What It Means to Be a Mission-Based Brand, According to 3 Successful Founders
As any business owner will tell you, having a strong vision when you launch your company is crucial. But what if, in addition to that recipe for success, you have an unwavering passion for making the world a better place? Can you achieve success, turn a profit and grow your brand if it’s mission-based? At WELL Summit in Brooklyn in October 2018, three highly successful female founders explored what it means to be a mission-based company, and how they’re reaping the benefits of these businesses while making the world a better place.
Defining a Mission-Based Business
Whether they’re just starting out and bootstrapping it or have a proven success track record that’s caught the eye of investors, mission-based companies all start with one thing in common: an uncompromising passion for doing good. “Mission-based companies put consumers first,” says Agatha Achindu, founder and CEO of the best-selling organic baby food brand Yummy Spoonfuls.
“When I first moved to the U.S., I was shocked at how sick people are,” she says. “When I became a mother, I realized, ‘My god, this food on the shelves is in the mouths of babies.’ We live in a society where the model for the health system is a business model: It’s all about money. But I believe you can make money doing good. I just wanted to prove to the world that you can make food that’s good for the consumer, and be successful doing it.” Now retailed at giants like Whole Foods and Target, Agatha’s vision of making uncompromisingly healthy baby food for people of all demographics—and being successful doing it—has come to fruition.
The marriage of money and mindfulness is what drove Emily Cunningham, co-founder and COO of True Moringa, to launch her popular skincare brand. “To me, a mission-based brand intertwines profit and purpose at every level—from the supply chain to investors—so everyone benefits.” Though True Moringa has pivoted several times (first, from a tech company that worked a Moringa oil press in Ghana, then to bulk processing the oil and finally, to the True Moringa skincare line), its vision to make a difference in the world proved to be its guiding compass. “Our goal has always been to unlock potential in Africa and provide market access to the Moringa tree farmers,” Emily says.
For Jeannie Jarnot, founder of Beauty Heroes, the online subscription service that delivers full-sized healthy beauty products each month, holding fast to her principles has made all the difference in the company’s success. “Most often, our investors are not interested in our mission; they care about our bottom line. Mission-based companies can make money. We have to make money to stay in business, but it’s all about how we get there. We’re responsible for that,” Jeannie says.
Though adhering to a mission-based model may not be easy when taking on investors, it might just end up being a differentiating factor in the brand’s success. Beauty Heroes recently launched Project Blue Beauty, a “platform to spotlight the brands that are using their business to create a better, bluer planet.” True to Jeannie’s vision of being a mission-based company, Beauty Heroes has partnered with 5 Gyres, and minimized packaging when shipping out products. The result is a company that continues to grow and gain market share in the subscription box space, all while making conscious decisions to make the world better.
Passion, Then Profit
Business owners in all spaces can testify that it takes time to turn a profit. For mission-based companies, their bottom line isn’t the only way they measure success, however. Yummy Spoonfuls took five years to turn a profit, but for Agatha, making money while staying true to her vision was worth its weight in gold. “At five years, I could see some light at the end of the tunnel. I could put money into the business and have a little money left over. My mission when I started wasn’t to do it just for money; I wanted to make good money. Money that makes me go to sleep proud.”
Though she had the opportunities to bring in investors, Agatha didn’t take them, citing her lack of comfort with talk about trends and bottom lines within the first hour of meetings. “I don’t want to make billions,” Agatha says. “I want to save a billion lives.”
For Emily, thinking outside the standard investment and profit box has made all the difference. Taking investment from crowd funding sources Kiva and Indie Go Go allowed True Moringa to grow without sacrificing the mission. Because they weren’t beholden to the typical investment model, they were comfortable taking $5,000 from Kiva to begin with, and have recently gone back for a $50,000 loan to invest in the Moringa powder arm of their business, along with irrigation technologies. “I support myself through my company now,” she says. “I turned to Echoing Green Fellowship, because you can pay yourself for a two year period.”
Reaping the Benefits of Being Mission-Based
As their companies continue to thrive, each of these three brand founders are seeing benefits by way of profit and in the positive impact their companies are having on the world around them. “For me, it’s the fact that we are helping the perceptions surrounding food,” Agatha says. “I have adults who say they read labels more, they cook more. I used to teach people to eat healthy and cook healthy for free; my business is an extension of that. It goes above and beyond money; it’s about lives.”
For True Moringa, benefits extend far beyond the brand’s admirable growth. “We have two different models for how we work with families,” Emily explains. “With more experienced Moringa farmers, we work with them to secure a guaranteed market and adhere to best growing practices. With less experienced farmers, we have a nuclear farm that we lease from the community, where five percent of the profits are then given back to the community. With this, we work with more vulnerable population; the farming is more supervised and we can smooth their income until the harvest is ready. We’ve created 90 jobs along the supply chain, with the vast majority being locals—everything from outreach to human resources. We always want to make sure money is reinvested in the communities growing the Moringa trees we rely on.”
While the benefits of mission-based brands can span continents, the choices they make can also have positive impact within their sphere of influence. “I feel lucky to work with fellow mission-based companies at Beauty Heroes,” Jeannie shares. While launching a company with a make-a-difference mission can be daunting, the excitement of staying true to what matters to you outweighs hesitation. Says Jeannie, “There’s that moment when you decide to quit your job and just go for it. It’s the most scary—and the least!—because you’re full of optimism. If you’ve gotten to that point, you make the leap.”
And when mission-based founders make the leap, we all benefit from their boldness.
Looking to live with a mission of mindfulness? Discover these tips for living a more mindful, meaningful daily life.