Home Lifestyle Cherie Hoeger on how to create a business with a social mission

Cherie Hoeger on how to create a business with a social mission

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Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

From Harper’s BAZAAR

In 2017 Cherie Hoeger made a phone call that changed her career. It was to her aunt in Venezuela, who revealed that pads and tampons had not been available in stores for years. Almost immediately, Cherie and her husband decided to do something about the over-dependence on disposable menstrual care, and, with their own money, created Saalt in 2018, a menstrual cup brand with an ethical backbone. As a certified B Corporation, they commit 2% of their revenue to donate period care to regions with the most need, and help fund initiatives in menstrual health, female education, empowerment, and sustainability.

Here, she shares her advice on how to create a business that gives back:

Narrow your focus

“We three pillars that we focus on: menstrual health, female education and sustainability. Every organisation that we vet and work with has to fit within one of those three pillars, because you just can’t make an impact in every area. You can’t also try and alleviate world hunger, or poverty. We decided to just focus on women and girls, because they still have so many strides to gain as a group, especially overseas nations. This focus on whatever area it is for you will ensure that you are not spread too thin, and that you actually have a shot of making a more sustained impact. You can’t try and solve all the world’s problems at once.”

Become a certified B Corporation

“To certify, you have to be a for-profit company that is committed to giving a portion of your revenue to a charitable cause and you go through a rigorous evaluation. It’s a process that involves being analysed by B Lab, a non-profit company that measures your social and environmental performance against standards on their online impact assessment. It can be quite a long process. We launched in 2018 and were not certified until 2019 but because we knew we wanted to be a B Corp from inception, it made it that much easier. Instead of having to rewrite our articles of incorporation, instead of having to refocus our core values, we knew we knew where our direction was from day one.”

Find social impact investors

Funding may be your biggest challenge. So, I would look for social impact investors and funds who specifically work with businesses looking to have a social action. Many traditional businesses still don’t see the value in the triple P bottom line approach, which is measuring: People and Planet as well as Profit. When we were applying for our loan for instance, we had to spend a lot of time explaining and justifying the line item in our business plan that was dedicated to charity. Giving away 2% of revenues is not immaterial and they wanted to know where that was going and why we were doing it. You have to be able to justify it and in order to do that you will need to find banks that align with your values. Thankfully, there are a lot more impact investors out there now.”

Partner with grassroots organisations

“I would say first, be aware of your privileged position and aware of Saviourism. You need to be careful to find charities that have staff on the ground. We take a holistic approach, when we do our donations, rather than just giving one-off donations of cups and saying ‘Here, take this, it will solve all your problems’, we really focus on education. We only give maybe 30 cups to the organisation staff and once they know what to do and how to be mentors to others, then we allow them to go ahead and take our product to others and show them what a good solution it is. But it’s coming from people that they know and people that are in their country and are speaking their own language. We absolutely believe in that strategy and making sure that you’re working with the right charities to get the message out in ways that resonate most with their programme recipients.”

Know how to spread your message

“One thing that we did in the beginning that I think was just so integral, was to create a focus group of 1000 people, because if you can get to 1000 people, you can start a movement. If you have 1000 people who are aligned with your mission, and who believe in your brand, and who are on social media-then then you have something. We used social media to bring our first focus group together, to film their unboxing experience when we sent them free product and we collated the group on Facebook. Social media is especially good for spreading the message of your social impact mission. If you put out content that’s educating the consumer about your mission- allowing them to really see where their money goes- then then they will get on board.”

You can make a change from within an existing company

“You can absolutely change an existing business and make it more socially impactful. The change has to be sincere though – not performative. If you don’t have people who truly align with those core values, then it is hard to maintain that mission without everybody being on board. I think it comes down to leadership too- it’s a trickle down approach. If that leadership espouses very moral core values, and genuinely wants to make a social impact, and then they’ll be able to make it happen.”

If in doubt, remember, it is the future

“I think every company should be a B Corp. I firmly believe that every business should have a social mission. But this is backed up by the spending behaviour of Gen Z and millennials as well as a general culture shift. It’s not just how people are spending, millennials and Gen Z really want to work for purpose driven brands. Every week, my inbox is flooded with resumes, of people wanting to work with our company. They say, ‘I don’t want to just have a job, I want to work for a company whose corporate values align with my values.’ They’re willing to take a pay cut to work for a company like that. It’s the future of business.”

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