What does it mean for a business to be socially responsible? There’s been a ton written on the topic and it seems like everyone is talking about companys’ social impacts. This week we asked each of the Finalists to list three ways they want their company to impact the world. It was a great exercise and I loved the responses we got.
Here’s a little taste:
- Improve children’s educational outcomes
- Save Lives
- Democratize Investing
- Alleviate poverty
- Use materials produced in a fair & ethical manner
- Reduce drunk driving
To get the conversation going on Thursday we brought Project Repat Co-founder and President Nathan Rothstein to discuss his company and his experience starting up. Project Repat considers themselves a social enterprise with two major missions: (1) Upcycle Innovation (2) Jobs with Dignity. He’s about a year and half in and not too far ahead of some the Finalists, so for many they found his experiences and stories very relevant.
Nathan started off by saying, “Ok, I’m going tell you all about my failures.” I think it’s great he started here, because failure is a common experience for many entrepreneurs. Nathan went through his first attempt at a startup and how, even though the venture folded, he ended up connecting with Ross, his current Co-Founder. Through his talk Nathan spoke with candor and honesty about his own struggles and the company’s. He talked about a bunch of issues, including securing socially responsible manufacturers and finding funding from creative sources like Groupon. He kept the discussion interactive, always encouraging questions and conversation. A couple take-ways: “Don’t take yourself so seriously, your idea doesn’t really matter” and “as a struggling entrepreneur all you have is your word.”
The second half we circled back to the Finalists and Raj Melville, the Executive Director of the Deshpande Foundation, took them through the concept of social entrepreneurship and probed them to think out their own companies. It turned into a great discussion, with not only feedback and advice from Raj and Nathan but a lot of peer-to-peer engagement amongst the Finalists.
Thanks tons Nathan and Raj for a great session! - Lianna