Sunday, January 29, 2012

Capitalism at its best

"What's the point of having a business that's not doing anything for the community?" That question was asked by Dale Partridge, Chief World Changer (that's his title, really) at a company called Sevenly, which he co-founded with Aaron Chavez. I think it's a really good question.

The reason behind the company name is fascinating in itself and you can read all about it the business section of the Maine Sunday Telegram (1/29/2012), but I want to focus on their business model. They manufacture and sell
T-shirts and hoodies, certainly not a unique enterprise for two young men going into business, but their fiscal philosophy sets them apart from most traditional enterprises: for every item sold they donate a portion (nearly 30 percent) of the proceeds to one of various causes they have identified as ones they want to support. That in itself is a remarkable thing for a for-profit business to do, but there's more.

Once a charity is identified, the company's designers create T-shirts and hoodies with images and slogans that promote the charity's cause, so they benefit not only monetarily from the donated proceeds but have their message publicized on the product as well - a two for one benefit so to speak, as they raise both money and awareness for the cause. Still that's not the end of how this business model benefits both the company and the causes it supports.

Sevenly sells it products exclusively on its website. Sales are promoted via the company's social media outlets, but they also ask the causes to promote the campaigns through their presence on social media platforms. So there are people who learn about the causes by "liking" Sevenly and customers who find the company by following the causes' media outlets - that's what we used to call a "win-win" situation.

Like any capitalist venture, Sevenly hopes to grow, but not so big that it would mean losing hands-on control in designing their products or working with nonprofits. "We'd like to stay small and efficient. That way we can make the most impact." That's the kind of capitalism I can live with and I hope this business model catches on. Apparently it could because, "It's cool to be socially good today," according to a professor who studies these things.

Did I mention that Partridge and Chavez are 26 and 19 years old, respectively? If young people like them can replace the greed-driven philosophy that dominates our economy today with a model that has a social conscience, there may be hope for us yet. God bless the "younger generation" - they are our future, and our only hope.

(Credit where credit is due department: The information in this post was derived from a piece written by Ricardo Lopez for the McClatchey Newspapers and published in the Maine Sunday Telegram. The opinions and editorial comments are all mine.)

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