Social Entrepreneur Lists 5 Competitive Advantages of a Mission-Driven Business

Entrepreneurs who believe business success and social impact are mutually exclusive have a lot to learn about business success, according to a recent article on by Sean Grundy, CEO of Bevi, a social enterprise focused on eliminating single-use plastic bottles.

While no one denies that “having to succeed on two fronts makes the job of a social entrepreneur even harder” than that of a regular entrepreneur, Grundy said a thriving mission-driven business has the potential to help change the entire world for the better.

“When business interests and social or environmental interests clash, business interests usually win,” Grundy writes. “Yet when businesses truly support a cause, they can drive large-scale change quickly. And there’s no time to better embed a mission into a company than at the very start, making the mission an inseparable part of that company’s business model rather than an afterthought.”

The Bevi water dispenser

Related: Why social entrepreneurship is a smarter way of doing business

In fact, Grundy believes social enterprises have some important advantages over traditional for-profit companies, including:

  1. A better crop of job candidates. “When you can offer employees the professional development of a high-growth business with the impact of a nonprofit, you’ll be amazed by the quality of candidates who apply to your startup,” Grundy says.
  2. Brand authenticity. While many profit-driven companies hire consultants to help them invent a “mission” other than making as much money as possible, social entrepreneurs know and believe in their mission from the start. And that sort of genuineness is favored by many consumers in today’s market. “Industry incumbents may copy your product or your sales process, but they’ll never be able to capture the authenticity of your brand in customers’ eyes,” Grundy notes.
  3. Thinking bigger. Building a better world isn’t a small-scale operation. “You need to go after multibillion-dollar markets and reshape the way you do business,” Grundy writes. “In short, to really achieve your vision, you need to become a unicorn.”
  4. A stronger work ethic. “When you know your product will improve the world, you feel a moral obligation to succeed, even when the odds are stacked against you,” Grundy points out. “When you’re a mission-driven company in a sea of profit-driven competitors, you have to just keep swimming. Great investors recognize that mission-driven entrepreneurs are less likely to give up, and some even build this into their investment theses.”
  5. Far-ranging impact. Your social venture’s success will inspire other mission-driven entrepreneurs and “show them a path to success,” Grundy concludes. “If you fail, you may still lay the groundwork for a competitor to achieve your vision (which would be disappointing, but better than nothing). If you succeed, you’ll give investors more confidence that startups can, in fact, do well and do good at the same time.”

Forbes describes Grundy’s company, Bevi, as “one of the fastest-growing beverage companies in the world.” Conceived by Eliza Becton after she learned about the Pacific Garbage Patch, Bevi offers smart, eco-friendly water coolers for offices. Bevi machines allow users to mix up purified still and sparkling beverages—including both plain and flavored varieties—to create their own signature drinks with the push of a button on a touchscreen. “Our main motivation was cutting out the waste associated with plastic bottles, both from the actual manufacturing of bottles and the fact that most of them end up in landfills as well as just the trucking of full beverage bottles,” Grundy told Boston Magazine in 2015.

Bevi’s website claims the company’s beverage dispensers have “saved the waste generated by over 65 million plastic bottles.”

USD Student Entrepreneur Transforms Waste Food into Sustainable Smoothies

It’s smooth, it’s sustainable, it’s refreshing—it’s a sustainable smoothie from Re:Fresh Smoothies, a social enterprise concept that won first prize at the University of San Diego’s preliminary competition for this year’s Fowler Global Innovation Challenge.

Austin Hirsh, a USD graduate student and inventor of Re:Fresh Smoothies, went on to compete in the worldwide round of the Fowler contest on June 15, in which 44 teams of student entrepreneurs from 12 countries competed. Re:Fresh Smoothies finished in the top 10 and received the Audience Choice Award.

The Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge is a social-venture pitch competition that recognizes and rewards student-led social ventures focused on sustainable change.

Austin Hirsh has developed a product that turns rejected produce into a dried mix for healthy smoothies.

Hirsh hit upon the idea for Re:Fresh as a way to reduce food waste while promoting healthy eating. He uses imperfect and surplus produce to create instant smoothie mixes. Simply pour the dry contents of a packet into a blender with ice and water, and you’ve got a sustainable smoothie.

