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5 Crucial Tips I Learned from Veteran Entrepreneurs about Building a Social Impact Business

5 Crucial Tips I Learned from Veteran Entrepreneurs about Building a Social Impact Business

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I’ve spent the last ten years rubbing elbows with some of the awesomest social entrepreneurs in the world. It all started for me back in 2003 as an AmeriCorps member in Cleveland Ohio, which then blossomed into a life of involvement with places like World Relief, Habitat for Humanity, and the Dave Ramsey Show.


Since 2014, I’ve been running two successful impact businesses with my wife: Hostel KC and the Impact Business Base.


Social impact businesses are businesses where the social and business missions run in TANDEM. So, think of brands like Toms Shoes or Warby Parker.


The BIGGEST CHALLENGE we often face is how to handle the ‘balancing act’ between making a dollar AND a difference.


Over the past 3 years, I’ve been on a quest to interview as many social entrepreneurs as I could to figure out how they handled this ‘balancing act’.


See, the thing is, I find too many of us try to go about this social impact business thing without getting the guidance or coaching we need. And it hurts my heart to see passionate social entrepreneurs go under because they didn’t get the guidance they needed.


I don’t want that for myself or my community in the Impact Business Base. So, I want to unpack for you today the five biggest tips I got from veteran social entrepreneurs.


Follow their lead and trust me, you’ll avoid a TON of stress and frustration of figuring out this impact business all by your lonesome…


1) Make your followers part of something larger than themselves. (Davis Smith, Cotopaxi)


I recently interviewed Davis of Cotopaxi. Cotopaxi uses the ‘get one give one’ model. Buy one product = give something to someone in need. Every product line at Cotopaxi is tied to a unique social mission.


I personally bought a water bottle tied to a charity: water project in India. Not only is that painted on the bottle, but it had a little card attached to it explaining exactly what my purchase meant.


People yearn to hear stories.  People want to be part of movements they understand and can communicate with others.  People want YOU to make them part of social change. So, you want to create a successful impact business? Then follow Cotopaxi’s lead and make your customers part of something truly great.


2) Create movements that spark conversations (Vincent Ko, Panda Sunglasses)


Panda is a cause based company through which the purchase of sunglasses leads to a vision exam for someone in dire need.  Made from bamboo, the sunglasses are sustainable, look wicked cool, and are totally unlike any other pair of sunglasses you’ve ever seen.  


So what do you imagine happens when folks are walking down the street and rocking a pair o’ Panda? It starts conversations,  and if you don’t plan on creating work that starts conversations, you may as well stop now.  A critical mission for you as an impact entrepreneur is to get people talking about change.  Panda shows us the way to do this with excellence.  


3) Make your product or service the star of the show and your cause the supporting actor (Tyler Merrick, Project 7)


No story, no amount of passion, and no flashy marketing will make up for a product that sucks. Like any entrepreneur, you must still deliver amazing quality that smashes that of your competition – that in combination with a social mission leads to rabidly loyal followers and healthier margins.


“Take your customers on their first date with your product, the second date’s your cause.” Tyler Merrick of Project 7


4) Don’t be afraid to sell yourself. Remember, where there’s no MARGIN there can be no MISSION (Zac H, Mission Belt)


The best cause based entrepreneurs sell their businesses’ impact.  Now, you must do this from a genuine and authentic heart, but you shouldn’t ever be afraid to market the change you bring to the world.


So, as you build your business: don’t be afraid to sell your social impact. Wear it proudly and WEAVE IT INTO YOUR BRAND. Your customers will be stoked to know that their involvement with you is part of something larger than themselves.


5) Make dollar AND difference live together AS ONE. (Kyle P, Indosole)


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen amazing people who want to make an impact with their venture just totally fail when it comes to the ‘dollars’ side…


I get that we’re all in the social impact space and we have huge hearts for social change, but the simple facts are these: where there’s no profit, there’s no purpose. No margin, no mission. No dollar, no difference.


So, you’ve got to get really freaking good at running a kick ass business that stands on its own or you’ll get crushed under the weight of your good intentions.


Look, I get it… you don’t want to be one of those ‘bad businesses’ that puts profit before people. You don’t want to be all those things you see that are so wrong with Wall Street. But if you get so fixated on that that your stomach curdles at the thought of making a profit, then you’re just letting the big dogs win.


So, if you’re tired of going it alone and ready to run a business that runs on profit AND purpose – I want to get you into a place where you can be inspired and motivated by people who expand your beliefs about what is possible.


Because we want you to become the change you wish to see in the world, we’ve put together just such a community in the Impact Business Base.


‘The Base’ is a fully online community that will get you ACTIONABLE knowledge in all the areas of social impact business. It’ll also get you instant business feedback from a group of people who have the same heart for social change as you do.


So, whether you’re just starting out or have been running a business for awhile now, ‘The Base’ will get you the INSTANT feedback you need to figure out your next steps and take control of your impact journey.


We believe impactful businesses that are FOR PROFIT and FOR PURPOSE are one of the greatest forces for social change on the planet. And that’s why we created ‘The Base’ as the place to get someone who believes in YOU, as the place to challenge YOU to level-up the impact you’re making and as the place for YOU to step into your full power as a social impact entrepreneur.


If you feel the same and want to transform your future with a community of like minded impact business leaders, check out ‘The Impact Business Base’ right here.


Related Post:

10 Tips From 10 Years of Social Good: The Most Important Things I’ve Learned on My Journey as a Social Entrepreneur


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