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Breakout Session: Doing Business for the Greater Good

By Andrew Macdonald

Social entrepreneurs are individuals who bring innovative solutions to the most challenging social issues, offering both ideas and capital in support of wide-scale change. In this breakout session, I got the opportunity to hear from young entrepreneurs whose visionary business models reflect not just the bottom line, but their philanthropic commitment as global citizens to sustainable development.

Facilitator: Liesel Pritzker, Founder and Board chair, Young Ambassadors for Opportunity

Panelists:
Amanda Britt, Founder and President, Panzanzee LLC
Raan Parton, Creative director, Apolis Activism
Krista Treide, Partner and Chief brand officer, Made for Good
Amy Taylor, Manager, The Heart of CAbi Foundation

Panel (from left): Liesel Pritzker, Amanda Britt, Raan Parton, Krista Treide, and Amy Taylor.Before getting into their panel discussion each participant provided an overview their organization…

Panzanzee is a new social entrepreneurship incubator in Chicago focused on putting tools into the hands of those passionate to use their ideas to do good works. They are growing now into a physical space, bringing these businesses together and out of their isolation, and engaging like-minded others.

Apolis, which translates as “global citizen,” is a living and breathing social enterprise that equips and empowers people through opportunity instead of charity. Apolis co-creates products with manufacturers and directly allows the market to determine the future of each item they produce. It is a hands-on model to provide people access to opportunity. “We call it ‘advocacy through industry,’” says Raan Parton.

Made for Good is a consortium of like-minded brands assembled into one global community, sharing common goals, purpose and passion. Each Made for Good brand aligns with a nonprofit partner and uses embedded generosity to raise money through the sale of its products. A true blurring of commerce and charity, Made for Good leverages the power of retail to make a positive difference through a recurring model of giving. All Made for Good products will carry the MFG authenticity badge, an official indication that the brand has a genuine, integrated give-back component.

CAbi is all about affecting lives through relationships, and through The Heart of CAbi Foundation, “we get to impact the lives of women in need in the United States and around the world,” says Amy Taylor. Over $25 million in CAbi clothing and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been donated to domestic and international nonprofit organizations that are dedicated to impacting women in need. They developed a partnership with Opportunity four years ago. Specifically, they do a “Make a Change” program that has raised $130,000 by rounding up their order, at an average of $0.50 a time to the nearest dollar. More importantly, this means that Opportunity’s message was presented to people a total of 260,000 times.

Why do you think that more people want to get into social businesses now?
Krista: It is about “disruptive innovation,” because we vote with our retail purchases. Given two options, people will buy the brand that has been tied to a give-back.
Amanda: We live in a world of materialism and people see this, but they state that they want to see their money used purposefully.
Raan: The social business is very relevant and provides a strong marketing opportunity. Within this, some people just see it as a tool to sell more stuff but there are others who have a powerful conviction that is it the right thing to do.

How do you follow through on the promise to the consumer that change is being created?
Raan: We compete in the big sandbox against luxury brands, so the goal is to let the product stand on its own and only as people engage deeper do they see the difference being made.
Krista: We are at a place of web 2.0 where, if people have a bad experience, then they can let the world know through social media, and it allows people to research and look for those organizations that are truly genuine. It is about blurring capitalism and philanthropy to build real life experiences.
Amanda: This is a challenge and the reality is that there needs to be a lot more study involved in this, so that if someone is saying they are making a social impact then we should be able to measure it.

How do you select your partners?
Amy: The first question they ask is, “Does it first match with the business that they have in place?” For them, it needs to be a place that links into their women’s clothing business. The partnership with Opportunity works well because it is a connection between their 3,000 women entrepreneurs and the women entrepreneur clients supported by Opportunity in the developing world.

Overall, each of the presenters showed one key thing: it is about using their skills right now to effect change. As I see it, more and more people want to be a part of something bigger, and since they are already spending the money, they feel good that it is going to a significant cause.

This post was written by Andrew Macdonald. Andrew is the Manger of YAO and Philanthropy for Opportunity International Canada. In his role, he is excited about seeing Canadians meet their dreams of making a global difference and transforming their own lives.

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