“What I’m trying to do is curb the food-waste issue in America,” Hirsh said in his “Shark Tank”-like pitch at the USD event. “Also, I drink a smoothie every day. And it was really annoying to have to get different ingredients from the pantry and the freezer and the fridge and have, like, six bags out. So I wanted a solution where I could get all of the ingredients in one package.”

Hoola One, a machine that removes microplastics from beaches, won the top Changemaker Award and a grand prize of $22,000 in the global competition.

Truely, a team of students from San Diego State, took second place in the worldwide Changemaker category for their idea to create a new breed of pure, plant-made plastics to replace traditional petrochemical-based plastic products.

Playing For Change Foundation Earns Prestigious Polar Music Prize

A California-based nonprofit foundation that celebrates the changemaking power of music won the prestigious Polar Music Prize last week, joining the ranks of luminaries like Paul McCartney, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Led Zeppelin, B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, and Elton John who have earned the honor.

Founded by recording engineer Mark Johnson and choreographer/actress Whitney Kroenke, the Playing for Change Foundation aims to create positive change through music education. The organization has created 15 music programs in 11 countries, offering free musical education from qualified local teachers to marginalized and at-risk youth.

Playing For Change founders Whitney Kroenke and Mark Johnson accept the Polar Music Prize along with fellow honorees Grandmaster Flash and Anne-Sophie Mutter.

Those programs include the Khlong Toey Music Program, which provides a safe and uplifting space for children in the slums of Bangkok to learn instruments like the guitar, ukulele, bass and drums; the Musica Music Institute in Kathmandu, Nepal, providing music and vocal classes for more than 40 students; and the Star School Music & Sports Program In Masaka, Rwanda, where hundreds of children from at-risk backgrounds—including orphans and children of street beggars and prostitutes—live in on-campus dormitories and receive meals, clothing, medical care and education.

After working in the studio with superstars like Notorious BIG and Paul Simon, Johnson traveled the world recording talented unknown musicians—from Zulu choirs and Moscow violinists to street blues guitarists in the U.S.—and brought them all together in a rousing music video covering Ben E. King’s classic, “Stand By Me” (below). He and Kroenke created Playing For Change in 2002 with the belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people.

The Polar Music Prize, considered the Nobel Prize of music, goes to at least two laureates each year, selected by an independent 11-member committee. The late Stig Anderson, a member of ABBA, founded the Polar Music Prize in 1989.

“When music plays, there’s no marginalized anything,” Johnson said during a workshop at last month’s Good Deals – Beyond Good Business Conference in London. “The marginality disappears when the music plays.”

In 2011, the Playing For Change Foundation launched Playing For Change Day, on which communities of musicians and music lovers from across the globe perform on stages and street corners and in schools, yoga studios and cafes to bring music into the lives of young people. Funds raised by the events help pay for free classes in dance, instruments, languages and music theory for kids. Playing For Change Day takes place this year on Sept. 21.

In accepting this year’s Polar Music Prize, Johnson and Kroenke shared the stage with Joseph Saddler, aka Grandmaster Flash, and acclaimed German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter.

A group of children dance to music in a program offered by the Tintale Village Mother’s Society in Nepal.

Mercer University Team Creates 3D Yearbooks for Visually Impaired High Schoolers

By Andrea Honaker

Having a high school yearbook is something that most of us probably don’t think twice about. We flip through the pages whenever we want to see our former classmates and reminisce about our graduation year.

A team at Sullivan Foundation partner school Mercer University has created a keepsake product to help visually impaired students remember this life milestone. On May 1, Dr. Sinjae Hyun and Dr. Scott Schultz with Mercer’s School of Engineering and several of their students presented “Touch3D Yearbooks” to graduating seniors at Georgia Academy for the Blind (GAB).

“It’s something that the visually able take for granted, being able to see family members, friends. I wanted to be a part of something that gives that to visually impaired students as well,” said Jordan Brewton, a sophomore biomedical engineering major who helped manage the project.

This is the second year Mercer has made these custom yearbooks, which feature 3D-printed face models of the graduates, for the Macon school. The project is supported by funding from Mercer’s Research That Reaches Out initiative.

Dr. Hyun, professor of biomedical engineering, said he found inspiration for the project during a workshop in South Korea in December 2016. A presenter talked about a bust model that was built for a blind high school graduate, which led Dr. Hyun to begin brainstorming how something similar could be done using technology at Mercer.

