Have you ever heard the term doing good while doing well? I recently came across a new business in central Florida whose business model is focused on social impact as well as boosting the bottom-line. Goose Lopez-Torres, started out trying to generate sales leads by delivering bagels to prospect's offices. Often the bagels would remain untouched, so he needed a new strategy. He came up with a way to make a good and lasting first impression. Mr. Lopez-Torres invested sixty dollars in a pair of New Balance sneakers, but mailed only one half of the pair to his prospect. With it, he included a note saying: "Can I get a foot in the door?" The ploy worked; he got that meeting and a new business idea. Complete the Pair, has become a favorable alternative for anyone who wants to get the attention of their potential customers, while also building positive social impact. Here is how the charitable business model works:
The Complete the Pair platform mimics LinkedIn in the way that people create a professional profile. Once a person purchases a package from complete the pair at 34.95 plus $4.99 shipping and handling, a shoe is mailed to the buyer and the other shoe is mailed to the prospect. The company started almost a year ago, so far they've sold 4,000 units with a 50% profit margin.
Each shoe is affixed with a 5-digit code that uniquely identifies a pair. There is a note inside of the shoe that tells the prospective client to log onto to the website to retrieve their unique message. Once they arrive, they can see the sender's biography, picture, company information along with a custom note asking for a meeting to complete the pair so that the shoes can be donated to someone in need. They formed a partnership with Soles4Souls, a large shoe charity to handle their donations.
Mr. Lopez-Torres and his partner Scott Miller raised $430,000 to start the business. They received an SBA loan from BBT Bank for $120,000, put in $50,000 of seed money and $260,000 from investors all of which were friends and family. Complete the Pair largely targets sales professionals looking to land a meeting with a potential client. Recently, they started attracting job seekers with a desire to stand out and make a good first impression.
If you want to have more impact in your business here's how to get started:
Decide On the Cause: What cause or change are you passionate about - nature, homelessness, or education? Make a clear decision of a single purpose that you want to align your brand with. Be able to share the story of "why" this cause is important to you and the difference you plan to make for the cause.
Find a Way to Deliver: Once you decide on a cause the business will serve, make a plan to deliver. You could either fulfill the need yourself, like Charity Water builds wells or you could form a partnership like Complete the Pair did with Soles4Souls.
Make the Offer Clear: If you are tying your impact to your pricing model, make the offer easy to understand. For example it's more confusing to say that 10% of a sale goes to a non-profit, nobody, wants to calculate your philanthropic efforts. It's much easier, to adopt the one-for-one model which is used by Complete the Pair, for every pair of shoes you buy to get a meeting, they give a pair away to a person in need.
Share the Story: You can't make a difference if you don't share the impact you want to make with your customers. Make it a part of your marketing messages, invite your customers to participate in any way they wish - whether it's buying, spreading the word or volunteering. Lastly, don't forget to show on your website and in social media the impact that you are creating - display and share pictures with your friends and followers.
Every entrepreneur and small business owner can create their own positive impact in this world, which often starts with just one seemingly small idea.
Melinda F. Emerson, SmallBizLady is America's #1 small business expert. She is an author, speaker and small business coach whose areas of expertise include small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. She writes a weekly column for the New York Times, publishes a resource blog, www.succeedasyourownboss.com which is syndicated through the Huffington Post. She also hosts a weekly talk show on Twitter called #SmallBizChat for small business owners. As a brand, she reaches 1.5 million entrepreneurs a week on the internet. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. Forbes Magazine named Melinda Emerson one of the #1 Woman for Entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. Melinda has been featured on MSNBC, Fox News, NBC Nightly News, and in Fortune, The Washington Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Black Enterprise. She is the bestselling author of "Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works," and the ebook How to Become a Social Media Ninja; 101 Ways to Dominate Your Competition Online.