All Businesses Have the Power to Make a Positive Impact

I’m writing this article because I want to discuss social entrepreneurship companies – and how you can be in business and still do great things within your community and for the people in your community.

I’m going to explain how social entrepreneurship is different to non-profit organizations, and give a few examples of social enterprises that have a huge positive impact in the world. They’ve been inspirational to me, and have helped to shed more light on how I can run my business to be even more socially responsible.

First, I want to tell you about an amazing leadership program that I have graduated from.

Making leadership matter

I enrolled on the Owner/President Management Program run by the Harvard Business School for many reasons. I knew I would be given a broader global perspective and an insight into how to drive exceptional business growth through operational excellence.

I also knew that I would get to connect with many like-minded entrepreneurs. Business owners and executives who pursue their passion and their purpose, and earn a profit from their product or service while maintaining their social mission. I wasn’t disappointed.

One of the amazing things I learned through this leadership program, and the connections I made through it, was the incredible potential that all business leaders have to make a real difference we can make by focusing our objectives on a triple bottom line – people, planet, and profit.

What is social entrepreneurship?

As a social entrepreneur, you have enormous potential to create positive change in communities and the wider society. 

Owning and running a business provides you the opportunity to connect to your purpose and make a difference to the world. Like Debra Tantleff, founding Principal at Tantum. 

Debra has recently been named as to ROI-NJ’s Real Estate Influencers List, and the ‘Top Forty Under 40’ both by Real Estate Forum and NJBIZ. Debra has developed successful projects throughout the state, and her latest is the construction of affordable rental residences for veterans in Jersey City, NJ. That’s real power.

Debra is the epitome of successful social entrepreneurs. She:

  • Runs her business to deliver a greater good, not simply to pursue profits

  • She serves under-served communities

  • Provides long-term reinvestment back into the community

Whether your purpose and values center around community, producing environmentally friendly products, or philanthropic activities, as a social entrepreneur you can deliver real change.

Social entrepreneurship v non-profit: can you do good if your business is not sustainable?

Let’s clear up the difference between social entrepreneurship and non-profit organizations.

A non-profit organization does not operate to make a profit. They are usually funded through charitable donations, and so put in a lot of effort into marketing themselves as compelling causes (which they are).

Like social enterprises, non-profits aim to make a difference to people and planet – including communities that may otherwise be unable to transform and reach their potential. 

Non-profits don’t pay tax (except employment taxes) and donations made are tax deductible. Notable examples include Greenpeace, Oxfam, and Amnesty International.

Social enterprises are not exempt from any taxes. They strive to be sustainable not by receiving donations (though they may receive grants), but by being profitable. 

Typically, a social enterprise will employ people from the communities which they are aiming to impact positively. These may be people who are marginalized in the workforce, such as women, veterans, disabled, and minority groups. Revenue streams and profits are largely reinvested into the business and the people and communities they serve.

High-profile examples of social entrepreneurship

There are many examples of high-profile social entrepreneurs and enterprises. Here are just a few.

TOMS shoes – in business to improve lives

Blake Mycoskie founded TOMS after he witnessed how many children were forced to go without shoes in Argentina. His edict was to donate one pair of shoes for every pair sold. The company has expanded to include other initiatives including charity water, safe childbirth, eyewear, and anti-bullying.

Mycoskie is said to be worth more than $300 million. His business acumen is matched by what TOMS has achieved for others. To date, they have donated 60 million pairs of shoes, restored eyesight to more than 400,000 people, and given millions of gallons of clean water.

Seventh Generation – nurturing the health of the next seven generations

Jeffrey Hollender regularly speaks about social entrepreneurship, a subject on which he is an authority. Hollender founded Seventh Generation, a company producing environmentally friendly personal hygiene and cleaning products. It donates 10% of its profits to social and environmental causes.

Along with the development of chemical-free products, Seventh Generation donates 10% of its profits to various environmental and social causes. Seventh Generation’s revenues are around $100 million annually.

Grameen Bank – banking for the poor

Muhammad Yunus founded Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in 1983. His goal was to help people out of poverty by giving zero-collateral, small loans to start them on the road to financial self-sufficiency. Its success has been phenomenal, and has earned Yunus a Nobel Prize.

Barefoot College – rural empowerment, one woman at a time

Barefoot College was set up in the 1970s in India, on values that resonated with those of Mahatma Gandhi: inclusion, and allowing rural communities to develop their own solutions. It works with the rural poor who live on less than $1 a day. 

They recruit illiterate and semi-literate women from rural communities around the world. They train them and provide them with skills that will help change their communities, before sending them back to those communities.

Success is knowing

Building communities – one property at a time

There’s something incredibly special happening in Newark. Something I’m immensely proud to be a part of. We’re reviving Newark’s most impoverished neighborhoods one property at a time. We’re revamping old buildings. We’re developing new buildings on decrepit land. We’re giving folks an affordable place to live, and hope for a brighter future.

These neighborhoods are 86% black and Latino. They’ve been hit by social unrest, decay, and poverty. Fewer than a quarter of Newark’s residents own their own homes. Many people are still affected by the discovery of lead in their tap water in 2018. Now they’ve been hit again by COVID. 

We want to help change this. These communities are where my roots are. I want to give back. I want to do my bit for these communities. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to do so, through my company MZM Construction. 

This isn’t a project that can be completed overnight. But, little by little, and with so many more entrepreneurs with a social mission, we are making a positive impact here. The people who live here are the first to lose their jobs. We need to give back and rebuild.

One person at a time. One family at a time. One property at a time. One neighborhood at a time. I couldn’t do this if I didn’t lead a purposeful and socially responsible company. You don’t need to own and operate a billion-dollar company to make a difference. You just need to believe that you can make a difference. Our profits are recyclable, which means our efforts are sustainable.

From a childhood in the projects, to Harvard’s OPM program, and now to construction projects that will change lives in the projects where I first started. I’m an ordinary person with the potential to do extraordinary things. The kind of things that deliver my purpose and give purpose to others.

Would you like to hear more? Take the opportunity to book me to speak at your event, your company, or your trade body.


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