Social Entrepreneur Offers 5 Tips For Impact

Septuagenarian Tom Chappell, founder of Tom’s of Maine, the natural toothpaste company that became a national phenomenon and was sold to Colgate Palmolive in 2006 for $100 million, is up to good again with Ramblers Way Farm, Inc.

The new $1 million revenue company makes “premium quality” casual apparel from merino wool or pima cotton produced sustainably in the U.S. The company has a consumer direct model, selling both online and via company stores.

Chappell says the company has a five year plan to reach $20 million in revenue. While the company is not yet profitable, he says, they generate gross margins of 60 percent. Those look like healthy margins in just about any industry where the product can’t be delivered via the internet.

Chappell says he takes the commitment to being a social entrepreneur seriously. “We decided intentionally to create a brand of US made high quality clothing to be a model for helping restore our textile and garment making industries. We give free clothing to a homeless shelter, we offer 5 percent of paid time to volunteering in the community. I an an author of two books on socially responsible business, Managing Upside Down, and The Soul of a Business.”

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This serial social entrepreneur offered up five tips for social entrepreneurs to achieve real impact:

  1. Care deeply about the changes you want to have happen.
  2. Know thyself. Understand your inherent abilities and use them to help drive your business. Be authentic in what you do and say.
  3. Envision your destiny. Imagine what your mission can do in the world to make an impact and help facilitate that change.
  4. Articulate your vision, attract others, and motivate the team towards focused performance benchmarks along the journey.
  5. Seek advice along the way. Gain from the perspective of others to help strengthen the effectiveness of the strategy.

The five points of counsel coming from a proven social entrepreneur are worth considering further.

Chappell cared deeply enough about that values instilled in the company at Tom’s of Maine that when he sold the company, he and his co-founder wife Kate retained 16 percent ownership and reportedly obtained a commitment from Colgate not to change the structure of the company.

Many entrepreneurs fail to appreciate their strengths and weaknesses. By understanding both, an entrepreneur can find the people and resources to fill in the gaps and reach success.

The twin principles of envisioning and articulating the vision are critical to success. Only by seeing your potential impact can you undertake the work necessary to create that impact. Only by expressing that vision in a compelling way can you build the team you need to drive your ultimate success.

It is comforting to hear a sage like Chappell suggest the importance of seeking advice. If he thinks it is a good idea in his experience, it is likely a good idea for the rest of us.

It is exciting to see an entrepreneur starting over in his 70s. Last week, Chappell was a keynote speaker at Sustainatopia in San Francisco, where he shared his insights and enthusiasm.

Written by: Devin Thorpe

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