This will mark the 4th edition of the Social Entrepreneurs to watch for list. If you want to check out the previous years social entrepreneurs you can see them here(2014, 2015, 2016). Over the years I have had the great pleasure of speaking with over 100 social entrepreneurs while running Causeartist. It’s always great to shed more light on social entrepreneurs who are doing incredible things everyday.
I truly believe we are starting to see a shift in the traditional business models that have run the world for the past century. The social enterprise business model has manifested in the 21st century and is sparking a business revolution. This list is full of Individuals who are taking this new business model and changing our world.
You can see examples of this shift all over the world. In the European Union, 1 out of 4 new enterprises set-up every year are social enterprises. In the Philippines, 25% of businesses have become a combination of for-profit and non-profit (2015). In Senegal, 18.1% of the population are pursuing social entrepreneurial activity (2015). Moreover, consumers are discovering and moving towards purchasing products from ethical brands. 56% of US consumers stopped buying from companies they believe are unethical along with 35% of consumers not buying from brands they perceive as unethical even if there is no substitute available.
We still have much more work to do. We need to get more investors involved. We need to get big box retail stores to transition the brands they carry. We need to continue to share ideas, articles, and brands. Our power as readers, innovators, and consumers has never been more powerful. Lets use this power to build a more sustainable international economy.
Below are the 37 Social Entrepreneurs to watch for in 2017. I am sure I have left some incredible innovators and social entrepreneurs off this list, and for that I apologize. These are just the individuals that I see doing incredible things and building ethical and sustainable companies. I hope you enjoy the list and have a great new year.
Graphics Made with Canva.
Adam Muncy, founder of The Hounds, Ltd, decided to start a social enterprise after experimenting in banking, retail and fashion journalism. All three endeavors prepared him to put to use the skills gained during summers of interning with the youth of inner city Chicago and learning Castellano in Valencia. The dreamer married a teacher who taught him the value of education. Through all of these shared experiences, he was able to contract a Honduran tailoring co-op to create beautiful shirts ethically. One better, relationships formed interning allowed for donation of school uniforms for each shirt sold and The Hounds, Ltd. sending 100 kids camping in 2016. The banker turned designer grew leaps and bounds in 2016 releasing a tee in May and a full cut&sew oxford shirt in November.
Emma Wingfield and Laine Henry are the founders of Five | Six Textiles, a home decor brand dedicated to preserving the tradition of hand woven textiles from Côte d’Ivoire. By collaborating directly with the weaving collective of Waraniéné, Five | Six embraces time-honored weaving techniques by blending them with the modern aesthetic, and translating them into products that reflect a well-traveled home. An additional 10% of each purchase is invested into a fund for Waraniéné to supply invaluable support for their families. Each textile is a work of art; handwoven with 100% cotton on upright frame looms, the same way cloth has been produced for centuries.
This partnership creates an artisan-to-consumer business, ensuring that their products come straight from the weaving collective to your home. This creates consistent employment for the artisans, provides vital support for their community, and preserves an artistic practice for years to come. Emma is a researcher and writer interested in the economic development of the art market and it’s effect on local and global communities. She met the weavers of Waraniéné during a research trip to Côte d’Ivoire in 2014. Laine is a designer. Beginning her career in fashion, she spent 10 years designing clothing for multiple international brands before pivoting to UX design, bridging the gap between art and commerce. Both are based in New York City.
Hamilton Perkins is the founder and President of Hamilton Perkins Collection, a certified B Corporation, offering designer travel bags at an affordable price, while holding the highest standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
Prior to starting Hamilton Perkins Collection, Hamilton was an Investment Advisor at Merrill Lynch and, earlier, worked as an Analyst at Bank of America.
He has also served in a leadership capacity with various non-profit organizations and has been recognized for his volunteer work and service hours assisting low-income populations.
He is a graduate of Old Dominion University with a degree in Business Administration and he earned his M.B.A. from William and Mary.
Vijoy is the founder of Magic Room Brand, an online music supply company based in St. Louis, Missouri that designs and develops drum and guitar accessories made of biodegradable bamboo. After months of research and product development, Magic Room Brand opened its online store in September of 2016 offering subscription plans for bamboo drumsticks and guitar picks.
