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Question About Business With A “Mission”?

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PizzaOnTheRoof

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Hey everyone.

I’ve got an e-commerce brand I’m working on in which a central focus is a mission. In this case global health and sanitation.

Similar businesses include 4ocean and Handbands Of Hope.

I have a couple of concerns though with my business model. These other companies are very clear in their offering:

4ocean: Buy a bracelet, pull a pound of plastic from the ocean.

Headbands Of Hope: Buy a headband and donate one to a child with cancer.

However, I don’t have the same clear offer since I’m just donating a portion of the profits to a few charities, vs. donating a bottle of soap or something.

Buy my product and we’ll donate some $$$?

The only reason I’m not donating an item like the others is the fulfillment and logistics of donating physical goods across continents.

Am I overthinking this? Will people still buy with the promise of donating a portion to charity?

...and yes, my product is something people would buy even without the charity component.
 

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Kid

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Tough call.
People rather buy from 4ocean because they care for ocean.
If you just donate, what stops them from just donating directly?

Not to say they won't buy , but still.
 
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Tough call.
People rather buy from 4ocean because they care for ocean.
If you just donate, what stops them from just donating directly?

Not to say they won't buy , but still.
Thats a good point. I figure instead of just donating they could also get a product out of it, and the feeling of belonging to a community of supporters.

Subconsciously, people want to be seen giving to a cause, just as much as they want to give to it.
 
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Irrespective of any charity angle, you should be crystal clear with your product/service message and company mission anyway.

That is what will drive your growth.

You can state a charity partner but 99% of the time that will not be why someone buys from you.

The oceans example above - from very quick glance - is a charity business rather than a business that gives to charity. At the bottom of their page they say they give 1% to environmental charities. Well no one is buying the bracelet because 20c goes to someone else. They are buying because they support the main charity of cleaning the ocean and are happy to pay $20 for something they know costs 5c to make.

BP is not a charity but a business. However it gives way more to charity than nearly all charities manage to raise themselves but no one buys BP petrol because they plant a tree somewhere or build a school. It makes them feel good and they can afford to buy some 'niceness'

So are you looking to be a sanitation charity or a business in the sanitation market that will also support charities in that field?

It makes sense to me for you to be the latter option. And to have a sanitation charity for example in Kenya whom you directly support (there is a reason I picked an African country by the way - the requirement for sanitation solutions are starting to go through the roof due to countryside to town migration plus population explosion over next 50 years)

Dan
 
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Irrespective of any charity angle, you should be crystal clear with your product/service message and company mission anyway.

That is what will drive your growth.

You can state a charity partner but 99% of the time that will not be why someone buys from you.

The oceans example above - from very quick glance - is a charity business rather than a business that gives to charity. At the bottom of their page they say they give 1% to environmental charities. Well no one is buying the bracelet because 20c goes to someone else. They are buying because they support the main charity of cleaning the ocean and are happy to pay $20 for something they know costs 5c to make.

BP is not a charity but a business. However it gives way more to charity than nearly all charities manage to raise themselves but no one buys BP petrol because they plant a tree somewhere or build a school. It makes them feel good and they can afford to buy some 'niceness'

So are you looking to be a sanitation charity or a business in the sanitation market that will also support charities in that field?

It makes sense to me for you to be the latter option. And to have a sanitation charity for example in Kenya whom you directly support (there is a reason I picked an African country by the way - the requirement for sanitation solutions are starting to go through the roof due to countryside to town migration plus population explosion over next 50 years)

Dan
Gonna PM you with my website URL
 

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It doesn't necessarily not make sense, i remember some companies that do it here in belgium. Their ad message waa something like this:

"when you buy with us, x% of the profits go to charity x and you participate to maintaining of the ocean/fight against co2/insert cause of your choice. " I don't think you should build your brand around that, but it is a good + to have.
 
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PizzaOnTheRoof

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Had a chat with @Stargazer and decided to post my website URL for feedback.

Website: SaniSocks – Journey To A Million Clean Hands.

Forgive the lack of photos and copy. It's still a WIP, though the product is the same.

His response:
Ok , so not the pie- in- the -sky I was expecting. You have actually thought this through. Good stuff!

Might I suggest you put your URL in your thread for some feedback? I have a terrible sense of design.

I very much like your strong opening though. Above the fold I think I have seen it called. I think the next scroll down bit should then go to the why and then the last bit the product.

