Joyce Meng's Blog

Inspiring Social Businesses

One of the most inspiring aspects of working on Givology is that I meet incredible people all the time. As a new initiative for 2011, we’ll feature their stories here on our blog and social media. I just wanted to highlight a few of the incredible innovators of social change that I’ve had the privilege of speaking to and meeting over the past few months. Each week, I’ll be writing more!

Today’s theme: Social Businesses

Alia (Emerge Global, Sri Lanka): Alia started Emerge Global after going to Sri-Lanka on a Tsunami-relief trip in 2005. When she met many girls who were cast out of their households due to sexual abuse and exploitation, she took matters into her own hands by starting Emerge Global. Her goal: to uplift the girls both economically and emotionally. What really inspires me about Emerge Global is that Alia has developed an innovative and sustainable business model for impact. To facilitate economic empowerment of the girls, Emerge Global teaches the girls beading. The beautiful, handcrafted products are then sold globally, with profits returning back to the girls and for investment in a community education program. Alia understands the notion of return on capital well – a $1 investment in materials creates more than $3.80 in savings for their girls! To date, Emerge Global has sold tens of thousands of beaded jewelry, helping hundreds of girls and their family members. I met Alia at Oxford when we connected over a social entrepreneurship meeting – we’re so proud to support their work by raising funding for education programs and helping Emerge Global sell more of their gorgeous pieces!

Dave (Soapbox Soaps, Philadelphia): Admittedly, my academic background in development economics makes me a general skeptic of aid. As such, I’m particularly inspired by social entrepreneurs with a new business model in mind – to generate impact sustainably through a consumer product that generates much demand in it of itself. Soapbox soaps is still in its incipient phase, but the concept is truly compelling – for every soap purchase, Soapbox will donate an equivalent soap to a school, organization, or household in need. Dave and his team are still in the process of figuring out the scale and full launch of their business, but I know that we’re keen on being involved in helping spread awareness about their product. The consumer has so much power to do good – our demand for products shapes global production systems. Thanks to Genna, our social media coordinator, for putting us in touch with Dave! She met him at a convention in Philadelphia and was amazed at how many ideas he kept on turning out!

Chris (MonikerWear): MonikerWear is an online store that sells custom-made luxury men’s shirts. (Check out their online store – it’s high fashion tailored to an individual’s preferences!) Incredibly, they’ve committed to donating half of their profits to education and health projects around the world, starting with supporting classroom education in Peru through Givology. We’re incredibly proud to have them as our partners and are inspired by their concept. What truly compels me is that in this case, the average guy (no women’s clothes sold yet!) doesn’t have to go out of his way to do good in the world – by simply purchasing luxury shirts at a cheaper price (Moniker doesn’t have fixed costs from physical stores), he can make a really big impact. Especially given my Wall Street day job, I see a huge market for MonikerWear. The first few years are tough for any operation so we’re here to spread the word!

Jason (Jubilee Project, NYC): Jason doesn’t quite run a social business, but he’s a youtube entrepreneur who raises tens of thousands of dollars to meaningful causes simply by creating inspiring videos and getting people to watch them. It’s a model that I never before contemplated, and an area that we’re hoping to move into. If pictures can tell a thousand words, then imagine what videos can accomplish! In my opinion, the most extraordinary aspect of the videos created by the Jubilee Project is the thoughtfulness of the concept. Rather than create a promotional video, they create a story around a related concept to the cause. For example, to raise money for Becky’s Fund for victims of domestic violence, they asked a group of men to answer, “You’re most beautiful when…” We’ve got a lot to learn from this trio of guys – they are able to resonate with their audience well through their videos and leverage creative media to make a difference.

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