Mercer student Michelle Jung (left) gives GAB student Judy Charles a 3D yearbook. (Photo by Chris Smith)

He connected with GAB Superintendent Dr. Cindy Gibson and pitched the idea of the 3D yearbook. The Mercer team used a 3D scanner to scan the faces of seven Class of 2018 graduates, printed head models using a 3D printer, made boards to display the models on, and gave a yearbook board to each of the students.

“The idea was perfect,” Dr. Gibson said. “This is their project, and they do this for us. We get the benefit. I think it’s very exciting, and I think it will be a major keepsake (for our graduates) for the rest of their lives, just like we save our yearbooks.”

The Mercer team had to rethink its strategy for this year’s 3Dyearbook, since GAB had 11 students graduating. It would take too long to produce all the head models using last year’s method, and this year’s yearbook would need two boards to represent all the students, Dr. Hyun said.

Dr. Schultz, associate dean of engineering and industrial engineering professor, helped Dr. Hyun come up with a solution. They 3D-printed the 11 heads, created silicone molds of them and then cast them.

They were able to make all of the heads in about eight hours, compared to the minimum three months that would have been required using last year’s method, Dr. Schultz said. They created hinged wooden cases that open to display five students and the GAB logo on the left side and the other six students on the right side. The students’ names are included in braille and regular type.

The 3D yearbook features face models of 11 Georgia Academy for the Blind Class of 2019 graduates inside a wooden case. (Photo by Chris Smith)

Thirteen Mercer students were involved in the project during the fall 2018 semester, when they designed a production manual for the yearbook. For the spring semester, 17 students used the manual to create the product, Dr. Hyun said. Sarah Spalding, a freshman biomedical engineering major, said she enjoyed being a part of the process from start to finish, from the scanning of the faces to the building of the cases.

“It was definitely a valuable experience,” said Michelle Jung, a freshman industrial engineering major. “All the cases were constructed by us, hands-on, and each of them are unique in their own way.”

The plan is to share the manual with schools and centers for the visually impaired across the United States so they can create yearbooks for their graduating seniors, Dr. Hyun said.

“In the beginning, I just tried to apply this 3D technology to the blind community. Then I saw those responses, how they accept this as a good approach. It felt really great,” he said. “I’m a really lucky guy with these dedicated students. Mercer has a great student community.”

On May 1, the graduating seniors at GAB felt the molds inside their new “Touch3D Yearbooks.” They were all smiles as they found their own faces and identified their classmates. GAB student Austin Rogers said he loved his yearbook and planned to display it on a shelf in his bedroom.

“I think it’s great because we could feel people’s faces versus actually seeing them,” said GAB student Judy Charles.

The project has become a part of the Mercer On Mission (MOM) South Korea experience. In addition to teaching English and robotics to children at the Drim School, the MOM team members created 3D face models of two staff members at a nearby center for the blind during the 2018 trip.

For this summer’s MOM trip from May 16-June 15, they will create 3D family photos for blind residents at the center and also make 3D yearbooks for graduating seniors at a local school for the blind. The Mercer team will teach the Drim School students about the scanning, modeling and printing process so they can continue the project after they leave the country.

Mary Baldwin University Names First Social Entrepreneur in Residence

Sullivan Foundation partner school Mary Baldwin University recently named Michael Pirron, founder and CEO emeritus of Impact Makers in Richmond, Va., as its first-ever Social Entrepreneur in Residence.

Impact Makers is a for-profit consulting firm owned by two public charities. The social enterprise donates all of its profits to charitable partners in the community.

In this new position, Pirron will mentor undergraduate and graduate students as they work to establish business as a force for environmental and social good.

“The most inspiring thing about working with Michael has been his incredible ingenuity in forming Impact Makers,” said MBA student Kari Watson, who is working with Pirron on a series of interviews with B Corporation leaders. “It truly is a one-of-a-kind business model that has set the pace for B Corporations and philanthropy as a whole.”

Certified B Corporations, or B Corps, are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.

Pirron’s mindset and the social-benefit focus of MBU’s master of business administration (MBA) program are a perfect match, according to the university. The 100% online MBA is designed to help leaders run businesses that make a profit while also having a positive impact on the world.

“I believe the B Corporation business model will make a huge impact in the business world in the near future, holding corporations to higher standards,” said Watson, who will finish her MBA in fall 2019.