In other words, What? Why? How?

Your What is great. 40% etc, Join us on our journey to...

The why - just flesh out what lack of sanitation really means briefly.

The how - by buying these sock things. I like the colours.

The actual product seems a little strange though so that is why the main forum would be good to clarify.

You don't want the effort of What and Why to lead to a scratching of the head. Oceans bracelet doesn't lead to that which proves you don't need to offer much.

What if it was like an actual sock. ie closed at one end and a little bigger and women could put their shampoo, bodywash in it to put in their gym bag and/or take in the shower and hang on the tap? Ask women if that seems like something useful. You can then keep the name.

And then hook up with media, local water company etc etc to get publicity.

That sort of thing.

Anyway it is nearly 23:00 in England so that's me logging out right now.

Again, think about putting this in the thread and feel free to cut and paste this in too if you wish so people can agree/disagree. You will get better feedback I am certain.

Dan
 

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I run a mission driven business and here's my problem with most of them. Most companies have very vague statements on what they will do. Many do not commit to donations but rather think of them as a give if I have any left over.

You say 100% of the profit from merchandise sales goes to charity. What is considered profit? Is it just gross sales minus cost of goods? Or is profit calculated after the owner pays himself?

35% of sock sales, is that the gross sales? It's a little too vague.

You also say this "Show your support buy purchasing or gifting a SaniSock and we’ll send a bottle of soap to someone in need." Ok, but who is the someone in need? Is that your friends? a homeless person?

Most of these businesses are very vague in what they donate and they can also fudge the numbers so that they make no profit at all.

I would like to see companies with very clear donation guidelines. I know it is very hard, because what you want to donate and what is logistically possible are totally different things.

We spend over $100,000 a year on just shipping of our donations. We employ a full time person and had a custom website built just to manage the donations. But because of this, our mission is very clear and people understand it and support it. I did the calculation on my business and if we were to use one of those canned mission statements, based on my costs to donate, my company would say, we donate 40% of the profits to charity, and the owner pays himself $40k a year.
 

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I run a mission driven business and here's my problem with most of them. Most companies have very vague statements on what they will do. Many do not commit to donations but rather think of them as a give if I have any left over.

You say 100% of the profit from merchandise sales goes to charity. What is considered profit? Is it just gross sales minus cost of goods? Or is profit calculated after the owner pays himself?

35% of sock sales, is that the gross sales? It's a little too vague.

You also say this "Show your support buy purchasing or gifting a SaniSock and we’ll send a bottle of soap to someone in need." Ok, but who is the someone in need? Is that your friends? a homeless person?

Most of these businesses are very vague in what they donate and they can also fudge the numbers so that they make no profit at all.

I would like to see companies with very clear donation guidelines. I know it is very hard, because what you want to donate and what is logistically possible are totally different things.

We spend over $100,000 a year on just shipping of our donations. We employ a full time person and had a custom website built just to manage the donations. But because of this, our mission is very clear and people understand it and support it. I did the calculation on my business and if we were to use one of those canned mission statements, based on my costs to donate, my company would say, we donate 40% of the profits to charity, and the owner pays himself $40k a year.
This is a problem with non-profits organizations too. A big lack of clarity to where the money is going. Is my donation paying for overhead, office furniture, or is it actually going to help the people I thought I was helping? And what percentage? That ambiguity is the #1 reason I hesitate to donate to a cause.

Charity:Water is a great example of how to do it right. 100% of donations go to the people in need. Opex is covered by a separate fund. They'll even tell you which specific Well your donation funded.
 
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You say 100% of the profit from merchandise sales goes to charity. What is considered profit? Is it just gross sales minus cost of goods? Or is profit calculated after the owner pays himself?

35% of sock sales, is that the gross sales? It's a little too vague.
Both are calculated by Gross Sales - COGS/CPA/etc, before I get paid.

You also say this "Show your support buy purchasing or gifting a SaniSock and we’ll send a bottle of soap to someone in need." Ok, but who is the someone in need? Is that your friends? a homeless person?
Yeah I'm going to need to get more specific. Would you recommend just partnering with a single charity vs three?

Or try and send physical items?

I would like to see companies with very clear donation guidelines. I know it is very hard, because what you want to donate and what is logistically possible are totally different things.
This is why I went with the charity route, at least in the beginning. Would it be better to have a specific dollar amount per product?

