Are You Secretly Running a Social Enterprise?
And How We Made Over a Million Dollar Impact For Our Cause
Image provided by World Vision USA
My first “real job” was in an outside sales role. My boss gave me a lot of freedom and creative control. I was surrounded by great people and I quickly grew into a leadership position with a lot of responsibility. But in a few short years, I couldn’t figure out why I was working so hard. Ultimately, when times got tough, making “good money” wasn’t motivating enough for me.
So, in 2006, my brother and I launched Abenity.com to bring Fortune 500 perks to companies of any size. From the beginning, we knew we wanted our business to stand for something more than the products and services we would deliver. We wanted to work for something bigger than our product, bigger than our industry, and bigger than ourselves.
“We wanted to work for something bigger than our product, bigger than our industry, and bigger than ourselves.”
That type of thinking was a bit of a novel idea in 2006. For context, that was the same year Blake Mycoskie was inspired in Argentina to launch Tomorrow’s (Tom’s) Shoes with a “buy a pair, give a pair” business model.
At the time, the world of corporate philanthropy was more of a reactive financial response to charitable needs than a proactive mission, driven by the company’s DNA. That’s what charities are for, right?
“The world of corporate philanthropy was more of a reactive financial response to charitable needs than a proactive mission, driven by the company’s DNA.”
We wanted to build our business with a greater purpose and to make a measurable impact for our cause with every dollar we earned. So we took a leap of faith, and structured our charitable ambitions around a single, unshakeable concept… math.
Before we made our first dollar, we committed 15% of net earnings toward the biggest problem we could think of — extreme poverty.
“Before we even made our first dollar, we committed 15% of net earnings toward the biggest problem we could think of — extreme poverty.”
We labeled our Social Mission “Perks With Purpose” and began sponsoring children through World Vision in alignment with the United Nations’ #1 Goal — eradicating extreme poverty for all people everywhere by the year 2030.
At first, my brother and I kept our charitable goals to ourselves. We felt our corporate giving was a private matter and we didn’t want anyone to falsely interpret our efforts as a marketing hook, or worse, a pompous display of generosity. But as our business grew, we began to realize that our modesty was holding back the full potential of our cause. We were secretly running a social enterprise, and it was time for us to share it with the world around us.
“We were secretly running a social enterprise, and it was time for us to share it with the world around us.”
In 2014, we took a bold step and publicly connected our Social Mission with our services by publishing the following statement in our website, videos, and marketing materials:
Perks are about people
We’re proud to sponsor children living in extreme poverty with the programs we deliver.
With this commitment, we’re communicating a powerful message - that whether you’re an employee at one of the largest companies in America or an orphan in a developing country:
YOU are valuable,
what YOU do matters, and
YOU can make a difference.
What started as a personal desire to find purpose outside of ourselves, transformed our business into the mission-driven company we are today. Without realizing it, our Social Mission created a deeper relationship with our customers and developed a team of purpose-driven leaders with the fortitude to overcome any adversity that threatens our calling.
To date, Abenity’s impact fund has provided over one million dollars of support toward efforts to eradicate extreme poverty by the year 2030. A full overview of our Social Mission’s accomplishments is available within our Impact Report.
The projects we’ve supported provide countless children with access to clean water and education for life. They’ve equipped accountable entrepreneurs with micro-finance capital to acquire key resources including goats, chickens, refrigeration, bicycles, and sewing machines.
We are also sponsoring a total of 231 children every month, meeting their basic needs for nutrition, healthcare, and education. Sponsorship provides us with a unique opportunity to connect with every child, letting them know that they’re unconditionally loved, they are valuable, what they do matters, and they can make a difference for future generations.
“Sponsorship provides us with a unique opportunity to connect with every child, letting them know that they’re unconditionally loved, they are valuable, what they do matters, and they can make a difference for future generations.”
Going public with our social mission was one of the best decisions we made. On top of deepening my relationship with my brother / business partner, this new level of transparency gave our employees a sense of purpose at work, differentiated our product in the marketplace, and created a stronger bond with our customers.
And there were many unexpected benefits we discovered from running a social enterprise. But here’s the bottom line. You’re never going to regret choosing to become more generous or having more meaningful work.
So what’s holding you back? Is it a tough conversation with your business partner or maybe your boss? Or does sharing your company values with the world around you feel too “risky”? Whatever holds you back, think about the opportunities you are missing, the total impact being lost, and decide for yourself if the risks truly outweigh the potential rewards.