Every other week I have lunch with my friend Jack. Jack and I both attended the University of Colorado – I on the Boulder Campus and Jack on the Denver Campus. We met during my last year at CU as we were both transitioning student leadership positions on our respective campuses and had a chance to work together for a year advancing student issues that we shared a vision for. We developed a really great friendship through the process and are still committed to a shared vision for our alma mater. When we get together we talk about the basics, what’s new, and how our various projects are progressing so that we may support each other. We also talk about what is broken and apply different philosophies as prescriptions. A couple months ago, around tax time, Jack and I met at Osteria Marco and shared a long lunch. We got to the topic of taxes and how we of course had to pay them – and then Jack used a metaphor that I have been thinking about almost nonstop for the past several months. Jack told me that he reached a deal with his parents to have them pay his taxes this year – which of course is awesome. However he described it in the following words:
“It’s great that they are paying my taxes and all, It’s kind of like they took this monkey off my back – but what I really wanted was a monkey to play with.”
Entrepreneurs exist to execute against a vision for a reality that is unseen, solve problems and do so in a way that shifts our thinking and behavior. We used to be able to just solve problems, make them disappear – a thing of the past. That is not enough anymore. As we have emerged into the era of social entrepreneurship and a rising number of people in my generation who are seeking to blend the lines between doing good and doing well, we have reached an impasse. With organizations like my friends at the Unreasonable Institute and Summit Series – how can you not be encouraged by a peer group of people invested in business, each other, and the world?
Companies can be successful without a social mission, but will they be sustainable? I had a fascinating conversation with one of my favorite photographers @AnnieVovan a couple days ago trying to answer this exact question. We both talked about companies and products we were passionate about and believed in enough not only to purchase but also promote – there wasn’t one that didn’t include an imbedded social mission within its business model. Not only did many of them include a social mission, but also, each one enrolled us in that mission by giving us a monkey to play with.
There are obvious models like TOM’S Shoes, which operates off of a “Buy One, Give One” (BOGO) model. For each pair of TOM’S Shoes you buy, one pair is donated to a child in need around the world. Awesome, right? Below is a quick video from the company’s founder that describes how it got started. Oh, Pop Quiz after – what is the founder’s name? I’ll give you a hint, its not Tom…
Blake, his name is Blake, not Tom. I love my TOM’s, I would choose to wear them over flip flops. I also get to talk about them when I wear them. While on Semester at Sea I had one student who was taking unique pictures of her TOM’s in every single country - to create a story about walking the world in their shoes. They serve as a walking conversation starter, in just about every situation.
There are other organizations that operate off of this model as well, like Warby Parker – which utilizes BOGO for eyeglasses. I love them. For every pair of glasses purchased, they donate the gift of sight to someone in need. I have yet to order my pair of glasses, but I already have the ones I want picked out (The Roosevelt’s) to order after my next eye exam. Here is a quick video about them as well:
As a side note – I LOVE Warby Parker even more because they have NEVER failed to engage with me and say “Thank You” in a personal way – every time I tell their story. It really makes a difference on the depth of our relationship not just the breadth of yours - if you are reading this WP - Keep it up.
@DustinFarivar Thank you for your support, Dustin - we really appreciate it!— Warby Parker (@WarbyParkerHelp) June 11, 2012
However, today I am going to use One World Futbol as a backdrop for these monkeys we want to play with. One World Futbol is an organization that in short recognizes a child’s right to play. They produce indestructible soccer balls that are available for purchase matched with additional balls donated to children around the world. It is absolutely an engineering marvel. This thing can be punctured, run over, or anything short of being shredded into pieces and still reflates, ready for play. The concept was conceived by Timothy P. Jahnigen who recognized the power of sport to unite people and the necessity children had around the world for balls that could withstand the challenging environments they played and grew up in. In many of these areas children like the boys in Ghana below are playing with makeshift balls or destroyed ones:
I fell in love with this organization and their vision when my friend and colleague @NikhilDandavati first introduced me to them about a month before I was to set sail on my second Semester at Sea voyage. We arranged for 36 soccer balls to be sent to the MV Explorer and I carried these balls around, as you see below, telling their story, which very quickly became a part of my story.
When I first shared this story in front of the ship, nearly half of our students signed up to help distribute these amazing futbol’s in the thirteen countries we would visit as we circumnavigated the globe. The power of these soccer balls was absolutely visible too. Over 500,000 people in the remote and often forgotten corners of our world are benefiting from these soccer balls today. It was an absolute privilege to serve as an ambassador for One World Futbol and distribute these balls.
One year after our voyage, on the last day of a weekend reunion that brought together our staff and faculty in Colorado – One World Futbol announced a partnership with Chevrolet that would include the distribution of over 1.5 Million One World Futbols over three years. In a word: Amazing.
Why do I love these brands so much? They solve a problem. They get a monkey off of somebody’s back – but they also give me a monkey to play with, a story to share, and seamlessly become a part of my story as well. These visions could also be realized in the non-profit sector, and in many ways they have been, but the sheer power of their product and value they provide do three things:
- Present a problem and a solution in a way that I, as a consumer, can understand and see my role in solving.
- Persist not because of the story they tell, but because of the story I tell, the value they add to the cause they are supporting and to me as a consumer – making them socially viable and thus financially viable.
- Give me a monkey to play with, to bond with, to touch and feel and share with my friends.
In the end, your consumers want to connect with you. They want to feel a part of something bigger, they want to solve a problem, and they want a monkey to play with – not just a monkey off their back.
Recent commentsBlog comments powered by Disqus
- dustinfarivar posted this