How to build a business — and make a difference

Social impact can help attract customers

Every entrepreneur sets out to build a successful company and ultimately make money. Increasingly, however, business leaders are also prioritizing the need to make a difference. These social entrepreneurs are using their companies as a platform not only for business innovation, but also social innovation, encouraging customers to think differently about their buying power and community impact.

Cone Communications and Echo Research estimated more than 90 percent of shoppers worldwide are likely to switch to brands that support a good cause, given similar price and quality.

So what does this mean for startup entrepreneurs? The general consensus is that social impact is no longer a “nice-to-have” or a consideration for once you’re making money – its grown as a key factor in both the vision and implementation of new business ideas.

Making a difference can materialize in a number of ways including what you make, who you hire and how you allocate resources. In other words, it's about action, people and money. Some companies will have social impact initiatives or community programs designed to address all three, while others may focus in one or two areas.


  • Action – How does your product or service encourage people to take action or change the way they approach various community issues? Do you sell goods that are also made using sustainable business practices? Is part of your mission focused on addressing poverty, hunger, education – you name it? Toms and Warby Parker are two relatively new, but well known global retail brands whose businesses are built on a foundation of giving, creating accessibly priced shoes and eyewear with a double bottom line that also donates a pair for every purchase to individuals in need around the world.
  • People – Increasingly, employees are being motivated by working for companies with a higher purpose. Whether employee volunteerism or sustainability initiatives, the options are endless. And this focus is particularly critical for Millennials. The Brookings Institute found more than two-thirds of Millennial employees would like to work for employers who contribute to solving social problems, compared to only half of Baby Boomers and Generation Xers.
  • Money – What will your company do with the money you make? Of course, investing in the business and its employees remains critical, but will your company also promote a culture of giving through either charitable donations or an employee matching program. In Colorado, B:CIVIC is a membership-based organization committed to gathering local business leaders who are passionate about giving back as an important goal for their business.


Regardless of the path that makes the most sense for your business, being mindful of the power to incite change one click or dollar at a time is a first step. We’re fortunate in Colorado to be a part of a vibrant social impact community. In fact, more than 280 local companies applied for only 60 finalist slots as part of the first Colorado Impact Day on March 4. All of these companies are helping to diversify our economy, create jobs, and shape the conversation around some of our top community issues.

Categories: Company Perspectives, Web Exclusives