Every entrepreneur gets their passion from somewhere different. For some, the thought of wealth and independence is what fuels them, and that’s fine. But the most successful entrepreneurs I’ve encountered truly believe that their endeavours are going to change the world and help improve people’s lives.
For-profit businesses force innovation and that that’s a good thing. The majority of technological innovation comes from the for-profit world, and without it we’d be in trouble as a society. Diseases have been cured, transportation problems have been solved, and education has been broadened all from for-profit ventures. I love the for-profit world, and I always want to be a part of it.
But I also believe that the non-profit community meets needs that the for-profit world ignores. Who is going to make sure that those without food and shelter tonight don’t starve to death? Who is going to comfort those with incurable illnesses in their final days? It’s complex to try to create a for-profit company to solve these basic human needs, but we are blessed to have people in this world who devote their lives to these causes. Whether they are in the peace corps, a member of clergy, or just love helping, they also play a huge role in keeping our society from falling apart. In many ways, these people are my heroes. And so I also want to desperately be a part of the non-profit world.
This isn’t really news to anyone who knows me. However, as our success increases I begin to thing more about HOW to use our entrepreneurial skills to make an impact in both sectors. Ten years from now I envision a full-fledged non-profit division of Pure Adapt (we’ve already purchased PureAdapt.org for that purpose), but I believe that there’s always something important you can do NOW regardless of how measurable it is to the outside world.
I’m happy to say that I think we’ll be taking that step with our next venture. It’s pretty obvious to anyone that reads this blog regularly that our next move will be another foray into e-commerce given the success of the new Detailed Image. So one day I was thinking “how could we leverage a successful e-commerce site to help change the world?”. And then I came up with the simplest solution to a problem I’ve ever come up with: donate a portion of revenue for every sale to charity. Make it part of the culture of your site/store – every single purchase has a small impact in helping a non-profit that needs your money. Sure, at first it won’t be much. But it ensures that our non-profit impact is directly tied to our for-profit impact so as we have more money in our pockets we will also be making the world better at the same pace.
I’ll be honest – I was pretty nervous about bringing this up to my partners. We are a for-profit company, and my partners have no real obligation to give a crap about the community and the charities that support it. It’s one thing to buy PureAdapt.org and talk about what we’ll do when we have millions, but another thing to get everyone to agree to take action when we are all very much not settled in our lives.
Thankfully everyone has been very open to the idea. After working out some kinks with the system, I think we’ve tentatively agreed upon donating 5% of profit (price – cost of goods sold) for every transaction through our new site, which I anticipate launching in the spring. We will likely change charities every quarter and cut the check for the previous quarter at the beginning of the next. At first I wanted to do a percentage of the sale price, but we’d run into issues for products that have very small (or no) margins (some items we sell at cost to turn over inventory and bring customers into the store). Either way – 5% of profit before all of our other overhead like marketing, rent, and salaries is still a pretty solid commitment.
I’ve never been more excited about anything in my entire life. E-commerce is what we do best, and we’ll be able to do it in a way that satisfies our customers, provides a comfortable living for us, and contributes to the non-profit world. I can’t imagine anything better than that.