Starting a Social Impact Business
I started a social impact business this year. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been incredibly fun. I wanted to share a bit about why. I figure I’ll have to write more than one story on this so I thought I’d start with my inspiration.
I love Patagonia.
Like, seriously, I love Patagonia.
Not the region, though I’ve seen photos and it’s gorgeous, but the clothing brand.
It doesn’t have much to do with their clothes though. It has everything to do with their values. Values that inspire us to get into the outdoors, to become environmental stewards and to stand up for our beliefs.
To some it could sound like a religion or a cult. If so then Yvon Chouinard is one hell of cult curator.
Humor aside, I do love Patagonia. I have for a long time.
I was first introduced to Patagonia through Boy Scouts of America. Troop 290 got me outside a lot. Whether is was backpacking in Michigan’s forests or traveling to the American southwest or braving the whitewater of the New River Gorge, the BSA got me outside.
Add in the fact that I grew up in a skiing family all those outdoor activities required outdoor garments. Patagonia delivered. Their construction and quality where what first brought them to my attention, but it was what they stood for that has turned me into a life long zealot.
I still own my first pair of Patagonia snow pants. I purchased them in 2004 when I was still in high school and a junior ski patroler at Cannonsburg ski hill. I still ski in them every season. They simply don’t make snow pants like they used to.
I grew up on Patagonia catalogs and films. I have applied to countless jobs, never hired though. I really drank the kool-aid. I still do.
When I say Patagonia was the inspiration for me to pursue social impact as an entrepreneur I am not kidding around.
When I first heard the phrases social enterprise or social impact business it was years after I had graduated college. I made an instant connection though. Patagonia was a clear example. A pioneer on social responsibility. I knew I wanted to make the same kind of impact.
Where to start?
How can a digital marketing and web design company make as much social impact as Patagonia?
The anxiety crept in. It hasn’t gone away.
I want to make an impact. Communities around America and the globe need an impact! But as a young company how do I make an impact that actually matters? Am I fraud if I say I am a social impact business without creating any impact?
Seriously, this keeps me up at night. Good intentions and desire aren’t going to cut it here.
Even Patagonia started out, reluctantly as Yvon tells it, as a normal profit model business. It wasn’t until the effects of pollution and their internal supply chain showed how destructive business can be that they realized a change was required. They made a move to social impact after they had a considerable market share and wallet to help pay for it.
I have faith that once I have an established company with legitimate revenue streams and profit I too can focus on creating impact in my community. But I am not a patient man. I want to create the future today.
I figure I have to start small. I need to be a laser. I need to start right here in Manitou Springs Colorado. My own backyard has a need for impact as much as the next neighborhood.
I decided to work with a small local not-for-profit. Peace of Adventure helps unite disabled civilians with returning US veterans and gets them outdoors to foster teamwork and a sense of purpose. I love the work and mission they are striving for.
I figured if someone else is doing the work you are passionate about it is better to help them than offer a separate option.
For now, while I am still small, I can donate a percentage of my profits to Peace of Adventure. As my business grows I can find and support other organizations helping to bring people outdoors and instill environmental stewardship.
Maybe a small company doesn’t need to make a large impact. Just a small impact. I still stress over this but I am excited to do what I can in this moment.
One day I hope I can do more.