Monday, December 2, 2013

Social Good in Local Business

Written by: Chris Moss, Social Enterprise Program Manager, Pillar Nonprofit Network

We’ve seen a lot of nonprofits doing amazing things in our community through enterprise but recently there is an increasing amount of for-profit businesses doing things in a new way.  With fired up, profoundly impactful social entrepreneurs at the helm these two companies have caught my eye. Both of these new companies have partnered with Kiva to connect people through micro lending. Kiva is a nonprofit global organization that uses the internet and micro finance institutions to facilitate over 400 million dollars of loans with a 99% repayment rate.

With the launch of Cole & Parker we see how selling socks can change lives. This is not the same as corporate social responsibility, this is about the social mission being embedded in the operations and the reason they do what they do.

Cole + Parker launched March 2013 and have had incredible buzz so far: taping with Dragon's Den, feature on Fast Company, Trend Hunter and Men's Fitness, and even doubled their investment goal on their indiegogo campaign.

At first glance, they make socks. According to their website they sell: “bold, creative, intentionally designed, premium quality socks that will help you stand out in the crowd”. What is very interesting is that portions of profit from each purchase of Cole + Parker socks is loaned out through Kiva to support entrepreneurs who are living in poverty. Starting their own business will improve their local economies and their lives. By purchasing their socks you can literally help start businesses around the world.  If you want to buy their socks they are available at: Channer's, Andrew Douglas Clothiers, Collin's Formal Wear, and the LondonHunt Club.

Secondly, Textbooks for Change has revolutionized the way students can get rid of those old textbooks that take up so much room on their bookshelves.

Chris Janssen was trying to figure out an easy way to raise money for the Terry-Fox/ Shinerama campaign at the University of Western Ontario. He came up with a model of collecting used textbooks from previous students, in order to sell them back to first years looking for affordable alternatives to the book store. After this small trial run, about $500 was raised for the two causes. Janssen then began to brainstorm different ways a model like this could have an even bigger impact, and Textbooks for Change was born.

More than 50% of the donated books are sent to African Universities in a sponsored crate or recycled if they no longer can be used. Remaining books are catalogued and stored at the Textbooks for Change warehouse at the new Goodwill Centre for Social Enterprise in London, Ontario. Books are then sold online at affordable prices and shipped across the country. 50% of proceeds from drop-bins are used to provide micro finance loans and close mentorship to entrepreneurs around the world.

Chris’ vision is to see Textbooks for Change employ more people at the Goodwill Centre, fund more learning in African countries and get more students involved in entrepreneurship at university campuses by interacting with his company.

Keep your eyes open! I’m sure there will be more of these types of businesses popping up. With the creativity and social thinking our younger generations are bringing with them as they grow, we will start to see more wonderful and amazing change in our community and beyond.