Tip Content Provided By: Babson
Increasingly entrepreneurs want to launch a venture that not only makes money, but also has a social purpose. This trend is evidenced by the fact that here at Babson College, more than half of our incoming MBA’s expressed an interest in social entrepreneurship and social innovation. Data from the US Global Entrepreneurship Monitor also shows that roughly 30% of all new ventures have both social and economic goal, with those in the age group 35-45 years old being most inclined to share both goals for their ventures.
A study I co-authored with two of my colleagues, Heidi Neck and Elaine Allen, we created a typology of entrepreneurial ventures based on goals (economic or social) and impact (economic or social). Ventures with a mix of both social/economic goals and impact are what we refer to as hybrid ventures.
I recently spent time with the founders of a hybrid venture, Island Creek Oysters. This business, a vertically integrated company that farms, wholesales and retails oysters in Massachusetts, committed to social responsibility from the beginning. The founder, Skip Bennett, notes that instead of just thinking about oysters as a luxury food, it’s important to think about oysters as vehicle for sustainability. Island Creek Oysters Foundation raises money through events, to fund projects that promote aquaculture as a responsible means of solving the issue of global food production. In other words, economic and social goals are mingled in this organization. From the beginning, the business committed to social good as well as profitability, with 10% of their net profit being donated to their foundation every year. In addition, they sponsor a fundraiser, Island Creek Oyster Festival to support local charities and support their Foundation.
How does a company manage a commitment to profit and social good at the same time? Island Creek offers four main lessons:
- Create culture intentionally
ICO created the culture intentionally instead of letting it evolve. The founders created a company that they wanted to work for, production of top quality oysters and having a good time doing it. Values are discussed frequently in meetings as these relate to decisions, problems and impact on customers. Each employee can explain the company’s core values and understands the connection between economic success of the company and responsible action every day. The philosophical issues related to culture are talked about not assumed.
- Intense communication
At ICO, every employee has an opinion and it is sought. Those delivering oysters to top Boston Chefs actively seek the feedback and opinions of their customer on a daily basis, and report back to their President, Shore Gregory. Island Creek established a foundation to educate the company exists on public land, and therefore giving back.
- Partner with your stakeholders
Given that ICO exists on public land in Duxbury Bay, Massachusetts, it is a partner with the Town fathers, its neighbors (Duxbury Maritime School), and the entire community. The management of ICO actively participates and gives time to local community efforts, guiding school children through their hatchery for free, or donating free oyster dinners and tours for fundraisers.
- Meet your economic goals daily
ICO has not lost sight of the fact that they are in business to make money- efficiency in operations, managing costs and paying attention to the bottom line are everyday activities. Skip and Shore will say that if they aren’t working to sell oysters, and keep the trucks moving, they will not meet their economic targets or social goals.
I had the opportunity to attend a fundraiser for the Island Creek Oyster Foundation on Duxbury Beach- Despite driving wind and rain, there were more than 400 people present enjoying donated food from more than 12 top New York and Boston Restaurants, and actively contributing to both silent and live auction items for the benefit of Haiti. Every member of the ICO management staff circulated and greeted each guest personally. The culture, the intense communication, partnership with stakeholders and attention to goals was most evident that night.
Candida Brush - Dr. Candida Brush is a full professor, holder of the Franklin W. Olin Chair in Entrepreneurship, and serves as the Vice Provost of Global Entrepreneurial Leadership. She holds an honorary doctorate in Business and Economics from Jonkoping University, Sweden, and is a visiting adjunct at the Nord University, Bodo Graduate School of Business in Bodo, Norway.
Babson College is a Business/Entrepreneurship partner of The Trust.