Making a Stand for a Social Purpose

Make a Stand logoThis past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Arizona premiere of the movie “#Standwithme”. The film tells the story of one determined little girl’s quest to end child slavery by selling one glass of lemonade at a time. Her parents bought a photograph depicting slave children carrying heavy stones in Nepal.

That photo touched a nerve in the Northern California eight year-old. It inspired her to try to end the scourge of child slavery throughout the world.

Instead of charging a fixed price for her lemonade, the girl charged “whatever is in your heart”. Those efforts raised $150,000 – enough to free 1,500 slaves. Now her father has been working to sell bottles of his daughter’s lemonade in grocery stores throughout the country. I do encourage you to check out the movie at http://www.standwithmemovie.com/.

Prior to the screening, I had the opportunity to have dinner with that little girl, Vivienne Harr and her father, Eric Harr. Eric is the CEO of Make a Stand, Inc., the company that grew out of his daughter’s vision of helping save a societal ill by selling a product.

Now this isn’t a blog about great people trying to make a giant difference. But what Eric (and his family) are doing highlights an important emerging trend in brand marketing. Make a Stand is a certified “B Corporation”. These are for-profit businesses that redefine success in business. Instead of merely maximizing shareholder profit, these companies try to become not only the best in the world, but#standwithme photo also the best for the world.

These social purpose companies aren’t totally new. In 1982, Paul Newman formed “Newman’s Own” (which is also a food products company). Any profit generated by the business is divided between a number of tax-exempt charities through the Newman’s Own Foundation. Since its inception, nearly $400 million has been raised for charities, including the SeriousFun Children’s Network which provides residential summer camp experiences for seriously ill children. More than 400,000 children have attended one of the camps (in 50 different countries) as a result of consumers choosing Newman’s Own salad dressings or other food products at the grocery store.

Toms Shoes was founded in 2006 with a different laudatory social purpose. When you buy a pair of shoes from Toms, a second pair of shoes is given to an impoverished child somewhere in the world. Recently, Toms began selling eyewear. And when someone buys a pair of glasses … you guessed it – an impoverished child gets a pair for free.

The proceeds from the Make a Stand lemonade sales go to a handful of non-profit organizations that work to free bonded slaves throughout the world.

Eric Harr knows that he can’t effectively run a non-profit organization. The groups that receive the benefit of his lemonade sales have a great deal of experience navigating the complex world of freeing bonded slaves. Freeing slaves may be his passion, but it isn’t Eric Harr’s specialty. He knows marketing (he’s one of the leading social marketers in the world).

Eric noted that one of the largest challenges for a non-profit is to create scale. After all, there is constant pressure from a board of directors to take small bites at major problems. At the same time, a non-profit is raising small dollar amounts. So it is no surprise that few effective non-profits are very large (when compared to the business community).

By growing quickly, Make a Stand will be able to make big differences quickly. According to Eric, their lemonade sales projections could result in the elimination of child slavery within eight years.

Make a Stand has a major built-in advantage over its competitors. Assuming that they will be able to sell lemonade at a similar price point, who isn’t going to give the product a try? By tying into their prospective customer’s emotional needs, Make a Stand gets an initial sale and a taste.

Consumers flock to places like Whole Foods and Starbucks. The reason for going to those stores is different than why some are driven to value brands like Wal-Mart. What is the lesson for premium brand marketing? People believe in causes and things that are larger than themselves. And they are willing to pay for more than the product – they are willing to pay for an experience.

Forbes columnist and frequent crowdfunding commentator Devin Thorpe wrote the book “Crowdfunding for Social Good”. “Anyone can start a business. But those that do so with a social purpose will always have the wind at their back,” he argues. Most start-up businesses fail. But Mr. Thorpe is right. That start-up failure rate can be ameliorated by creating an energized customer base that believes in you, your product and your social purpose.

The convergence of social good with business is going to be a growing trend over the next decade. After all, there are an awful lot of lemonades out there. But there is no competition for quenching your thirst at the same time that you do good.

Jonathan FrutkinJonathan Frutkin is CEO of Cricca Funding, LLC. He’s the author of “Equity Crowdfunding: Transforming Customers into Loyal Owners” which is available in paperback, Kindle and audio book formats.

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