coolest Cooler. The Coolest Cooler was one of the most highly funded Kickstarter campaigns ever. It had all of these cool built-in features like Bluetooth speakers, a blender, a bottle-opener, a hidden compartment, and a bunch of other cool features (sweet, right?). It raised $13 million in 2014. But after only a third of the Kickstarter backers got their coolers, the Department of Justice got involved. Three years later, 20,000 people were still waiting for their coolers.
If you have a great business idea that people are willing to throw money at, you have to make sure that you can create and deliver it to them. That means your solar powered electric go carts idea had better be thought all the way out before you go ask for money.
You must Get Paid
Starting a business costs money and, if you’re like most entrepreneurs, you’ll probably have to ask someone to help fund operations. You have to accept one hard truth if you’re fundraising: No one will give you money if they don’t think they’ll make it back. That means you have to work out the numbers to make sure that your great idea also makes business sense.
Tom’s Shoes is a great example of a business that is profitable and promotes great causes. Some of you probably wear Toms, but do you know why you pay so much for them? Part of the shoe price covers Tom’s One for One program which provides help to someone in need with every purchase. Tom’s used to just give a pair of shoes to someone with every purchase, but now they’ve partnered with charities that provide clean water, restore eyesight, and prevent bullying. If Toms can make almost $400 million a year with a business model that has purpose, creates a positive impact for society, and makes a profit, then you too can combine your passion with positive impact.
Tom’s Shoes can make money and give back to the world at the same time because they built it into their business and their prices. You can too if you think your business all the way through.
Learn more about companies that are doing well while they do good. Check out the B Corporation movement and 1% for the Planet. Both of these communities certify for-profit companies that have positive impact on our society and the environment.
Sustainability is the Future
Do you know why massive companies like Microsoft, Uber, or FaceBook became so huge? They were early. They dove into industries that were either non-existent or very young, which gave them plenty of room to grow and become the dominant players in those industries. Sustainable business is a young and growing trend that your idea could grow to dominate. Think of all of the opportunities and new ventures that are there to create positive impact in the world. Imagine being the entrepreneur who seizes those opportunities.
Business can be powerful force for good. It can promote sustainability and create wealth and value. Whatever business you decide to start, know that you can both do well and do good. You just have to plan for it and execute on that plan.
Photo by mvp