"$2 from every product purchase goes to [charity], for helping people in [location], by giving them [services/items]."

Do you think the charity angle is even necessary right now or should I just get sales first? I figured the idea of making an impact would motivate people to buy, and by proxy, donate too.
 

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Both are calculated by Gross Sales - COGS/CPA/etc, before I get paid.

Yeah I'm going to need to get more specific. Would you recommend just partnering with a single charity vs three?

Or try and send physical items?

This is why I went with the charity route, at least in the beginning. Would it be better to have a specific dollar amount per product?

"$2 from every product purchase goes to [charity], for helping people in [location], by giving them [services/items]."

Do you think the charity angle is even necessary right now or should I just get sales first? I figured the idea of making an impact would motivate people to buy, and by proxy, donate too.
Honestly if you are going to go with a mission driven business. You should concentrate on the mission first and the business second. This is my opinion.

Figure out who you want to help and why you want to help them. And then help them by using the business to generate the money to help them.

Take a look at this thread to see how that way of thinking goes vs. business then donations.

 

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Honestly if you are going to go with a mission driven business. You should concentrate on the mission first and the business second. This is my opinion.

Figure out who you want to help and why you want to help them. And then help them by using the business to generate the money to help them.

Take a look at this thread to see how that way of thinking goes vs. business then donations.

Thanks. That's really what I'm trying to get at with the business.

I think it was Eric Bandholz who said: "The product is a way to fund my mission."

Another mission biz I'd love to start is creating community gardens.
 

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All businesses are "mission driven". If not, they generally don't last very long. Even if the mission is to "make the founder a shitton of money", that's a mission.

A company is just a group of people coming together to accomplish a mission.

I think you're confusing "Mission Driven Business" with "Business that uses charitable donation as it's USP/value prop", or "Socially Mission Driven" which implies a social impact you're hoping to achieve, and profits are secondary.
 
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All businesses are "mission driven". If not, they generally don't last very long. Even if the mission is to "make the founder a F*ckton of money", all a company is is a group of people coming together to accomplish a mission.

I think you're confusing "Mission Driven Business" with "Business that uses charitable donation as it's USP/value prop"
I can agree with that. Do you think having a mission as a USP/value skew is better than without?

One common thing with "charitable businesses", is that it's easier for customers to align their identity with the cause, and ultimately the business's product.

Someone may not pay $20 for a bracelet that costs $.10 to make at Walmart, but if a good portion of that revenue goes to a good cause they might consider it.

Especially for fashion and accessories, it becomes a conversation starter and a "signal" to others that they have given back.

Pulling a pound of plastic out of the ocean might not mean much on its own, but it adds up and customers know that. It feels good to know you pulled the 1,573,854th pound out of the ocean. Maybe you even saved a sea turtle...

My product will be hanging on a purse or belt loop. Like a bracelet on a wrist or headband on your head. It's visible to all.
 

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I can agree with that. Do you think having a mission as a USP/value skew is better than without?

One common thing with "charitable businesses", is that it's easier for customers to align their identity with the cause, and ultimately the business's product.

Someone may not pay $20 for a bracelet that costs $.10 to make at Walmart, but if a good portion of that revenue goes to a good cause they might consider it.

Especially for fashion and accessories, it becomes a conversation starter and a "signal" to others that they have given back.

Pulling a pound of plastic out of the ocean might not mean much on its own, but it adds up and customers know that. It feels good to know you pulled the 1,573,854th pound out of the ocean. Maybe you even saved a sea turtle...

My product will be hanging on a purse or belt loop. Like a bracelet on a wrist or headband on your head. It's visible to all.
Do you care at all about the social impact? or is this just a marketing tactic?

People who buy overpriced rubber bands are not buying the rubber band. They are buying three things:

1. The impact that purchase will have
2. The social recognition for contributing to the cause.
3. The product itself (sometimes)

Most times, the product itself (say, a dog collar or bracelet) doesn't even matter. What matters is that piece starts a conversation about how they have supported this cause.

Think Livestrong bracelets – why would anyone wear a piece of shitty, unstylish silicone around their wrist?

Because people will ask "what's that?", since it sticks out, and then you will be able to explain how awesome you are for contributing to the cause without coming off like a self-righteous dick. Same goes for your own internal dialogue where you're reminded about how you contributed to the greater good.

