Entrepreneurs start businesses for a variety of different reasons -- the earnings, the ability to design their lifestyle, to be their own boss, to earn their personal freedom and so on. These are all great reasons to get into business, but is it possible to build a massive enterprise and also have a positive impact on the world?
If you've been building and investing in businesses for any length of time, you already know the importance of having a massive personal vision -- it keeps you focused, and it drives you forward even as you encounter rough patches in your journey.
Though having a vision for yourself is great, developing one for your customers -- the people you want to serve -- and your loved ones can be a game changer. Your cause becomes less about your own goals as you concentrate on the difference you can make in the world. So, the short answer is yes -- you can build a company and also have an impact on developing regions, disabled and diseased individuals, the education system and more. Here are six founders whose companies are making a big difference in the world.
1. Brad Ludden
Brad Ludden is the founder of First Descents, a company that offers free outdoor adventures to young adults between the ages of 18 and 39 who are fighting and surviving cancer. Ludden, who was raised in Northwest Montana, was surrounded by the outdoors and quickly grew a penchant for kayaking. He was competing internationally by the tender age of 12. Incidentally, it was also at 12 that we would form the vision for First Descents, as his aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer at 38. He saw how little support she was receiving, and started volunteering for a pediatric oncology program to teach participants to kayak at 18. "First descent" refers to the first time someone successfully kayaks a section of a river that has never been challenged before.
2. Leila Janah
Leila Janah is the founder of Samasource, a company that offers data solutions for projects that require human judgment. What's unique about this operation is that they establish work centers in developing regions like South Asia, Haiti and Africa and employ workers with little to no experience. Their teams work on digital projects that can be broken down into smaller, more manageable tasks. These micro-work centers help employees earn a living wage and can fundamentally change the quality of their lives Janah is an award-winning social entrepreneur with extensive credentials, both educational (she has a BA from Harvard) and experiential 9she has worked at the World Bank).
3. Taylor Conroy
Taylor Conroy is the founder of Change Heroes. They are a for-profit, for-impact tech company that utilizes a video-driven system to fund a variety of projects, including scholarships, anti-sex trafficking work, funding schools, volunteer travel and water projects. Conroy launched Changed Heroes after a life-changing visit to Kenya. He sold his real estate business to found the friend-funding platform that has now raised well over $1,000,000 for various projects. Taylor is a thought leader in social entrepreneurship and lectures at New York University.
4. Shivani Siroya
Shivani Siroya is the CEO and founder of Inventure. Inventure uses mobile technology to collect 10,000 personal data points on users who might not otherwise be able to obtain funding for their projects without an established credit score. They help small businesses around the world -- primarily in developing regions -- get the capital they need, and instead of offering loans, they make investments. Prior to Inventure, Siroya worked at UBS and Citigroup/Healthnet, as well as the United Nations Population Fund.
5. Dr. Amit Goffer
ReWalk develops robotic exoskeletons that enable those with spinal cord injuries to stand upright, walk, turn and go up and down stairs. Its founder, president and chief technology officer, Dr. Amit Goffer, founded the company in 2001. Prior to that, he also founded Odin Medical Technologies Ltd. Dr. Goffer himself endured an all-terrain vehicle accident that rendered him a quadriplegic, and this provided the inspiration for ReWalk. Although Dr. Goffer recently retired from his position, his innovations in helping those with lower-limb paralysis are to be commended.
6. Stacey Boyd
Stacey Boyd is the founder and CEO of Schoola, a platform that can be used to organize clothing drives for students who outgrow their clothes. They provide postage-paid donation bags to participants, and by sending in unused clothing to Schoola's warehouse, they can raise money for their school. When clothing is purchased through Schoola, every purchase made goes to fund a school and its program -- for every $5 spent, $2 goes to a school. As a former teacher and school principal, Boyd took notice of how art, physical education and foreign language aids in the ongoing development of students. But in many cases, funding was not forthcoming for these programs. Boyd is driven by the prospect of getting these invaluable programs back into the education system, and Schoola is making a difference. What is your vision for your company? What do you intend to accomplish? Do you have the desire to be successful personally while making a difference in the lives of others? As you can see from the examples of the entrepreneurs mentioned here, many of them got into their field because they witnessed -- oftentimes firsthand -- the challenges associated with disease, disability, poverty, funding and so on.
What hardships have you gone through? What challenges have you encountered? What injustices have you observed in the world? When have you said to yourself, "this needs to change?" These questions will help you to identify the pain points that exist in the world. Suffering comes in many forms, and when you experience it for yourself, you can empathize with those who are sharing in those challenges. Empathy is the key to finding a cause that's worth getting behind. Rediscover your purpose. Light the fire of your passion. If you don't address the issues you've identified, who will?