Business Rx: Social enterprise needs advice on how to land first clients

April 29, 2012
The Entrepreneurs

Students Dipti Badrinath, Stephanie Cantor, Abby Murray, Nikita Shenoy and Scott Shuffield are true to their millennial generation character — they didn’t want to choose between an altruistic career path and working for a for-profit corporation. They united to create a venture that could allow them to help companies meet philanthropic corporate goals while connecting with employees. Their venture, called Triple Impact, helps Fortune 500 companies offer employees global service trips to help underserved communities.

The Pitch

Cantor

“We formed Triple Impact to benefit three major parties: the individual employee, the corporation and the community. We are working to connect these three unique bottom lines by consulting with Fortune 500 companies and large institutions to plan specialized and meaningful short-term employee service trips abroad.

We recently registered as a Benefit LLC — a new type of corporate designation pioneered in the state of Maryland. [The designation provides protections from lawsuits if a qualifying company puts a social or environmental mission over making a profit.]

Companies benefit from these trips with brand-building in new markets, as well as with brand-building at home. Companies with corporate social responsibility programs win favor with consumers and lead the pack in stock performance. These types of socially conscious programs also make their employees happy.

The benefit cycle continues, because when employees are happy, they are more productive and loyal to the company. Of course, the underserved communities in the developing nations benefit, too, from the resources and skills shared during the trip.

“We’ve done extensive research, built our network and have leadership experiences with service projects abroad, but we’re a very young company. How do we line up our first clients and eventually impact top companies?”

The advice

Melissa Carrier, executive director, Center for Social Value Creation

“You face the same challenges all first-time entrepreneurs face. There are a few things you can do to position Triple Impact for success.

“First, because you are a young company and first-time entrepreneurs, make sure you really understand your market. Do your homework. What are customers looking for that they can’t currently find in the marketplace? Clearly define the unique offering and competitive advantage that you provide to potential clients – this is your value proposition. Explain it in language that is easy to understand and relevant to decision-makers. Then, test it out with a few calls. What feedback are you getting? Refine where needed, and try again.

“Second, find a set of experienced advisers to offer sound advice and lend credibility to your venture. Your advisory board should include a mix of industry experts, investors and veteran entrepreneurs. Find advisers through networking at local events and combing your personal connections. There is definitely a courting process when lining up advisers. It’s like dating — start small by setting up a coffee meeting for initial advice and establish a relationship before taking it to the level of formal adviser. Most importantly, don’t be shy about asking for help.

“Third, exude confidence in the way you speak about the venture and the team’s ability to create a successful venture. It’s critical to exhibit professionalism in everything from your business pitch to your marketing materials, to the way you interface with potential customers and investors. Believe in yourself first, and others will follow that confidence.”

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