Co-Authored by Cassie Hughes, co-founder, Grow Marketing
Most startups spend a lot of time thinking through every detail of their new business -- from the product or service they'll offer to the best ways to bring it to market to the unique culture they want to create. With everything else on an entrepreneur's to-do list, a plan for social good may seem like "nice to have" or just too complicated to add to the mix. But you don't have to commit to saving the entire world on day one (unless, of course, you want to).
Often startups overlook the added benefits that a business model that incorporates social good can offer in attracting both customers and talent, something every new business needs. Some, in a burst of altruism, slap on a fundraising or employee volunteer program that may benefit a cause in the short-term but does not feel connected to their larger mission or culture and falls flat. When thinking through how to strategically incorporate social good into your business model look to simplicity, authenticity and consistency.
Tom's Shoes, one of the most famous examples of a business based on social good, started with a simple offer: Buy one pair of shoes, we'll give a pair to a child in need. There are no lids or labels to save, no "5 percent of net profits up to XX" fuzzy math to do. Their offer -- a BOGO with a feel good twist -- had an immediate get it factor for consumers, and continues to drive their success. The product itself is simple and has become an iconic badge brand for millennials, moms, celebrities and everyone with whom their mission resonates.
Airbnb started its disaster response service inspired by one their users, Shell, who posted her space for free for New Yorkers displaced by Hurricane Sandy. Airbnb partnered with the city of New York to offer the opportunity for others in their community to post for free and reported over 2,500 last minute bookings with more than 4,000 guests given shelter. What's more, they made a long-term commitment to the service. Now in the event of a future disaster anyone will be able to post a space for free on Airbnb's Disaster Response page, which notes: "emergency accommodations can be anywhere Airbnb exists," powerfully underscoring the value proposition of their brand.
Headquartered in Fort Collins, Colorado and most famous for its Fat Tire Ale, New Belgium Brewing Company has incorporated environmental stewardship into every aspect of its business since the founders wrote it into the first draft of the company's Core Values and Beliefs. In addition to designing their operations to primarily run on renewable energy sources, New Belgium was a driving force in bringing wind power to their city, has donated millions to non-profits working in environmental sustainability and transparently posts their environmental metrics on their website. This is not a one-off or even annual campaign, it is deeply ingrained in the way they conduct business on a daily basis.
Regardless of the business you choose to create, to determine the best path for incorporating social good into your business model start with the three filters above, understanding that the most important driver of long-term success is that the person with the most passion and commitment to leveraging your business for the greater good is you.