Social Entrepreneurship: The Designers Who Are Making It Work

Can design help foster social good and significantly impact a community in need? We discovered 3 Design Entrepreneurs in the Maker’s Row community who are proving social entrepreneurship is a win for everyone.

Design and creativity have the power to bring together conversations around social responsibility. Equally, positive impact products help non-profit organizations raise much-needed awareness and funds to direct into underserved community assistance programs.

Ugmonk: Nourishing The Kids & Communities in Need

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Jeff Sheldon is the Founder of Ugmonk, a high-quality apparel and lifestyle brand with simple and fresh designs fueled by the appreciation of the creative process. Ever since the beginning, Ugmonk has been about Jeff’s passion for design. On his entrepreneurial journey, he quickly discovered that there was a lot more to running a brand.

On Being A Socially Responsible Brand

Jeff: We partner with a great charity called Rice Bowls to help feed orphans around the world. Each year we run a special Ugmonk Gives Back charity drive around the holiday season where we donate 3 meals for every items purchased. We also have the option for people to add extra donations to Rice Bowls when they place their order. It’s been awesome to see our charity drive grow each year. With the help of our awesome customers we’ve donated over 40,000 meals to date.

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On Embracing Social Entrepreneurship

Jeff: Choosing to help feed needy kids was a personal decision for us more than it was tied to our brand story. Ever since the launch of Ugmonk we felt very blessed to see the success of our business and wanted to be able to help those who are less fortunate and incorporate giving back as part of what we do.

When we started partnering with Rice Bowls, I had no idea how much of an impact it would make on my life and change my outlook of the world. I didn’t anticipate being able to visit the orphanages in person and being able to build relationships with the kids that we were helping. So far we’ve taken 4 trips to Honduras and Nicaragua and it has drastically amplified our passion to continue helping kids around the world. Even specific designs like Get Uncomfortable has been influenced from these trips.

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On Ugmonk’s Positive Social Impact

Jeff: So far we’ve donated over 40,000 meals to kids across the world and we’ve been able to see in-person the impact that’s had. Food is a significant operational cost for orphanages and Rice Bowls has helped reduce that cost whilst ensuring the kids get nutritious, healthy meals.

Jeff’s Top 3 Tips for Being A Socially Responsible Brand

  1. Only incorporate social good into your business if it’s something that you are truly passionate about and believe in. I think there’s a tendency for companies to use it more as a marketing ploy than a core of what they believe in.
  2. Be transparent. Don’t inflate numbers or tell people you are giving away a percentage but don’t actually follow through with it. Be honest about what and why you’re doing it.
  3. Bring people along for the journey. Numbers and stats are fine, but being able to share personal stories about the social good cause is much more compelling.

Blessed Lotus: Empowering Women To Change The World

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DeAnne Wingate founded and built Blessed Lotus on the principles of social entrepreneurship. She donates corporate profits from tunic sales to provide education to marginalized children around the world.

On Being A Socially Responsible Brand

DeAnne: We empower women to change the world for children with every purchase. We all want to be part of something greater than ourselves. Blessed Lotus makes it fashionably simple.

On Embracing Social Entrepreneurship

DeAnne: After spending time working with girls in the slums of India back in 2012, I returned to the US making the commitment to find a way to make a positive impact on their lives, and others like them across the world. I discovered that education is the solution to eradicating poverty which proliferates human trafficking, child labor, violence towards women and other injustices. I created Rippled Purpose, a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, with the goal of educating marginalized children. Blessed Lotus‘s profits fund Rippled Purpose’s initiatives.

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On Blessed Lotus’ Positive Social Impact

DeAnne: Once you open the door to helping people, you see how great it is! Last year, Rippled Purpose had 300% growth in enrollment for the NEST (Non-formal Education Skills and Training) program in India. This year we’ve already doubled that and moved NEST into a 6-room classroom facility in addition to being able to provide healthcare, vitamin-enriched food, vaccines, and life skills training. Blessed Lotus will continue to help more local change-makers bring education (and love) to children around the world!

DeAnne’s Top 3 Tips for Being A Socially Responsible Brand

  1. It influences purchase intent. A Cone Research Study from 2013 found Americans’ enthusiasm to shop with a conscience has sky-rocketed, up 20% in the last 20 years whilst the number of consumers purchasing social impact goods has increased 170% in the last 10 years.
  2. It drives employee loyalty and hiring: The employee marketplace is being driven by those who want to work for companies dedicated to social good. Two-thirds of millennials say they want to work for a company that makes a difference in the world (Global Tolerance).
  3. It has an incredible impact on YOU: When you add purpose to your company, it changes your priorities and your life. I saved a photo of our children in India on my desktop. When I look at the students every morning as I boot up my computer, I am reminded that the success of Blessed Lotus is not about me. I am a part of something so much greater.

Caged Collective: Conscious Buying Through Safe Production

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Anna Lambert and Jen Scholten created their debut line of snapbacks and apparel now called Caged Collective. The collection, drawing on the pair’s roots, is Canadian designed, and ethically Made in America.

On Being A Socially Responsible Brand

Jen: Buying ethically and locally produced clothing doesn’t mean sacrificing design. Buying things simply because they are ethical but serve no purpose is not a solution. It’s because of this mentality that we aim to produce on-trend collections that people want because they like the trend. Leave the ethical dilemmas to us.

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On Embracing Social Entrepreneurship

Jen: Social good absolutely inspires our design by actually challenging it more. I get more inspiration from reading a newspaper than anywhere else! There’s nothing more interesting than reading of society and their changing paradigms or the earth and its changing surface to invent on-trend collections.

On Caged Collective’s Positive Social Impact

Jen: Caged Collective is slowly changing consumer buying traits without them even knowing. We employ local factories and contractors. We continue to grow and advise other start-ups of the benefits of domestic production slowly but surely helping the new wave of bringing manufacturing back to America and back into our economy.

Caged Collective’s Top 3 Tips for Being A Socially Responsible Brand

  1. Look to US-Based Manufacturing and help customers make more positive choices by offering them well designed, socially responsible products
  2. There are several ways to incorporate conscious production methods into your product development. Maker’s Row has a large community of US-based manufacturers who can help you move towards this step.
  3. Ask for help. Work with your factory advisors to learn more about the production process.

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