Are you passionate about starting a business that positively impacts people’s lives? I can tell you, from first-hand experience, that you can create a successful company that also reflects your core values.
From the beginning, my business had a bigger mission than making money. It all began with the idea of selling imported, recycled silk yarn online. That one little idea today gives 600 women — our suppliers in Nepal and India — the opportunity to use their skills to support themselves and their families. We’ve transformed what would have been waste into beautiful yarn. We’ve given women with very few options a way to be independent. And we closed 2016 with triple-digit growth.
Here’s my advice for building a business with an approach that is profitable and has a positive impact on the environment and the people who work there:
Find Something You Love and a Cause You Believe In
I have been a crafter as long as I can remember. I started importing hand-spun silk yarn because it was different than anything available in the States, and I loved the recycling aspect. That led me to learn about the women in Nepal and India who were making it. They had skills but no means of making a viable living for themselves and their families.
I realized that I could offer something unique to crafters, and I could also provide opportunity to women in a place where there was none. Soon what started out as a hobby became a business I could be passionate about — and still am.
Share Your Story
Honestly, I did a bad job of telling our story early on, because my motivation for “doing good” wasn’t to get publicity. We had a beautiful, special product, and our customers loved it.
I think I realized the value of sharing our narrative because of the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest. First, entering the contest forced me to sit down and write our story — to explain what Darn Good Yarn was and what made us unique. Then we put our story out there in social media to get votes, and it resonated with our customers and the general public.
Back then we had 8,000 followers on social media. Five years later, we have 152,000. Entering, and ultimately winning the FedEx contest grand prize, was really a catalyst for us. In a way, it forced us to share our story, and that exposure opened up a floodgate of opportunities.
I think a lot of small-business owners, particularly women, don’t give themselves enough credit for what they’re doing. They don’t share their stories. Winning the FedEx grant gave me the confidence to say that we were doing something special. And, it gave me a platform to share our story at a magnitude I couldn’t have even imagined on my own.
Build a Company Culture That Reflects Your Values
I’m very open with our books, so my employees can see more than our sales figures. I show them what we’re paying on taxes, inventory, and software — everything that goes into running a profitable business. As a result, they’ve become mini-entrepreneurs who look at the business like I do.
This year, I started a profit sharing and pension plan, which not only is a great way to give back to loyal employees but has also had a positive impact on our business. As a small company, you need everyone in the mindset of cost savings, of doing more with less, which you get when employees have a stake in the business’ success.
When everyone is involved in planning and has a stake in the company, something magical happens. You empower your employees to do your job. They are now looking for ways we can all be more efficient. They’re coming to me with ideas. Having a company culture like mine really helps a business, because everyone is personally invested.
All of this is to say that having a successful business doesn’t mean you have to give up your passion or values. It’s possible to run a company with your head and your heart. Staying true to that passion is well worth the time and effort.
For more information about ways to grow your business the FedEx®Small Business Center has great tips from other FedEx Small Business Grant Contest winners and FedEx small-business experts.