“Philanthropy is not only a worthwhile ideal, but an expectation of a company’s brand promise to its customers.” FORBES Magazine 2012
If FORBES said it, then it must be true… At GIVEBONES we are all about learning cool tricks from other corporate “leaders of the pack” and seeing how we can apply them to our business model. While philanthropy is a philosophy most often associated with the non-profit sector, modern day entrepreneurs are quickly learning that a philanthropic business plan is a prerequisite to thrive in today’s economy.
With this in mind, we decided to consult the “godfather of giveback” Blake Mycoskie, Founder of TOMS. It is no secret that GIVEBONES was partially inspired and 100% guided by the “One for One” business model Blake pioneered over six years ago and has since perfected by giving over two million pairs of new shoes to children in need.
Thankfully for GIVEBONES, Blake made it as easy as possible to follow in TOMS footsteps…
“In the fall of 2011, Blake released his first book, Start Something That Matters, offering his own amazing story of inspiration, and the power of incorporating giving in business. He references other companies and individuals who have been motivated and inspired to integrate philanthropy into their profession as well as their personal lives. The book became a New York Times best-seller. More importantly, it is Blake’s hope that Start Something That Matters inspires others to turn their passion and dreams into a reality.” TOMS.com
Start Something That Matters is what helped grow GIVEBONES from the reoccurring dinner table dream we all have into a functioning charitable company with a purpose. After reading chapter 2 “Find Your Story” we threw our Business Plans For Dummies out the window… literally. And Start Something That Matters became our business plan bible.
From day 1 we were so excited and perhaps a bit overzealous about the potential impact of our cause, we forgot to tell our tail! Often with passion projects and business concepts that hit close to home, we tend to forget how important it is to communicate our concept clearly. When something makes such perfect sense to you, we sometimes take for granted that it immediately resonates with everyone else as well. This isn’t always the case… At the end of the day your story becomes your brand and your brand is what distinguishes you from your competitors.
This is especially crucial for companies like GIVEBONES, who sell a common product (Dog Collars). Our product is not necessarily unique, but the story/purpose behind our product absolutely is! Consequently, effectively and consistently communicating the essence of our brand and the charitable intentions behind GIVEBONES became our priority! If done correctly, you will establish an immediate advantage at the point of purchase.
Our Thought Process… Everyone buys a collar for their dog —> More than 60% of people opt for a traditional nylon collar —> When given a choice between 2 similar products, 90% of consumers will choose the product that is associated with a charitable cause or relatable back-story. It is human nature to want to make a difference and participate in charitable acts. However, it is also human nature to be interested, but not necessarily motivated. By applying a tangible “good deed” to an everyday act such as buying a dog collar or a bottle of water, we provide a medium for consumers to conveniently fulfill their desire to make a difference. Essentially we are middlemen… Selling a product of intrinsic value that instills moral satisfaction to customers while simultaneously contributing to a third party beneficiary.
However, this is only a successful paradigm if your customers are SATISFIED with your product. Charitable companies are often plagued with a stigma of inferior products due to the misconception that if we are giving something away, we must be cutting corners somewhere. Consequently, corporate credibility is only achieved via content customers. Otherwise, your business will fall victim to one-time buyers and all hopes of longevity are lost. Ultimately, the best advertisement is an informed and satisfied customer. When branded correctly, customers will willingly take on the role of walking billboards for your company (Literally in TOMS’ case). The key is to create a sense of shared ownership and personal identity in your brand. We are selling more than just collars, but rather an invitation to join a community that stands for a greater cause… Giving every dog the life they deserve!
In order for your customers to double as your guerilla marketing team, they must know what they are selling. This brings us back to why your corporate story is so crucial! Blake says “Keep it Simple.” We knew our mission had to be clear and concise enough that a 7 year-old walking their dog could explain why their dog is wearing a GIVEBONES collar. *Disclaimer: 7 year-olds walking their dogs should NOT talk to strangers!