Same goes for the "Comic Relief" noses and remembrance poppies that go around the UK every year.

Same goes for "Newman's own" foods. People see Paul Newman's face on the packaging and feel it shows they are the kind of person who will pay a touch more to support a good cause.

It makes a statement about you as the consumer.

IME businesses that see wild success because they donate a portion of proceeds do so because they allow people to get recognition for their contribution in a socially acceptable way.

If you want it to be successful, the piece needs to start a conversation that gets your customer recognition from others, and themselves, every time they see your product.
 
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Do you care at all about the social impact? or is this just a marketing tactic?

People who buy overpriced rubber bands are not buying the rubber band. They are buying three things:

1. The impact that purchase will have
2. The social recognition for contributing to the cause.
3. The product itself (sometimes)

Most times, the product itself (say, a dog collar or bracelet) doesn't even matter. What matters is that piece starts a conversation about how they have supported this cause.

Think Livestrong bracelets – why would anyone wear a piece of shitty, unstylish silicone around their wrist?

Because people will ask "what's that?", since it sticks out, and then you will be able to explain how awesome you are for contributing to the cause without coming off like a self-righteous dick. Same goes for your own internal dialogue where you're reminded about how you contributed to the greater good.

Same goes for the "Comic Relief" noses and remembrance poppies that go around the UK every year.

Same goes for "Newman's own" foods. People see Paul Newman's face on the packaging and feel it shows they are the kind of person who will pay a touch more to support a good cause.

It makes a statement about you as the consumer.

IME businesses that see wild success because they donate a portion of proceeds do so because they allow people to get recognition for their contribution in a socially acceptable way.

If you want it to be successful, the piece needs to start a conversation that gets your customer recognition from others, and themselves, every time they see your product.
These are good points. Thanks!

I do care about the impact.....and I care about making money. If I can positively impact the world while also making a decent amount of cash, then that's the dream.

But at the end of the day, a profitable business can generate more donations than a typical charity.

Eventually, I'd like to sell the store/business someday if it gets to that point.

So, I guess the million-dollar question is.....Does my product start a conversation?

Maybe I should sell actual socks! :playful:
 
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Just by asking this question means that you don't really have a mission based business.
Why not?

A mission can also be a USP. I don’t see why it’s bad to use the mission as also a marketing point.

At the end of the day, money is going to the cause right?
 

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Why not?

A mission can also be a USP. I don’t see why it’s bad to use the mission as also a marketing point.

At the end of the day, money is going to the cause right?
People working on a social mission don’t tend to focus on the money very much at all at this stage, it’s all about how to have an impact.

Your composure doesn’t align with what I see in socially mission focused founders, personally.
 

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Why not?

A mission can also be a USP. I don’t see why it’s bad to use the mission as also a marketing point.

At the end of the day, money is going to the cause right?
You aren’t really being authentic. You don’t care about the mission. You are only considering it because you think it will help you make sales. So how is your business really a mission driven business? it’s not. It’s a profit driven business.
 
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People working on a social mission don’t tend to focus on the money very much at all at this stage, it’s all about how to have an impact.

Your composure doesn’t align with what I see in socially mission focused founders, personally.
Hard to have an impact when you can’t pinch a penny.

You aren’t really being authentic. You don’t care about the mission. You are only considering it because you think it will help you make sales. So how is your business really a mission driven business? it’s not. It’s a profit driven business.
I see where y’all are coming from.

If we want to call this a business that gives back rather than a “mission driven” business then that’s fine with me. I guess I used the wrong term. Oh well.

Mission driven in the sense that a very large part of the business model is “the mission”.

All business are profit driven. Where that profit is dispersed to is what’s different.

Here’s my options how I see them:
  1. Build a regular business and make fastlane money.
  2. Build a regular business and make fastlane money...but give a lot of it away.
Most people don’t give two shits about giving to charity. I think option 2 is more noble.
 

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Technically these charity businesses make no sense. Especially ones associated with environment.

The reality is that the production of like 99% of products has a negative effect for the environment. The only product I know that truly gives back to the environment is hemp.

Which makes the 4ocean thing contradictory. Buy our bracelet to help plastic pollution, yet their product contributes to it.

Fashion in general is the 2nd worse industry for the environment.Business and environment don’t really go hand in hand. More business, more pollution.

