Building a Socially Conscious Business

I’ve interviewed hundreds of social entrepreneurs from around the world and one of the most important questions they face when starting is this: should I weave a cause into my business right away or should I wait until my business is off the ground?

This is a reasonable question for even the most passionate social entrepreneur. After all, the only way you’ll be able to help others is if you create a sustainable business that generates revenue, jobs, and profits. So, it might seem sensible to wait to add a social good component. Anything you add to your business costs has the potential to reduce margins. For a new business, the added expense of a social mission can seem like an unnecessary burden.

But today I’m going to prove to you that building a business on a foundation of social consciousness is really the only way to launch. Why? Because it’s the way you’ll stay competitive in today’s marketplace (and it also happens to be the right thing to do). For example, with over $200 billion in buying power, Millennials are the consumer segment that everyone wants to get their hands on. They are willing to pay more for cause based products and demonstrate strong brand loyalty to socially conscious companies. For these reasons, you need to start weaving a mission into your company from day one.

To help you, let’s peek into the journey of a company I’ve been working with these past few months. COPR Security is the world’s first cause driven security company. Rather than focusing on securing homes in the suburbs, COPR (pronounced ‘copper’) is dedicated to providing an array of security systems to America’s most blighted neighborhoods. Let’s unpack their story to prove you can build a business that makes a dollar AND a difference from day one.

COPR has a founding team that is devoted to social good. COPR’s parent company, Affinity Enterprise Group, has a long history of social good in Kansas City. From supporting River of Refuge to the Kansas City Startup Village, it is a company that is committed to building strong communities. You have to have leadership that has this level of community vision to lay a solid foundation for a social entrepreneur’s business.

COPR is creating the right partnerships. It never ceases to amaze me how many companies create charitable partnerships that have no bearing on their core business mission. COPR’s core business is focused on the needs of residential real estate investors, so it was natural that they would create partnerships with Habitat for Humanity affiliates in places like Detroit. These affiliates are extremely active in some of the most blighted neighborhoods in America and they understand the security issues that COPR is trying to address. This means that COPR and the Habitat affiliates speak the same language, are aligned on vision, and can easily share the partnership with stakeholders.

COPR’s vision is innovative. In order to jumpstart this partnership, COPR is running an Indiegogo campaign to raise awareness about the issue of blight and how security can help. Most companies would have launched a new product by pursuing standard sales channels, investing heavily in marketing, and launching without a community mission. Indiegogo allows both COPR and the Habitat affiliates to tell the story of blight in a way that not only launches a company but raises awareness about a pressing issue.

COPR understands the power of story. The most powerful brands have compelling stories. COPR is disrupting an industry (alarm systems) that is ripe for great storytelling. Typical alarm companies tell the story of securing the suburbs, not of helping restore blighted communities. COPR’s story is one of hope, one of change, and one of neighborhood transformation. Additionally, by tying its story to Habitat affiliates, COPR is able to help build on the great work already being done by this terrific non-profit.

Making a dollar AND a difference is no small task for any business, but it is a requirement in today’s climate that you show your customers how you are creating social good from day one. Beyond being good for business, social consciousness is right by the world, right by your employees, and right by your stakeholders. Pursue social entrepreneurship in the way that COPR has and you’ll reap the benefits of profit and purpose for years to come.

By Josh Schukman