Pirron will also guest lecture, meet one-on-one with students, and participate in MBA activities. His residency will run through December 2019.

“Over the course of my early years in consulting … I dreamed about building a different company, a company that would fulfill me professionally and personally – a company that would span beyond just making money,” said Pirron in an interview with Watson (read the full interview here).

“So with $50, a laptop, and one client contract, I started a company I didn’t own, gave the company away to the community from the beginning, and started reporting to a volunteer board of directors that could fire me as CEO if I wasn’t maximizing profits for the community,” he continued. “If the corporation sold, the community would have rights to the sales proceeds. And we grew it over 10 years to $23 million in revenue and 14-plus employees.”

Pirron is now on the leadership team as vice president, client solutions at Networking Technologies and Support, headquartered in Midlothian, and he also serves on MBU’s Advisory Board of Visitors. He spent the early years of his career as a senior consultant with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) based in Sophia Antipolis, France, consulting throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and India. As a result, Pirron has spent significant time in more than 25 countries. He holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

MBU has also benefited from longstanding relationships with two artists in residence, painter and activist Claudia Bernardi and master percussionist Srinivas Krishnan, who return to campus for classes, lectures, and performances.

This story is edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Mary Baldwin University website.

Campbellsville University Honors Jessica Johnson with Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award

By Ian McAninch

Jessica Johnson of Clarkson, Ky. was the student recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Campbellsville University’s commencement ceremony.

CU president Dr. Michael V. Carter, Board of Trustees Chairman Henry Lee and Dr. Donna Hedgepath, provost and vice president for academic affairs, presented the award to Johnson.

Carter highlighted Johnson’s time at Campbellsville University before presenting the award.  “While at CU, Jessica has been involved in many activities,” Carter said. “She has been a member of the dean’s list and has worked as an intern in the Office of Enrollment since the spring of 2016 and served as a Presidential Ambassador since the fall of 2015.

“Jessica is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa and Alpha Lambda Delta. She has served as a natural science tutor and has been involved in numerous other activities. Just two weeks ago, Jessica was honored with numerous academic awards and was named Miss Campbellsville for 2018-2019.”

“Through her work in the Office of Enrollment the past three years, she has exemplified and surpassed the expectation of a Campbellsville graduate. She has been a very active member of the Student Government Association (SGA) for the last three years by serving as SGA secretary.

“She has served as secretary of the Pre-professional Health Society and is a founding member, where she has played a vital part to help students in the pre-professional program come together in their search for graduate and professional schools.”

“During her spare time, she has served as a seasonal optometric technician where she has gained valuable experience that she can take with her to graduate school. Jessica has been accepted to the Kentucky College of Optometry at the University of Pikeville and will begin there later this summer.”

Carter said, “It has been quoted that, ‘Jess has been an integral part of the dual credit team and a joy to work alongside. Her maturity and work ethic showed daily but what I love most about her is how she displays Christian servant leadership not only with her colleagues in the Office of Enrollment but also throughout the many activities she is involved in. I look forward to see what the future holds for her and those lives she will change along the way.  She is a great friend!’”

Johnson is the daughter of Patricia Johnson of Clarkson, Ky., and David Johnson of Leitchfield, Ky.

“We are very honored this morning to present the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards for the 11th consecutive year,” Carter noted. “Campbellsville University was selected in 2002 to participate in this very prestigious awards program that honors the memory and legacy of the late Algernon Sydney Sullivan.”

“Mr. Sullivan was a lawyer, devout Christian, mediator, a powerful and appealing orator, a courageous citizen during perilous times, a noted philanthropist, and a devoted family man.  In the words of a friend, Sullivan ‘reached out both hands in constant helpfulness to others.’”

This story was edited slightly from the original version on the Campbellsville University website.

This Florida Nonprofit Serves Pet Owners Who Can’t Afford Veterinary Care

For many Americans living below the poverty line, pets often provide the comfort and companionship that makes life worth living. But keeping their pets healthy is a luxury some can’t afford. This “Heartland Stories” video, created by the Sullivan Foundation’s new corporate partner, Renasant Bank, tells the heartwarming story of one nonprofit that’s offering affordable veterinary care in Alachua County, Florida. Among its many services, St. Francis Pet Care offers free veterinary care, medicines and pet food to companion animals of homeless and very low-income individuals. Many thanks to Renasant Bank for supporting the Sullivan Foundation and other great causes like St. Francis!

