Can We “Change the World”?
Mornings. Do you welcome them? Are you the type who jumps out of bed, full of enthusiasm, ready to seize the day?
If not, it could have something to do with purpose—or rather, lack of a strong and satisfying one.
As entrepreneurs, many of us are seeking to “make it,” to ascend from the work-a-day world of jobs and struggle, and make a huge difference in our own lives. But will that be enough to fulfill us throughout the years, both entrepreneurially and personally?
Making a Difference
Though there isn’t a lot of information around about entrepreneurs’ disposition on making a difference in the world, one recent study shows that it’s a concern.
The report Walk with me: Meet the new generation of entrepreneurs, issued by the Sage Group (the world’s third largest provider of enterprise resource planning software), found that 62 percent of young entrepreneurs across 16 countries would give up profits in favor of holding true to their personal values. The percentages are considerably higher in single countries such as South Africa (80 percent) and Brazil (81 percent).
In general, the report showed that the personal values of millennial entrepreneurs lean toward making a difference and doing social good.
Where business has traditionally been a “for profit” undertaking, today we are starting to see more “social entrepreneurship”—businesses established “for purpose,” whose activities are centered around a mission to uplift and serve humanity rather than merely to make a profit.
One example is TOMS Shoes. Texas entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie established TOMS (a name which comes from “tomorrow”) in 2006 after he’d spent time in Argentina. While doing some volunteer work in Buenos Aires, he noticed that many of the children were barefooted in the streets. He sold his existing business and contracted with Argentine shoe manufacturers to create shoes for the American market with the goal that for every pair sold, TOMS would provide a new pair shoes at no charge to a child in a developing nation. To date, they have given more than 60 million pairs of shoes to the world’s impoverished children.
However, TOMS is not a charity but a profitable business. They don’t lose money by giving away shoes; rather, this “one-for-one” arrangement is their business model. They have since broadened the TOMS line to include handbags, eyewear, and coffee, all of which maintain the one-for-one model.
“Yeah, but I’m a businessman,” you might be saying. “Isn’t this ‘for-purpose’ thing the province of non-profits?”
The Non-Profit Problem
It’s safe to say that most nonprofit organizations are doing amazing work that positively impacts some aspect of society. But the way these organizations are structured and the way the community regards them are limiting factors in their success.
“You want to make half a million trying to cure kids of malaria and you’re considered a parasite.”—AIDSRide founder Dan Pallotta
For instance, most conventional businesses spend a fair amount of money on marketing. The consulting firm Winterberry Group estimated that businesses will spend a combined $290 billion on all forms of marketing in 2016. But people who donate to charities don’t generally want their donations to be spent on marketing; they want it to go to the people or cause they are trying to help.
In conventional business, it’s accepted that the more value you provide, the more money you can make. But the same is not generally true of non-profits: “We don’t like nonprofits to use money to incentivize people to produce more in social services,” said AIDSRide founder Dan Pallotta, in his TED Talk. “You want to make $50 million selling violent video games to kids, go for it. We’ll put you on the cover of Wired magazine. But you want to make half a million trying to cure kids of malaria and you’re considered a parasite.”
This is why “for-purpose” business makes sense: it enables social causes to benefit from the conventions of business: marketing, incentives, and exchange.
While many such social purpose businesses are making a difference—Charity Water, Pencils of Promise, Kind, and TOMS Shoes to name a few—many more businesses could be making a profit and changing the world at the same time.
How to Do It … and Why
“Changing the world is incredibly profitable,” said Wesley Chapman, on Mike Dillard’s Self Made Man podcast. Chapman, an entrepreneur and marketing consultant, is founder of A Human Project, a school outreach program for troubled youth which is funded by the sale of t-shirts which promote the program.
Chapman is not referring only to the effect that such actions can have on the life of one person or a community, but on the world at large: “The more people who are down and out, who don’t have fresh water, who are hungry, who are being abused, and don’t have opportunities, the less money is being circulated … The more people that can be at a functional state of existence, the more money is going to be exchanged through products, goods and services. It’s just mathematics,” he told Dillard.
“Changing the world is incredibly profitable.”—Wesley Chapman
Chapman is candid about his early life: born to drug and alcohol-abusing parents, his father left when Wesley was one year old. His mother’s second husband severely abused him, both physically and sexually. At age four, he made his first suicide attempt.
He left behind his seven-figure-a-year marketing business to follow his purpose of ensuring that children and teens survive and thrive. He started A Human Project to reach children who are in abusive, challenging situations and have no safe place to turn. It helps them to transcend their circumstances and discover their own life purposes.
It’s easy to greet the morning with enthusiasm when you know that what you do makes a difference in your community, country, or the world—and that you can make a profit at the same time.
“For purpose” isn’t a fringe movement but one that is 30,000+ entrepreneurs strong, according to the nonprofit B Lab, which promotes and certifies for-purpose companies.
By applying the practices of business, entrepreneurs can enjoy wealth and freedom and also help to solve many of society’s problems. It begins with the genuine desire to help.