The Power of Social Enterprise
I believe that business has the potential to be one of the most powerful forces in the world for good. Business gives us important outlets for ingenuity, innovation, economic stability, job development and so much more. I absolutely love everything about building a business. I love the art of the deal, the rush from the sale, the freedom it gives to build and create, the character it builds when you get kicked in the butt, the dedication it reveals when you keep going and the lessons it teaches you along the way. Business is diverse and adaptable to every field imaginable and can appeal to many different personality styles, motivating factors and industry sizes.
A few years ago, I decided to start a bath and body company that utilized a fully integrated and highly trained workforce to build our business. I didn’t know very much about the bath and body industry except my passion to purchase these products, but I did know a lot about social justice and cared very much about equality for all people. I was compelled to start a business after working with a gentleman that had a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and a cognitive impairment. This dear friend of mine wanted a job more than anything in the world and, although we worked diligently, we were unable to successfully secure an employment position for him. This experience is what gave me the desire to build a company that could act as a vehicle that inspires the world to be more inclusive and diverse in the workplace. I did not want to just talk about inclusion, I wanted to lead by example. I wanted to use the profit of our company to fund the purpose of giving life changing opportunities to adults at risk of chronic unemployment and exclusion from society and the workforce. I wanted to create a brand that could spread positive messages about inclusion and equality and in turn generate profit that we could invest in removing structural barriers to employment that lead to a lifetime of poverty, exclusion and dependence. I soon realized that what I was really building was a Social Enterprise. A social enterprise is, in a nutshell, a business that exists to solve a complex social issue. I had really no interest in the typical “Donate Back” model that gives back one product for every product purchased. I wanted to build a social enterprise that created opportunity and empowered people to achieve their dreams. I firmly believe that it is our differences that makes us stronger and by preserving dignity and promoting independence through genuine inter-dependence between employees from all different walks of life and with all different abilities, we can inspire each other to be better and ,in turn, we would build an incredible business. I did not want to set up a model that keeps the givers being givers and the receivers continually dependent on being receivers and never being recognized with dignity and value for the gifts that they had to offer the world. After all, we are all in this together and we all have amazingly creative brains and gifts that are greatly needed and there should be room for all of us in this big world.
However, I know that we are nothing without our loyal customers. If we do not provide high quality products with a trustworthy and quality customer experience that builds brand loyalty and awareness, we will fail our mission to change the world. So, of course, our customers are our priority and focus, and the first message I want to impart to our amazing customer base is to ensure they understand the immense power that they possess as consumers. Just by making a simple but intentional purchase, a customer will play an important role in building a more inclusive world, and when we get written in the history books, each customer can tell their own story about the part they played in the story of our growth.
If you are our customer, please know, I may not know you, but I am grateful to you each and every day.