I, like many other aspiring entrepreneurs, was inspired by stories of TOMS shoes and other world-changing businesses. Making us dream of creating the next best global social movement. Despite all the dreaming, the question still stands…. How DO YOU balance social impact with business?
The Social Enterprise Dream
Like many other socially minded entrepreneurs, CorkYogis started with a dream rather than a business plan. We dreamed of creating the highest performing, most eco-friendly yoga mats whilst having a positive impact on vulnerable communities in India, the home of all things Yogi. Using yoga in the west to create education and employment opportunities for human trafficking survivors in the east.
With the increasing trend of conscious consumerism and the popularity of social businesses, it should be easy to create a cool product with a give-back mission. Make profit and give back, do good by doing good! Seems pretty straight forward right!?... That’s what I thought.
In a business world where social enterprise isn’t fully understood, it can be a pretty tricky and painful journey in the early stages. How do you position your brand in the market and how do you portray yourself as a business and not a charity? Well to be quite frank, it’s a fine and complex line. Many businesses don’t know the detail that goes into creating a social enterprise and deciding which foot goes forward first, the social or the business foot.
TOMS vs Change Please
If we take TOMs shoes as a case study, they very much lead with their social foot when it came to branding, every TOMs buyer, and every non-TOMs buyer in fact, will be familiar with their shoe giving business model. However, when it comes to their marketing strategy they are fully focused on the shoes, constantly bringing out new designs, styles and products to compete in the market.
Another example is, London born, social coffee company Change Please. This company partnered up with The Big Issue to create employment opportunities for the homeless in London, to become fully trained baristas. Listening to the founder speak at an event, he spoke of having to put emphasis on creating the highest quality coffee products at a competitive price in order to acquire and retain business, however when it came to PR they were mostly interested in the company’s social mission.
With all the great things that come with being a social entrepreneur, there are some tricky hurdles to overcome. Although our passion and social mission keeps us motivated on a larger scale, we must also be passionate about the everyday business missions of the company. Because this is where most of your time is spent.
The biggest thing that I’ve learnt through my social entrepreneurship journey is that customers will come for the product but they’ll stay for the mission. With the right mix of products that the market wants and a socially sound brand mission, you’re putting yourself in the perfect position for global success!
To help support our social journey and impact lives in India, check out our eco-friendly cork yoga mats and other products.