Remember, if you write a good story, the world is your audience. That is 6,973,738,433 potential customers! While we initially started GIVEBONES in our own backyard with the goal of donating to local animal shelters and rescue groups, we are starting to mark our territory throughout the country by partnering with likeminded rescue organizations in TX and NY (just to name a few). A good story allows your company to become universal… Translatable into any language and applicable to virtually any culture.
“The Times They Are a-Changin’.” In business, just as in nature, we must we willing and able to adapt in order to thrive or face inevitable extinction. What some may nonchalantly recognize as a “trend” of charitable startups following in the footsteps of TOMS, is in all actually a revolution in business. With TOMS, Blake has essentially established the new archetype for business as we know it.
Imitation is the highest form of flattery… The success of companies like FEED confirms that TOMS’ “giveback” model not only works, but can be effectively applied to any genre of business. “FEED Projects’ mission is to create good products that help FEED the world. We do this through the sale of FEED bags, bears, t-shirts, and other accessories by building a set donation into the cost of each product. Thus the impact of each product, signified by a stenciled number, is understandable, tangible, and meaningful.” Feedprojects.com
Another notable “giveback” company to gain a lot of traction lately is PEOPLE WATER. While bottled water seems to be one of the most oversaturated charitable products available, PEOPLE WATER stands out thanks to their vivid corporate image and clear mission statement: “FOR EVERY BOTTLE PURCHASED PEOPLE WATER WILL GIVE AN EQUAL AMOUNT OF CLEAN WATER TO A PERSON IN NEED. DROP FOR DROP.” The fluid and digestible corporate image embodied by PEOPLE WATER is exactly what Blake meant when he said to “Tell a Story” and “Keep it Simple.” However, we are noticing another trend here… Something Blake does not discuss in his book is the crucial variable of having a charming, charismatic, and aesthetically pleasing “face” for your company. Like any famous rock band, every truly groundbreaking company from Apple to Virgin, has had an eccentric yet captivating front man. TOMS, FEED, and yes PEOPLE WATER are no different.
The FEED initiative is led by the gorgeous, fashion forward and politically inclined Lauren Bush, who managed to parlay such an innate trifecta to
transform her legacy from fashion model to model business owner. PEOPLE WATER is spearheaded by Jef Holm… A once meek mannered Mormon from Utah who has recently been thrust into the national spotlight after wooing Emily Maynard and the rest of America on this season of ABC’s The Bachelorette. Consequently, PEOPLE WATER was given a national platform virtually overnight.
Exposure like this is an absolute game changer for any startup, but unfortunately is not available to everyone. Sometimes you are just plain lucky… Like when an AT&T executive who had head of TOMS also heard that Blake himself was an AT&T customer. The next thing you know, AT&T is featuring TOMS in a national ad campaign that aired during The Masters. The TOMS website crashed due to the overwhelming amount of traffic. Watch the commercial that changed it all HERE.
Luck is when preparation meets opportunity… It is not something that can be accounted for in a business plan or quantified in a sales pitch. But if you Start Something That Matters because you are genuinely passionate about your project… Luck will find a way. GIVEBONES was so fortunate when SWOOP Magazine threw us a bone and featured us on the cover of their “Do Good” issue along side none other than our biggest role model TOMS SHOES!
Once you establish your foundation the future is limitless… It is important to remain flexible and malleable as your company grows! You never know… what starts as a humble shoe company can someday snowball into a global movement that is defined by its purpose rather than its plethora of products.
The Top 3 sound BITES GIVEBONES took out of Start Something That Matters…
1) “Imagination Trumps Money.”
2) “Stories Resonate More Than Facts.”
3) “Find The Influence Makers That Love Your Story.”
GIVEBONES has a bright future… We are going to need our TOMS Sunglasses
Want to learn one more trick … Use pop culture and current events to your advantage and offer special edition products! #GOVOTE
Watch the video trailer for Start Something That Matters here!