Why Every Venture Should Be a Social VentureBy Grace Connor
Why Every Venture Should Be a Social Venture
When I was 16 years old, I started an ice cream company, Little G Ice Cream Co. From the start, I knew I wanted to use my company as a way to give back, because during the toughest times in my life, ice cream gave me happiness. While I was in high school, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Through all the ups and downs, doctors appointments and nights filled with fear, I discovered that eating ice cream– a particularly nostalgic, joyful food– was one of the few constants that provided a moment of solace.
Now that I was making my own ice cream, I wanted to give it to other people who were struggling. Sure, a scoop of ice cream can’t cure a disease or solve someone’s problems, but I knew that it could make someone’s day a little brighter. Even though it was a small gesture, it felt so good.
As I continued these charity events, I found that the philanthropic work my company was doing not only increased our exposure, it also increased our sales. The more I gave out scoops, the more people began talking about “the girl with her own ice cream company who was bringing ice cream to kids with cancer at the hospital.”
This social mission was launching Little G into new levels of success, in both community impact and financial ways. As my business grew and I became more hooked on this privilege of being able to make a difference, I took our charitable contributions to the next level and began donating money from Little G towards hospitals and medical research.
Now, looking back, it is clear to me that every venture should be a social venture in order to capture the hearts (and wallets) of consumers as Millennials are beginning to shape our world with their values.
Millennials are known for many unique generational traits. Some of these traits, like an obsession with social media and a strong materialistic pull, are looked down upon by many. However, there is one millennial characteristic that every generation should adopt: the emphasis we place on social impact.
Unfortunately, there is no clear definition of who is defined as a millenial. Most agree that millenials are born in the 1980’s or 1990’s and have distinct values from Baby Boomers and Generation X, including being more receptive of other cultures and feeling more responsible for taking care of their parents. By 2025, millennials will make up the majority of the workforce.
The millenial desire for social good has led to an increasing number of mission driven businesses. Even established companies such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft have dedicated themselves to environmental social responsibility over the past 10 years. Companies have implemented ideas that society would have never dreamed of 50 years ago, and it is now clear that impact and profit can go hand in hand.
Tom’s shoes is a case in point. Founded in 2006 by Blake Mycoskie, the company has grown from a one man show in Mycoskei’s apartment to a company with an estimated worth of $625 million. All the while, Tom’s has given away more than 60 million pairs of shoes to people in need, restored the sight of roughly 400,000 people via surgery, provided more than 335,000 people with clean water, and provided medical help for over 25,000 births. By starting with a mission of social impact, Tom’s was able to impact millions of lives around the world.
The success of Tom’s shoes is not isolated. Studies show that the majority of people are willing to pay more for something if the company they’re buying the product from is known to be environmentally friendly, have a commitment to social values, or make their goods with fresh, natural, and/or organic ingredients. Furthermore, these three qualities actually outweighed the importance of convenience or cost for many. Purchasing something that does good makes the consumer feel good.
In a similar way, doing work that does good makes the worker feel good. Research has found that almost half of employees would take a 15% pay cut or a job that makes a social or environmental impact, and almost three quarters of employees who work for companies with a social mission feel more engaged in what they do, and are thus less likely to quit.
If social missions have so many positive impacts, why don’t all companies incorporate these missions into their business models? This is a difficult question to answer, but from personal experience I would guess that many businesses don’t realize how much the time and effort they put into social missions will pay off. However, if businesses can reframe their thinking to understand charity work as a form of advertising in today’s world, they would be able to adopt social missions that can drive financial and reputation gains. As crude as it may sound, giving companies a conscience increases its appeal to consumers, naturally feeding profits and performance metrics while giving back to the community.
Beyond profits and marketing, there is one other reason I strongly believe every venture should be a social venture: privilege. Being able to start, help, or work for a business is a privilege, not a right. If you want to make gains from society, you must also give back to society. Whether the motivation comes from gratitude or frustration, we all have the responsibility to impact our communities and the world for the better. Companies have a special place of privilege to impact our world for the better, so it is my hope to continue building social ventures, and I am confident many more will be headed this way.