GoDaddy Digital Microbusiness Initiative Expands to 26 U.S. States

A microbusiness initiative developed by the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) and GoDaddy will expand into 26 states and the District of Columbia, the organizations announced in a joint press release.

Based in Washington, D.C., AEO is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the development of a robust marketplace for underserved microbusinesses. GoDaddy is a leading internet domain registrar and web hosting company headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz. Their initiative, Empower by GoDaddy, is designed to give microbusiness owners in underserved communities the tools, skills and mentorship needed to build a successful digital presence.

“AEO’s report, Reimagining Technical Assistance: Shifting the Support Landscape for Main Street, highlighted the importance of personalized solutions for the barriers that impede the growth of underserved businesses,” AEO President and CEO Connie Evans said in the press release. “Main Street is stretched thin. People are doing more with less. So to help level the online playing field, we have partnered with the best in digital marketing and community organizations on the ground to give low-wealth entrepreneurs what they need to accelerate growth and increase success.”

Related: Rollins College’s Department of Social Entrepreneurship Honors 12 Students With Awards

Through participating Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), small and microbusiness owners and entrepreneurs looking to start their own venture will have access to custom online workshops created by GoDaddy and support from GoDaddy coaches in group and webinar settings. Additional resources include mentorship and networking opportunities. Topics of the workshops include branding your domain name, evaluating your business, creating the right content, getting online and building a website, getting found using SEO, social media, e-commerce, among others.

Business owners taking part in the program will also receive customized marketing education assets; access to webinars, blogs, and videos pertaining to course curriculum; and free GoDaddy products to establish an online presence. Member organizations that have partnered with GoDaddy and AEO for the program currently reach underserved demographics in rural and urban areas, including veterans, women, people of color, immigrants, refugees, returning citizens, seniors, and members of the LGBTQ community. Program length and other components will vary by organization.

Related: Televergence Joins Sullivan Foundation as Corporate Partner for Faculty Staff Fellowship and Summit

“GoDaddy knows that inclusive entrepreneurship fuels local economies, ultimately improving lives,” said Stacy Cline, GoDaddy’s director of corporate citizenship. “We believe that anyone, anywhere should have an equal opportunity to make their entrepreneurial dreams a reality. But we also know that some people don’t have access to the right tools and support to get them going. For the last two years, we’ve worked hard to bring this program to more entrepreneurs, and we are excited to expand our impact with AEO. Empower by GoDaddy seeks to find solutions that are tailored for each community, and we are thrilled to use our knowledge and resources to help underserved entrepreneurs in a way that makes a lasting impact.”

States included in the national rollout are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Washington, D.C.

To learn more about the program, visit

New Charity Charge Credit Card is Designed Specifically for Nonprofits

The first credit card specifically developed for nonprofit organizations is now available nationwide, according to Charity Charge, a public benefit corporation that uses financial technology to empower nonprofits.

The Charity Charge Nonprofit credit card requires no annual fee and offers a 1% rebate directly against the group users’ account balance. Nonprofits can acquire multiple cards with throttled spending limits for its employees, reports Fast Company.

The card “will positively impact nonprofits in your community and nationwide,” said Stephen Garten, Charity Charge’s founder and CEO. “Since August we have been in pre-launch phase, working directly with about 100 nonprofits piloting this first-of-its-kind credit card program for nonprofits. The feedback has been off the charts, and this is something the nonprofit community has desperately needed.”

As Fast Company reports, more than 1.5 million U.S. nonprofits spend $1.8 billion annually, but they’ve always been limited to a standard business credit card or debit card for their expenses.

“Typical business cards require a personal guarantor, adding an awkward layer of liability to whomever signs the paperwork,” Fast Company explained. “Some also have fees, and their reward points structure isn’t ideal for groups that really just need more funds to complete their mission. On the flip side, debit cards are problematic because they take a substantial cash balance if you’re buying things regularly. Plus many don’t have the same level of consumer protection and fraud alerts.”

Charity Charge credit cards are issued by Commerce Bank and managed through Mastercard’s payment network. Any group with at least two years of financial data can apply. The cards are offered at an annual percentage rate of 14.9%, which is several points below the national average, according to Fast Company.

“From today moving forward we are focused on serving as many nonprofits as possible,” Garten said. “I’m filled with so much positivity and optimism and on a mission to change the world.”