A lifelong musician having played drums and guitar for several bands, Vijoy started Magic Room Brand to fill a need and disrupt a music accessory marketplace that still lacked viable, eco-friendly options for products which, by nature, wear out over time.
So instead of wooden drumsticks that use 70+ year old trees and contribute to deforestation, and plastic guitar picks that end up in that huge plastic mountain in the ocean, Magic Room Brand bamboo accessories offer better sound, strength, and sustainability, empowering musicians to “love how they make, what they make.” A degree in psychology from Boston University, an MBA from Webster University, and 14+ years experience in the creative communications industry offers Vijoy the experience and foundation on which to build a socially-conscious online brand from scratch. Learn more about Magic Room Brand and what new products are planned for 2017 here.
Stephen has given life to the revolutionary public benefit corporation he named Charity Charge. His journey, both personally and professionally, has been full of difficulties but has ultimately been one of great perseverance and reward. As an Aries, he recognizes that he is loyal and often stubborn, and attributes the birth of his company to his intrinsic refusal to quit.
In 2008, he received an economics degree from Washington University in St. Louis and admits that more of the profoundly educational moments in his life came during his work after graduation. He visited Austin in 2009 and claimed that the city was a, “personification of who he is and who he strives to be.” Several months after his visit, he returned to Austin for good and found a job with the Austin Technology Incubator at The University of Texas at Austin. There, his opportunities for personal and professional growth were numerous and he felt like he slowly gained an education of the real world. After escaping an emotionally exhausting period in his life, he felt like his quest to move to Austin on his own and “grow up” had become a reality.
When he’s out of the office, Stephen enjoys Mozart’s ice tea on Lake Austin and visits various health conscious establishments like RAIL, CorePower, Wanderlust, and Austin Bouldering Project. His pursuit of excellence never sleeps and follows him to the Austin High track on Saturday mornings where he loves to test his endurance by running sprints.
Mélissa is the founder of Smile 2 Smile, a Toronto-based company dedicated to sharing the joy and playfulness that is central to childhood. For each limited-edition signature Buddy toy sold, another is given to a child going through difficult times, inviting customers to share happiness, imagination and play with little ones internationally.
During a trip to Haiti in the spring of 2014, Mélissa witnessed the dire need for gainful employment for young Haitian women and mothers. In 2015, she set to open the first Smile 2 Smile sewing studio in rural Haiti, where she hires and trains low-income women to make the company’s Buddies. Through S2S, she has equipped a team of artisans with new technical skills, managerial acumen and financial independence, establishing core company values of empowerment, dignity and social innovation. Since the founding of Smile 2 Smile, Mélissa has created several partnerships with international NGOs, as well as health organizations such as PIH and SickKids, to distribute S2S products to vulnerable children globally.
A B.A. in design and an early career in luxury fashion has allowed Mélissa to cultivate a deep understanding of the luxury goods industry from production to market, while alerting her to the urgent need for better methods of production. Smile 2 Smile blends eye-catching design with global awareness, for little ones and children at heart.
Joe is the Co-Founder of Tree Tribe, an outdoor lifestyle brand that plants 10 trees on every sale. They make eco friendly clothing and accessories, and are on a mission to make a positive impact on the world.
“I started this business because I felt a burning desire to give back to the Earth. Trees are essential to life, and I’m a forest guy so planting trees makes perfect sense. I’m also fascinated by sustainable materials like hemp, bamboo, and other plant-based textiles, and wanted to help bring awareness to these types of materials. I brought on 2 partners early on that share this vision and want to help the world.”
Joe’s 2017 goal with Tree Tribe is to expand rapidly and contribute to significant positive changes to our planet, not only by planting more trees, but also by promoting the outdoors, continuing to work with more sustainable materials, and being an advocate for social enterprise. He gave a talk (with partner Dylan) at the 2016 Nomad Summit called Social Enterprise: Why Giving Back is Awesome, and strives to inspire others to start a business with a social element.
“My ultimate goal is to grow Tree Tribe into a massively successful brand that does amazing things for our planet while advancing the social enterprise movement, and then use that experience to create a venture capital firm that invests in eco-startups.”
His advice: “Form a mission and core values that you’re passionate about, then build a team that vibes with this mission.” Tree Tribe’s core values are Nature, Adventure, Travel, and Community.
