It’s OK. Your brand can be selfish.

We know it’s not perfect manners to talk religion at the dinner table, but this little vignette sums up the idea of “mean more”.

A man is in great distress. He approaches his rabbi for comfort saying: “Rabbi, I work hard every day. When I finish work, I walk the streets until late at night looking for people in need. I spend all of my money on bread and blankets for them. I open my home to them. My wife jokes that I’ll send us to the poor house if I keep being so charitable.”

“What’s the problem?” the rabbi asks.

“I’m selfish,” says the man. “I do these things because they make me feel good. Surely this sin will catch up to me.”

The rabbi laughs and consoles the man. “Goodness is goodness regardless of why you make it,“ he says. “Go out into the world and be as selfish as you like.”

Sadly, this isn’t the case often enough. With pressures from stakeholders and lenders, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that you probably didn’t start your business or take your job for the sole purpose of making money; you did it because you followed your passion. You wanted to ensure that you could do every day what you most love to do. And help people along the way.

We don’t want to give you the fuzzy, rose-tinted impression that we only care about people who make the world a better place. But we also don’t want you to think we put profits above people. For a company to mean more, we look for an ability to make money and a desire to put it to good use.

The other way to invest.

We often think of investing in two ways:

  1. The not-for-profit model of investing in a cause, never expecting a return on investment.
  1. The for-profit model of investing in a business, crossing your fingers that that business does well.

But Jacqueline Novogratz at the Acumen Fund sees a third mode of investing she calls Patient Capital. In their words, “It bridges the gap between the efficiency and scale and market-based approaches and the social impact of pure philanthropy.” Basically, Acumen only invests in businesses and products that have the potential to change the world, and they do so knowing that what they invest in may not turn a profit for 10 or even 20 years.

For instance, Acumen began investing in Waterhealth International in 2004, a company that provides immediately deployable and scalable process for providing clean drinking water in some of the world’s most remote and underdeveloped areas. The technology is expensive and the people best served don’t have the money to pay for such amenities, but the business will eventually turn a profit, and by the time it does, millions of people will live healthier lives, and thousands will have jobs.

Goodness. Gracious.

On a smaller—though no less meaningful—scale, companies like Warby Parker and Toms Shoes incorporate their philanthropic giving into the price of their product.

Toms Shoes started its One-for-One policy in 2006—donating one pair of shoes to a needy child for every shoe purchased—and by 2012 had donated more than 1 million shoes in some 40 countries. Since then, the company has expanded its operation to include eyewear and apparel.

And after just four years in operation, Warby Parker—with a similar one-for-one model—had distributed 1 million pairs of glasses to people in need. At a time when 25% of students don’t know they need glasses, that kind of broad access is absolutely imperative to student success.

When we say mean more, that’s what we’re driving at: Finding ways to turn those passions into profits. And we know what you’ve always really wanted to do is help others, to create jobs, to build up your community, to make the world a better place. All that. So go ahead. Be selfish.

The Buy a Pair / Give a Pair Model – Toms Shoes

The Buy a Pair / Give a Pair Model – Toms Shoes

TAKEAWAYS:
  1. Acumen only invests in businesses and products that have the potential to change the world, and they do so knowing that what they invest in may not turn a profit for 10 or even 20 years.
  2. For a company to MEAN MORE, we look for both an ability to make money and a desire to put it to good use.
  3. Take your goodness, go out into the world and be as selfish as you like.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s