There are many reasons entrepreneurs choose to start businesses: to solve a problem, make some cash, build their dream career, and more. But, of all the reasons, the one that often comes to the forefront is to ‘make a difference.’ Any great business makes a difference in the lives of its clients and customers, simply because of the value that it offers. And, when entrepreneurs are able to wholly connect to this impact-driven mission, they find that they have more stamina and motivation to make it through the inevitable downwinds of entrepreneurship.
Of course, starting and running a business that makes an impact is an ambiguous concept. How do you know that the business will matter? There are so many nonprofits, foundations, and organizations that do good. You may wonder if your business will just add to the noise, or if it will actually make a difference in the world. The following founders have a few words of advice. They all have something in common: they’ve started businesses from a personal motivation of making an impact.
1. Find The Solution You Wish You’d Had
Many entrepreneurs stumble into business ideas simply by seeking to solve the problems they’ve faced in their own lives. Johnny Crowder, the founder of Cope Notes, is an example of this. “I began the text message platform, Cope Notes, as a way of offering hope to text subscribers,” Crowder explained. As he himself has coped with OCD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia throughout his life, he knew exactly what he wished he had.
“Everyone always wonders how to help with mental health, and the amazing thing is that as a founder you can access empathy that helps in your problem-solving capabilities. I simply created something I know would’ve helped me – something that DOES help me!”
2. Connect Your Business With The Work You’ve Done To Date
Something fascinating happens when your business can emerge out of a career field that you’ve found great impact and passion in previously. When you heed this call and use what you already have at your fingertips, you’re tapped into more networks, always in the right mode to brainstorm, and you’re really stretching the full spectrum of making a difference simply because of how much you know already. This is how Dr. Patricia Lawman, PhD sees it. As the CEO of Morphogenesis, a health company that helps the body naturally fight against chronic disease, Dr. Lawman is very passionate about giving back in the health space.
Previously, she served as the Division Director of Cancer Molecular Biology at the Walt Disney Institute, where she learned plenty about the body’s natural way of fighting against chronic illness. “With everything I was learning, it was easy to piece together what was missing from the space,” she explained. “From there, Morphogenesis took off.”
3. Pay Attention When A Challenge Presents Itself
Many new businesses were founded during COVID-19, simply because the demand for new solutions was significant. This, in its own way, is solving a problem – waiting for the problem to present itself, then answering the call with your own expertise. This is how Jon Fisher, the founder of CrowdOptic, sees his innovation during the pandemic.
“I already had access to technology and a deep understanding of the health tech space, so it was a seamless move to have CrowdOptic partner with National Bioskills Laboratories to create a space for more medical communities at large to connect, learn, and benefit from AI and bioskills,” he explained. “It was the perfect opportunity, and I was ready to help. Definitely keep an eye out for challenges that need solving on a global scale – you’ll always find them!”
4. Turn Personal Challenges Into Personal Purpose
When many face challenges, they go within. But true entrepreneurs tend go out – they focus on how they can give back, create solutions, and find new opportunities. This can happen in multiple ways. For example, Daniel Badran faced a significant challenge of his own when battling cancer for three years, which took away his ability to speak. He channeled this time of his life into building his sustainability-focused business, Minimise.
“It’s easy to feel helpless when circumstances are posed against you,” Badran explained. “But, I knew I had something to create and give back to the world, and starting Minimise helped me personally in so many ways.”
Similarly, Justin Donald knew from his own experience being penniless and without a job just how much building wealth and investing can seem challenging and ambiguous. So, he channeled his efforts during the pandemic toward building investing resources for anyone who wanted to learn how to create wealth in lieu of (or alongside) a job. “When you’ve been in a place where you’re desperate, you know just how badly you need to find the holy grail of the right resources, education, or opportunities.” Donald explained. “I wanted to give back from that standpoint and create a business that could really change others lives.”
Dig within to find what impacts YOU the most, personally. Then, consider how your unique skill sets and experience levels can contribute to the greater good. We all have something to offer – and founders like these are proving just how valuable it can be when we commit to giving back through entrepreneurship.