Originally from Louisiana, Jenny Amaraneni moved to San Diego in 2009 to pursue her Master of Business Administration at San Diego State University. It was during her graduate studies that Amaraneni learned of the great need for eye care in the world. Two statistics stuck in her mind – over 1 billion people lack access to eye care and 80% of the world’s blindness is preventable. Shortly after graduating, she launched SOLO Eyewear, a line of eco-friendly sunglasses where each pair purchased funds eye care for people in need. To date, SOLO Eyewear has funded eye care for 13,000+ people across 32 countries.
Prior to launching SOLO Eyewear, Amaraneni worked with several nonprofit organizations in various capacities. Most notably, she worked with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for two years before moving to San Diego. While pursuing her MBA, she worked very closely with the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center where she served as Venture Challenge Manager, completed two graduate internships and later started her business.
Amaraneni currently mentors students who are pursuing their own entrepreneurial endeavors and is an advisor for Cura Coffee. Most recently, she was named one of San Diego’s Top 25 in their 20’s, Top 50 People to Watch for 2013, and a recipient of the Women Who Mean Business award.
Adam is the founder of Have Fun Do Good, a social good travel company offering unique travel experiences. Have Fun Do Good challenges the traditional vacation by adding more meaningful experiences. They partner up with a variety of non-profits to give participants an insight into the multitude of organizations that exist. There is no shortage on the “fun” component. From wine tasting tours in Santa Barbara to surfing in Costa Rica, these guys know how to have a good time. “Our goal is to provide an outlet for people to give back, step out of their comfort zone and meet awesome people in the process,” says Adam. Adam incorporates his entrepreneurial spirit and passion for service into everything he does.
He participated in Semester at Sea, a 100-day undergraduate cruise around the world. He attributes that experience to opening his eyes to the world and shaping his views on what it means to truly give to others. The company is offering a February trip to Breckenridge, Colorado to do some good with the adaptive ski and snowboard program. To learn more, check out Have Fun Do Good!
Sheeza is the Founder and CEO of UpEffect, a crowdfunding and support platform launching products doing good in the world. Sheeza combines her Computer Science background with her passion for social entrepreneurship to work with revolutionary founders to tackle humanity’s greatest challenges. She has helped companies raise over £100,000 to positively impact lives in 6 countries.
Her work has been featured in The Guardian, Huffington Post, The Telegraph and Virgin. She is often found championing conscious capitalism and social entrepreneurship at universities, business leadership events and various other platforms. Sheeza was named to DotEveryone’s ’12 top female tech founders’ by Baroness Martha Lane Fox, was awarded “Lady of the Year” by Opportunities for Youth and won Silver at MassChallenge UK for her award-winning crowdfunding platform.
Michael Paratore is the founder and chief peddler of Mohinders, a social good lifestyle brand based in Mill Valley, California. Paratore’s background is not typical within fashion or design, as his resume includes marketing at Ducati Motorcycles in Italy, graduating from UC Berkeley School of Law and practicing startup law at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in Menlo Park. Though Paratore never imagined a future in the shoe business, there was a foreshadowing of his endeavors hailing from two previous generations of shoe peddlers.
While Paratore worked as a lawyer, he went on a trip that would forever alter his career path. In 2012, Paratore visited Mumbai, India and stumbled upon a beautiful pair of handwoven leather shoes on the Colaba Causeway. Initially, Paratore purchased these shoes as a souvenir, but after receiving consistent compliments on them back home; Paratore knew he had to find a way to bring these shoes stateside.
In 2012, Paratore took the leap to full-time social good entrepreneur, leaving his corporate law career to pursue building a socially minded brand. He traveled back to India in search of the skilled artisans who constructed his handwoven leather shoes. After weeks of trekking throughout India, he finally located the artisans in a remote village in Karnataka, India. During his stay, Paratore secured an ethical production partner, and over time, collaborated with the cooperative to take the traditional design he purchased and add increased comfort and durability, which is now sold through mohinders. All of mohinders’ shoes are handwoven by 2nd and 3rd generation artisans in Karnataka.
