When I applied to college, I applied to many as a chemistry major. My dream was to be an orthodontist. And then I gave my little sister a Christmas gift that would forever change my life.
That year, I wrote a book for my sister on succeeding in high school as a Smart Girl, a concept that my parents had raised us on. After writing it, I decided to start a small magazine that would empower the Smart Girls of the world, called Smart Girl’s Guide. I was a senior in high school on her way to college. This was no business idea.
But soon, that is exactly what it turned into. I went to China two months after starting the magazine development on a medical mission with Operation Smile, an organization that provides surgeries for kids born with facial deformities. There, I met a little girl, Yuanmong, who was six years old, and easily the smartest girl I’ve ever met in my life. She came from nothing. She never had a toy or a bed or even a book, yet when she saw the Rubik’s cube in my mission partner’s bag, she picked it up, and solved it in less than five minutes. By the time we said our goodbyes three days later, Yuanmong knew how to count to 1,000 in English and as she was leaving, she said to me, “I am a Smart Girl.” It was in that moment that I knew Smart Girl’s Guide needed to do even more. We needed to in some way empower all of the Smart Girls of the world. On the 16 hour flight home, I wrote our first business plan.
When most people think of helping people, the first word that comes to mind is not business. That is because in the past, a majority of for-profit businesses did not have social change as a high priority. That was for non-profit organizations. That is not to say that there were no businesses helping create social change. They were just not as popular as they are today. Now social business is trendy. From TOMS to Warby Parker to Whole Foods, there are hundreds of thousands of companies that are emerging as social businesses. There are also established companies that are focusing more on their impact on the world.
You are probably wondering what exactly is a social business. I have always described it as an enterprise that works in some way for the betterment of society. Miki Agrawal, a serial entrepreneur who wrote Do Cool Sh*t, a book on starting a social business, was interviewed for Smart Girl’s Guide and said that what makes social business so amazing is that it is doing well by doing good, which I couldn’t agree with more.
So why should you start a social business? The answer is plain and simple: you can have your cake and eat it, too. You can be financially successful, while working for a cause that you are passionate about.
You can work to feed the starving children of the world, like Lauren Bush Lauren, the Founder of FEED Projects. You can build schools Africa through your products’ sales, like Tyler Tolson’s company, Denik. You can empower women artisans from around the world, like The Little Market’s founders, Lauren Conrad and Hannah Taylor Skvarla.
Starting a business isn’t easy, trust me. But when you find a cause that you are truly passionate about, you will be so excited, so willing to dedicate your time that you will find yourself practically jumping out of bed in the morning just so you can get working on your business. What will keep you motivated for the long run is not your business’ financial success; rather, it is the impact that you and your business have on the future of our world.
Maybe you don’t see yourself pursuing business as your career, and that’s totally understandable. It isn’t for everyone. You could apply for an internship or part time job working for a social business and still see major benefits. You can have an impact, gain an incredible amount of experience fast, and even land yourself some extra money.
The world is calling you to be a change maker.