Well we all know what an entrepreneur is, in fact you could say that it is the profession of the moment. It seems that all you need to be an entrepreneur these days is an instagram account and a few thousand followers, then you can open a web shop because the masses have automatically started gravitating towards you because of your incredibly witty and insightful blog. Unfortunately, it is not that easy and I'm not entirely sure that is what qualifies as being an entrepreneur, or at the very least there is a big difference between the Richard Bransons and Elon Musks of this world compared with the Kim Kardashians. Building a business on the back of the cult of celebrity is, while showing great entrepreneurial instinct, not in my eyes the definition of an entrepreneur. We think a good way to judge whether someone is really an entrepreneur is to ask yourself if the respective person is known because of a product or invention as opposed to is their product/invention known because of them? While not true in all cases, it's a pretty good measuring stick.
But what is a social entrepreneur and or a social enterprise? In the case of our company, Yuhme, the business is set up to make a social impact (by providing water) to one of the world's most impoverished countries (Central African Republic) through our partner Water for Good. We also have an environmental impact because our water bottles use a renewable resource, sugarcane and the whole manufacturing process of the plastic is CO2 negative. The knock-on effect of providing clean water to someone in the CAR is that people, particularly children, don't have to walk such great distances to fetch water, which is often dirty and makes the family sick. The children stay in school and the parents can spend time working to provide for their children. In the CAR this is mainly agriculture which obviously also benefits from having a clean water source close at hand. So a little thing such as a clean water has a massive social impact, especially in the continent of Africa and especially in the CAR where the average life expectancy is 44 years old.
But we are by no means the 1st social enterprise. We were inspired by the story of TOMS shoes, founded by Blake Mycoskie. On an adventure travelling around Argentina he noticed that there were many children without shoes, and this in turn affected their health, ability to go to school and collecting water from the local well. After seeing and speaking to a woman doing a local shoe drive and understanding the problem he decided to use local artisans to make the national shoe called an alpargata. He would then sell the shoes on the US market and here is the social part, for every pair of shoes he sold he would give a pair to a child in need. Fast forward to 2014 and Mycoskie sells half the company to Bain Capital for around $300 million after donating over 10 million pairs of shoes.
So what's our point? Donate a certain amount of money to earn loads of money by selling your company to a capital investment company? Well, not really, Of the money Mycoskie got from Bain Capital he has pledged to give away $150 million to newly started social businesses, this in itself encourages the growth of this kind of business. But the point is of greater perspective, imagine if all businesses pledged to involve themselves in a social/environmental/humanitarian problem? The effect of this would be huge, no longer would these problems just be funded by governments(taxpayers) and the people that worked for these companies would certainly feel a greater sense of worth because of what their company contributed. Not so much money would have to go through the corrupt governments of these lands where the world's most needy and impoverished wallow. In our eyes this kind of thinking is to the benefit of all of us and this is the path that Yuhme has set out on.
Alex & Alex