by Liesha Petrovich
Business is business, or so the saying goes. You start a business because you want to be your own boss. You’re sick of your job or you know you’re meant for bigger things than a 9 to 5 corporate job. It’s for your own self-interest, not because you want to save the world.
The definition of business includes the word “profit” – it always has and always will. Business is not non-profit, nor should it be. Yet, your new business can be both socially responsible and profitable. Maybe you can’t save the world, but your business can make a difference. Toms, Warby Parker, and Sudara are all for-profit businesses that are contributing to amazing social causes.
Here are four steps to creating your own socially responsible business:
1. Choose a cause (or two!)
This step is probably the most essential, as it has to be something you’re passionate about. It can’t be faked. You really have to believe in the cause you choose and find a credible organization to support (do your homework and only support highly credible organizations). 100% Pure supports a wide variety of causes, including animal rights, children’s health care, and clean water. Sevenly chooses a different cause every week and creates t-shirts for each cause. Startup Savant chooses different children’s education options through Donor’s Choose.
2. Have a Plan
Starting a socially responsible business is almost the same as starting any other business. You still need to go through all the steps of building a strong business. ChooseWhat will guide you through the startup phase, including forming an LLC and getting insurance. You’ll also have to choose a business model, and here’s where you decide how much of your profit you’ll donate to charity.
3. Start Networking
You did your homework when choosing your cause and now it’s time to reach out to the major players. Introduce yourself; let them know your plans, why you chose this cause, and how you want to help. You want to create a partnership with the organization you chose, because you want them to be excited about your new business and promote you as well.
Here’s a great example, as the Global Autism Project shares information on their Sevenly collection:
4. Start Sharing
Social causes are part of the lifeblood of social media. Derek Halpern, from Social Triggers, says that viral posts are made to provoke “high-arousal emotions,” like anger, fear, or joy. Every cause has an aspect of these emotions, and that’s what makes people share their messages on social media.
Here’s a picture Greater Good shared with information about providing a safe home for Amazonian monkeys and macaws rescued from illegal trafficking (which can cause both anger and happy emotions):
Being socially responsible really helps with that all-important social proof – building a trust and rapport with one’s market. After all, who would you trust more to buy from, a socially responsible business or just another greedy corporation?
Integrate Your Passion into Your Business
Building a socially responsible business has incredible PR benefits, but that should never be the reason you start one. The reason you start a business like this is because you truly believe you can contribute something incredible to a cause you’re passionate about. And with a little luck and some hard work, you’ll create a strong business that makes a difference in the world.
Liesha Petrovich is the creator of Microbusiness Essentials, a blog dedicated to helping the smallest businesses succeed. In her free time, she’s working on a Doctorate in Entrepreneurship. Grab a free copy of her new book Killing Rapunzel: Learning how to save yourself through determination, grit, and self-employment
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