Working to leave a mark on the world and move the needle towards lasting change can be a very lonely business. It can feel like no one understands what you are doing, trying to do, or hoping to do! Being an entrepreneur can also be a very lonely life. There are many many days where the only communication I have with someone for hours on end is over email or a slack channel.
So every time I meet someone who is also doing this work, the little girl in me gets excited and starts wondering if this is a new potential friend (as well as colleague). Only a handful of times has such a meeting turned into a lasting close friendship. And one of those times was when I “met” Jenn. (I have “met” in quotes because we talked on the phone and via email for months before ever meeting for the first time in person!)
When Jenn called me a few months ago and told me she wanted to start a social enterprise that would sell fabric shopping bags, I told her how amazing I thought it was and gave her some resources that might help her get started. Between you and me, I didn’t really expect her to actually get a company launched…There is no shortage of people who come to me frequently and tell me that they have an idea for a new business. I give them some advice and tips and point them towards more resources that might help. 90% of the time, the business never gets off the ground.
But Jenn is different. Within a couple of months, she had created a Florida Benefit Corporation, found suppliers, and launched her Kickstarter. In fact, the date she called me was April 11th and her Kickstarter launched on June 11th! Impressive to say the least.
I’m honored to know Jenn and to get to work with her through my partnership with Florida for Good. I feel deeply connected to her passion and energy around creating a World for Good. I hope that you enjoy her interview and that you will consider being part of her Kickstarter and helping get this amazing company off the ground!
Tell us about your business. What do you do? Who do you serve? How long have you been at it?
World For Good is a tote bag company producing fabric bags that are stylish, durable and socially responsible – providing you with a product that aligns with both your social conscience and pocket book. The fabric remnants of the India textile industry are our treasures!
Our supplier, Meemansa, is a private label clothing manufacturer in Mumbai that turns their upcycled fabric and excess clothes into usable shopping bags and vegetable bags. This zero-waste process is a sustainable and resourceful alternative to using plastic bags.
I founded the company in just this year to:
Make an economic difference for women living in poverty where opportunity is scarce and exploitation is common.
Provide retail consumers a quick and accessible eco-friendly fabric bag to use as an alternate to using plastic bags.
This is a business run by women, for the purpose of empowering women.
We also LOVE living as green and sustainable as we can. Our products are made from recycled and upcycled materials. Our partner artisans are living in countries where there is very little support from governments and families are often left with no resources. We work with non-profit organizations that are on the ground in each country where we source products. We believe these organizations know the pulse of their countries. They help us find small independent cooperatives and home-based artisans to partner with.
Whether you are excited about empowering marginalized women or protecting our planet, World For Good is the place to purchase gifts for yourself and people you love, as our bags are ethically made and always fair trade.
Additionally, as a Florida Benefit Corporation, we are focused on balancing purpose with profit and creating positive outcomes for our stakeholders (everyone we do business with) – including artisans, employees and customers.
With over twenty years of experience in the marketing industry, I've worked my way up from a graphic designer to Executive Director for the only organization that encourages all businesses to become a force for good in Florida – Florida For Good. Most recently I have been in charge of business development for a program to increase the number of Certified B Corp companies by developing relationships with small and large businesses to help them become more socially and environmentally responsible. I believe that giving retail stores the opportunity to offer fabric bags with a cause to consumers will be a giant step towards their business becoming more sustainable, resilient and responsible.
Why did you start your business?
Starting World For Good was like an extension of working at Florida For Good – only now, I am able to impact globally, instead of being constrained to state-wide. I have a strong, personal stake at making World For Good successful and profitable. I was once in an abusive relationship where I didn't think I had a way out. I was told that I would never make any money to support myself. I felt trapped, frightened and alone. The women making these bags in India are given an opportunity to earn money and gain self-confidence to create a better life for themselves. This is my WHY.
What does "social good business" or "values-based earning" mean to you in general?
Values-based earning means that you are earning a living by respecting and being accountable for your personal values. To me, this means that I want to work for a company where the majority of the leadership operate the company with a triple bottom line - people, planet and profit.
What is your favorite part about running a values-based business or your favorite experience since you started?
A few years ago, I was the Marketing Director for First Green Bank - a bank with a social and environmental mission. This bank became a Certified B Corp company and I got the privilege of marketing this accomplishment, not only to our customers, but to my co-workers. None of us, including me, had ever heard of B Corps! I found ways to point out the responsible practices that the bank was already doing that earned them the certification.
These practices were normal to us at the bank, but not normal to a standard business and include things like paying a living wage, having all the bank buildings be LEED certified, getting time off to volunteer, or getting 0% interest loans on electric or 40+MPG vehicles. I LOVED telling people about the bank I worked for.
I am modeling my business after this bank. Even though I’m the only employee right now, I have policies in place for expansion that will mimic the triple bottom line approach.
What is your biggest struggle in running a values-based business?
Since I’m starting out my company with values, I don’t really have any struggles yet. I’m already committed to paying a bit more for fully compostable mailing bags for orders or spending a bit more to have my business cards printed on recycled paper and using soy ink. I’m accustomed to spending more to align with my values, so it’s not a shock to my budget.
What would you like most to accomplish in the next year? 5 years?
I would like to be able to help the non-profit centers in India buy more sewing machines so more women can earn a better life. So in 5 years, I plan to have my bags sold in retail in national stores like Lucky’s Market, Fresh Market, Whole Foods. My lofty goal is to convince Publix to ditch their polypropylene bags made in China that didn’t come from recycled materials and have them stock my bags instead. The more bags I sell here, the more women I can help there.
Who are your business icons, heroines, or mentors?
Two of my most respected business mentors are Jared Meyers and Ken LaRoe. Both have values-based businesses and walk the talk in their personal lives. They also know so much more about running a business and are willing to give me advice whenever I need it. I went to art school and know very little about running a business. They freely give advice and recommendations and I appreciate them for doing this.
What's your #1 tip for someone just getting started incorporating their values into their work or business?
Be fully committed. People will follow you when you are confident in your values.
What are your favorite conferences or retreats to attend?
I’ve attended 3 conferences recently and I’d recommend all 3 to anyone that works for or owns a purpose-driven enterprise; Conscious Capitalism Annual Conference, Champions Retreat for the B Economy, and the Momentum Conference.
What is the last book you read?
Rippling: How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation Throughout the World by Beverly Schwartz