Lara San Gil
Cambridge MBA with marketing background in fast moving consumer goods and e-commerce. Her experience in managing brands ranges from leading media campaigns to conducting market research and launching new products. Willing to learn more about fashion design and the lingerie industry, she did a couple of courses at the London University of the Arts. A lover of natural spaces, she likes to spend time by the sea and at the countryside. Her concept of active lifestyle involves physical exercise for the body and thought provoking conversations and meditation for the mind.
Former textile buyer with more than 6 years of experience in the retail and fashion industry. Julie has been in charge of apparel collections construction, development and purchase. Her previous role involved dealing with sourcing suppliers with frequent travels to China, Turkey, Bangladesh and India. In her free time, Julie likes to travel and make new connexions. As a healthy lifestyler, she enjoys practising yoga, dancing, and revitalizing moments in the mountain or on the Brittany coast.
Edmund Le Brun(co-founder) – Shortly after graduating from Oxford University in 2013, Edmund went out to Afghanistan to work for the Turquoise Mountain Foundation. After three years living in Afghanistan helping the NGO regenerate the old city of Kabul and revive the Afghan artisan sector, Edmund decided to return to Europe with his girlfriend to set up a social enterprise which would bring the work of Afghan artisans to the world.
Flore de Taisne(co-founder) – Equipped with degrees from King’s College London, the London School of Economics and Sciences Po, Flore de Taisne arrived in Afghanistan as a consultant advising organizations such as the World Bank and UN on how to deliver their development programs. Her interest in the artisan sector began when taking jewelry classes from jewelers in the old city of Kabul.
Guillaume(co-founder) is a French-German entrepreneur, born in Paris and now living in Berlin. He’s the founder of eelusion (sold in 2013) and former CEO of The European Magazine (exited in 2015). Guillaume has a double diploma in International Business and a Master’s in Digital Communications. He is passionate about design thinking and arts. He’s in charge of the creative direction, the designers relations and the go-to-market strategy.
Jason(co-founder) is a Social Entrepreneur born in the Dominican Republic. He’s a former consultant for international development agencies like GIZ, UNICEF and UNDP. After his MA in law and business in 2015, he decided to co-create Virtū in order to help in bringing fairness and innovation to the production of garments around the world, starting with his country. He is passionate about the Human Development Paradigm and is in charge of corporate vision, social development and market disruption.
Mark is co-founder and CEO of MovingWorlds.org, a global platform that helps people volunteer their expertise with social impact organizations around the world, on their own or through corporate-sponsored programs. Since its launch in 2011, MovingWorlds.org has unleashed over 7 million dollars worth of professional skills across 60 countries. Mark has been featured in Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Forbes, Stanford Social Innovation Review and many more as the co-founder of the “Experteering” movement.
Mark also serves as Adjunct Faculty at University of Washington Tacoma’s Center for Leadership and Social Responsibility and is a contributor at Huffington Post Impact. In his free time, Mark can be found spending time with his wife, playing outside, skiing, and volunteering with the American Cancer Society co-chairing its nationwide volunteer leadership team.
Azadeh is Iranian-Dutch impact entrepreneur with roots in Europe and the US, with a passion for social innovation and entrepreneurship in West and Central Asia. She has founded and lead a number of social innovation initiatives in the region, including co-founding Shetab Afghanistan, the country’s first co-working and incubation space for social innovators and entrepreneurs.
“We have always been concerned about the synthetic and potentially toxic ingredients in commercial tampons, but frustrated with the options for organic brands with their uncomfortable cardboard applicators and flimsy wrappers that too easily fall apart. We created Conscious Period tampons with 100% organic cotton and a comfortable, compact BPA-free plastic applicator to fill a need in the marketplace – but created our company to fill the menstrual needs of women living in homelessness all across the country.”
During her time working at TOMS, Margo Lang saw firsthand the benefits and challenges of how social enterprise models work in the real world. Margo studied psychology at Yale University, and holds a MBA from USC Marshall.
Annie Lascoe has a background in nonprofit work and a lifelong passion for women’s issues. She holds a BA in Women’s Studies from Washington University in St. Louis and a Master of Social Work degree from Columbia University. Their combined backgrounds in business and social welfare create a well-rounded duo of social entrepreneurs set on shaking up the tampon industry.