Do a business that has zero association with charity or this good will mission stuff. Make bank with that business and donate if you really want without it being tied to the business. You can never really compete if your margins are getting hit with charity. I mean every business has a mission, but I know the mission you are talking about is different.

Edit: Which is why I build high quality products that last. Aka every product I make is built with the idea of it lasting forever to reduce consumerism. It makes me cringe when people keep throwing around these low effort products getting them all made and destroying the environment. Aka most Amazon sellers and dollar store general. Screw them
 
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Maybe instead of giving out soap.

You give a custom "how to make your own soap" package with easy to follow tutorial with photo pamphlet - and you include all the material someone would need to not just make soap once, but also start a business.

Now that's kinda unique and something I'd be cool with.

But this whole soap iffy ... meh.

Another thought - who or why would anyone buy socks for their.... soap? Am I missing something - what's next socks for your bike? Your car? Why that product?
 
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Technically these charity businesses make no sense. Especially ones associated with environment.

The reality is that the production of like 99% of products has a negative effect for the environment. The only product I know that truly gives back to the environment is hemp.

Which makes the 4ocean thing contradictory. Buy our bracelet to help plastic pollution, yet their product contributes to it.

Fashion in general is the 2nd worse industry for the environment.Business and environment don’t really go hand in hand. More business, more pollution.

Do a business that has zero association with charity or this good will mission stuff. Make bank with that business and donate if you really want without it being tied to the business. You can never really compete if your margins are getting hit with charity. I mean every business has a mission, but I know the mission you are talking about is different.

Edit: Which is why I build high quality products that last. Aka every product I make is built with the idea of it lasting forever to reduce consumerism. It makes me cringe when people keep throwing around these low effort products getting them all made and destroying the environment. Aka most Amazon sellers and dollar store general. Screw them
Good points. Funnily enough my product idea was going to be made out of hemp lol

Maybe instead of giving out soap.

You give a custom "how to make your own soap" package with easy to follow tutorial with photo pamphlet - and you include all the material someone would need to not just make soap once, but also start a business.

Now that's kinda unique and something I'd be cool with.

But this whole soap iffy ... meh.

Another thought - who or why would anyone buy socks for their.... soap? Am I missing something - what's next socks for your bike? Your car? Why that product?
It’s actually a keychain “sock” for those small hand sanitizer bottles.

There’s tons of cheap China made little keychain holders for hand sanitizer.

Figured hand sanitizer keychain cover and global sanitation would be a good product + charity fit.
 

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Hard to have an impact when you can’t pinch a penny.
It seems like you need to recognize your focus.

Socially driven founders, especially in the early stages of the business, speak about the mission and impact 80% of the time and marketing/sales/profits 20% of the time.

This whole thread you're talking 95% about profits and 5% about impact.

If your primary goal is to make yourself money, get into a different business. Be honest with yourself.

Many people on here make a lot of money with that being their sole goal. That's fine, really.

But if your goal is profits and you're parading around that it's about impact, people see through that. They won't buy from you. They won't work for you. They will ignore you.
 
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It seems like you need to recognize your focus.

Socially driven founders, especially in the early stages of the business, speak about the mission and impact 80% of the time and marketing/sales/profits 20% of the time.

This whole thread you're talking 95% about profits and 5% about impact.

If your primary goal is to make yourself money, get into a different business. Be honest with yourself.

Many people on here make a lot of money with that being their sole goal. That's fine, really.

But if your goal is profits and you're parading around that it's about impact, people see through that. They won't buy from you. They won't work for you. They will ignore you.
You’re right. If anything, it’s not worth the hit to profit or legal work involved.

I’ve got a better idea I’m more passionate and know more about that I’ll pursue.

At least I’ll keep the site in my portfolio.

/thread
 
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I work with a custom candle making that supports a local foster kids charity. They frame it as "donation a portion of every custom candle sold."

However, if you don't want to go that route. You may consider connecting it to why you're donating in the first place.

Perhaps, you lost a dear person due to inadequate sanitation, so you want to help prevent it in the world.
 

scottydoes

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Mar 28, 2020
7
6
14
San Diego, CA
You aren’t really being authentic. You don’t care about the mission. You are only considering it because you think it will help you make sales. So how is your business really a mission driven business? it’s not. It’s a profit driven business.
Agreed. Authenticity is always key! It's why you're here asking questions about it in the first place. Deep down you knew the answer. We've all been there. Good for you for asking though and working through it. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.
 

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