Preventing Startup Suicide. Literally.


It’s hard to deny that altruism is a selling point. When millennials hit the job market, businesses were forced to confront a new reality — and it was definitely not business as usual. Suddenly, marketing wasn’t just about products. Now it’s about storytelling, and your company culture is part of the tale.

1. Why giving back matters
Social media magnifies issues that rightfully should be important to everyone. Better than any other medium, the web gives us a spotlight to expose living conditions and human rights violations in every corner of the world.

Where we were once moved by National Geographic photos of tragedy published after the drama took place, smart phones in the hands of ordinary people put us inside everything that is happening in the world. We can see people dying from lack of clean water and food from a firsthand perspective. We can hear protesters and send them messages of solidarity — and in some cases, epic mockery.

Millennials grew up as part of a global society, and, more than any other generation, they feel involved. With 45 percent of the workforce already made up of millennials, and 28 percent of millennials already in management positions, they command huge chunk of the economy. And 72 percent of millennials say they want to make an impact.

2. Where marketing and social good intersect
Some companies have knocked the concept out of the park by tapping in to the causes their customers really care about. Companies big and small have built social good into their brand. Here are some great examples to lead the way.

3. Socially responsible retail
For retailers, the model is often a one-for-one solution. Better World Books, for example, is a business model based entirely on giving.

Their mission statement is simple: You buy, we donate — book for book. For every book purchased, they send a book to partner organizations for distribution. To date, the site has raised more than $20 million to support worldwide literacy. A quick search shows that book pricing is competitive with Amazon, making Better World Books a win all the away around.

4. Eco-friendly
Taking another tack on retail social responsibility, Eartheasy offers products and solutions for sustainable living. It’s a great resource for environmentally-conscious people who want to live green. Products include solar cookers, eco-friendly cleaning supplies, water filtration systems and more. You’ll also find plenty of information in the guides and blog sections of the site.

5. Making a local effort
Retailers aren’t the only companies on board, and tying charity to product sales isn’t the only way to give back. Small local businesses can get on the bandwagon by giving back to their communities in a way that speaks to their audience and showcases their services.

California law firm GJEL Accident Attorneys offers a unique proposition: free cab rides to anyone in San Jose on New Year’s Eve. They’ll reimburse riders up to $30 to take a taxi home, even though it might reduce their caseload. It’s a great way to show the community they care.

Being involved in the community is not a new concept, but we may have lost our way for a while. Social media reminds us of who we are and how deeply we’re connected.

6. Workplace philosphy
In addition to giving back to the world and your community, more businesses today consider their employees. Company culture can be the deciding factor between employee retention and expensive churn. Coyote Logistics, a shipping company based in Chicago, believes everyone matters. And since 84 percent of its staff is millennials, the company is careful to prioritize values central to the under-35 set — inclusion, philanthropy, entrepreneurship and empowerment.

While a small business may not have deep enough pockets to engage in large-scale philanthropy, you can still share your expertise, collect for charities, get involved in local events and encourage employees to volunteer. You can create a workplace environment your employees are proud to be part of.

When you do, you build a story rich in history and rooted in community. A compelling story that endears you to the community and inspires loyalty in consumers. Hugely successful socially conscious companies like Warby Parker and Toms show us in no uncertain terms that giving back is good for business.

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About the author

The Staff of BizAngel Network

BizAngel Network is a Business Angel Network accredited by the Malaysian Business Angel Network (MBAN) the official trade association and governing body for angel investors and angel clubs in Malaysia. We strive to bring entrepreneurs and investors in Asia to fuel the startup ecosystem.

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