Jessica Blotter is a journalist, speaker, advocate for the greater good, and CEO & Cofounder of Kind Traveler, the first ‘Give + Get’ hotel booking platform that transforms travelers into a force for good that benefits communities, animals, and the environment.
The moment she discovered that the love of travel can’t be separated from the state of the world on a trip to Belize in 2012, her four-year journey to create Kind Traveler began. Blotter led research and development of the brand and business model, and now leads the Kind Traveler team in offering a meaningful way for purpose-driven travelers to benefit both local and global communities. Travelers ‘give’ to a local or global charity; as reward for their donation, they ‘get’ an exclusive rate to book directly with the world’s best hotels and unique properties. 100% of the donations raised on the Kind Traveler platform are given to charity.
In a time of violence and war, she dreams of living in a world where all animals, the environment, and people are treated with kindness; a world where all individuals are empowered with a sense of purpose and gratitude in their daily lives and are fulfilled with heaps of happiness as a result.
As a journalist with a heart for travel, sustainability, social impact, and animal welfare, she contributes to Fast Company, CBS Los Angeles, Hospitality Design, One Green Planet, Green Lodging News, Spa Finder, Darling Magazine, Examiner, Destination Luxury, and the BLLA (Boutique Lodging & Lifestyle Association). As a reporter, she has interviewed many celebrity activists including Russell Simmons, Willy Nelson, Bob Barker, and Ian Somerhalder on behalf of Animal Defenders International, WildAid, and the Humane Society of the United States.
As a speaker, she’s presented on the stages of TEDx and regular contributes as a panelist with various professional hospitality associations and events.
Through her accomplishments with Kind Traveler, Blotter has been featured in The New York Times, The Seattle Times, Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Afar Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, and more.
Jessica received a Master of Education degree from Ottawa University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Arizona State University.
When she’s not curating kindness with Kind Traveler, she is a dedicated yogi, animal rescue volunteer, and loves spending time in the wildlands of her Topanga backyard. She tries to keep up with the requests of her eight rescues: a turkey named Drumstick, a bunny, two chickens, and four cats. You can find her blogging on KindTraveler.com or on Twitter at @TravelKindly.
Gelaine Santiago & Jérôme Gagnon-Voyer are the founders of Cambio Market, an online shop for thoughtful, responsible goods that empower artisans around the world. Fed up with their corporate jobs, they were inspired to start their business after traveling to Philippines. On their travels, they discovered a vibrant community of entrepreneurs combatting poverty and inequality – and they were using business to do it. Inspired, Gelaine and Jérôme created their first website ChooseSocial.PH – a free directory to help people find socially conscious businesses in the Philippines.
Despite it being “just a hobby”, ChooseSocial.PH picked up steam. When people began asking where they could purchase ethical Filipino products in North America, they knew they were onto something. In October 2015, Gelaine & Jérôme took a risk, quit their jobs and launched Cambio Market. They’ve since expanded beyond Philippines and now have partners in Guatemala, India, Kenya, and Uganda (the list grows). With Jérôme’s experience as an IT consultant in e-commerce and Gelaine’s background in marketing, this entrepreneurial couple found, in each other, the perfect partnership to tackle poverty worldwide.
Bonfolk Collective Owner/Creative Director, Janna Hart Black, was born & raised in New Orleans, LA. At the age of 19, Janna moved to California to attend The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. In 2011, she graduated with a degree in Fashion Design & went on to pursue her dream, designing for various clothing brands in Los Angeles,CA. She became aware that socks are the number one requested clothing items in shelters & wanted to start up a brand that can help fix this problem. Janna discovered a way she can use her skills to help the tremendous number of homeless people in the USA. At the age of 25, Janna started Bonfolk Collective, a sock brand that donates a pair of sock to shelters in the USA with every pair sold. In late 2015, she launched Bonfolk in New Orleans with plans to take the brand across the USA in 2017.
Mohsin Memon and Ahsen Saber are the co-founders behind a new food delivery/takeout app and platform called Sharebite. Sharebite is the first social food ordering platform on the market, and it is the only one that gives to charity (meals to feed hungry kids in NYC through a partnership with City Harvest) with every single order placed — at no extra cost to the food orderer.
Ahsen Saber Co-Founder and COO: Ahsen joined up with Mohsin to create Sharebite following years as a Strategist supporting Edible Arrangements senior leadership on projects ranging from tactical operations, focused initiatives, franchisee relations, and developing new markets. He also has a background as a corporate lawyer, and he too wanted to use his strategy and legal prowess to create a social enterprise business with philanthropic efforts at its core.
Luke, Doris, and Amanda are the founders of Allkiind, a social enterprise that makes lifestyle products, speaks boldly into people and everyday culture, and financially supports a variety of causes and non-profits. All for the common good. Allkiind products are ethically and responsibly made. That means the team is making as much as they can personally and locally, where they can see things up close, and insisting on high standards abroad. Since founding the business in August, Allkiind has supported everything from breast cancer research to service dogs, from the LA & OC homeless community to the fight against human trafficking.
They have donated Halloween costumes, socks, and school supplies, helped care for orphans in Africa, and delivered inspiring headbands to young warriors at Children’s Hospital of Orange County. In all, they’ve done 12 unique ‘Gives’ to date. The best news? They’re just getting started! They’re committed to building a company that makes great products the right way, speaks good things into the world, and gives back to incredible causes. They’re in it for good.
After finishing her anthropology degree, Bethany set off to make foreign a little more familiar. Six countries later, she settled in Bolivia. It’s there, that Bethany found a real passion for entrepreneurship. Independent from family, friends and the basic familiarities of life, Bethany began to reset and retrain her mind. She discovered that she was far more capable of change than ever before. Living in a culture distinct from your own will challenge you on every level. And through those challenges, Bethany sparked a passion for a simplified life that had a positive effect on others.
Less focused on herself, mindful of others and brimming with new abilities and capabilities, she began explore alternatives in her everyday life. Bethany co-founded Conflict Crate in an effort to empower others with their own sense of capability. And, to ignite or fan a flame in consumers, that the obstacles we face today, can be overcome by one person understanding their necessity, capability and responsibility to the world around them. Conflict Crate exists to bring socially conscious products to your door. Thus, simplifying the often, time consuming process of sourcing quality products that create positive ripples in our world.
Bethany also donates 20% of their profits to an organization that cares for and defends children against abuse and neglect in rural Bolivia.
Max – After experiencing a coffee overdose in November 2012, Max decided that tea was the answer. He’s passionate about latin culture, art, and corporate transparency. Having a Bachelor’s in International Sustainable Development and a Master’s in International Business, Max’s personal goal is to set a new standard in the tea and coffee industries for transparency and straight-forward communications. He is most excited about the opportunity to revolutionize the coffee industry for the better, and give back to the cultures and people that have provided so many great experiences.
Arnaud – This French-native is passionate about culture, food, and travel. Through international studies and experiences, he has developed a deep appreciation of culture and an ethical conscience in his business practices. His main motivation for co-founding Wize Monkey is to bring you a new beverage that is not only good for you, but also great for the producers in Latin America. He is devoted to delivering the best and most directly-sourced product because you deserve to know what’s in your cup.
Enrique – Enrique is a third-generation coffee farmer with leading innovation and ethical practices in Nicaragua. He has always been passionate about agronomy, biology, and creating delicious coffee. Now, with the leaf being the focus, he is an integral part in the research and development of new Coffee Leaf Teas. Enrique studied agronomy at Purdue University, and Finance at University of Toronto.
Having met in London, the duo with over twenty years of combined design and commercial fashion experience, have worked for international superstars Stella McCartney, Coach and J Crew.
Originally from the U.S. and Canada, inspired by the children in their own lives and from international teaching experiences abroad, they are determined to make our world a better place by challenging traditional business models.
Armed with a strong belief that anything is possible, their creative and MBA backgrounds, the pair are thrilled to create accessories that will build (ed)ucational initiatives around the world. In 2017 they look forward to partnering with Building Schools for Burma, in Myanmar, to build an elementary school in rural Chin State for over 400 students, and as well, are looking forward to their continued relationship supporting Edlumino Education Aid, which supports children’s refugee education in camps in Greece.
Grant is the founder of Causeartist, one of the most influential impact business platforms in the world. Since 2013, Causeartist has been read in over 150 countries. Grant has personally interviewed 700+ impact entrepreneurs from around the world, highlighting innovations in ethical fashion, climate change, ethical technology, impact investing, and sustainable travel.