The following post is written by Emily Waddell, founder of ‘The Honest Consumer’, a dedicated change agent who strives to promote socially-conscious businesses through consumer power and educating buyers about socially good products!
This is a common question for me and the driving force behind The Honest Consumer. I am striving to spread the word about what social enterprise is through bringing awareness to consumer power. As a student studying social entrepreneurship, people throw that question my way quite a bit. As I begin to explain, a common phrase people respond with is, “Oh so non-profit?” , but that’s not always the case. People tend to associate “for a good cause” or “for social change” with non-profit, while some companies in the social sector are non-profit a large portion of them are actually for-profit businesses. These businesses sell a product or a service just like your regular company, but social enterprises use their profits to invest in change. For example, some companies use their profits to employ survivors seeking a better life, such as BRANDED Collective, the first company I featured. Some companies have the one for one business model where the consumer buys an item and the company donates one to somebody in need; but there are so many other unique and creative business models, how a company creates their model depends on the product and how the business benefits those in need through their products. However, the one thing all these companies have in common is they view problems as opportunity for change.
I also saw this opportunity for change and wanted to become involved, not only for myself, but so that more consumers could take advantage of these buying trends. This is one of the most important reasons I started “The Honest Consumer”. I wanted to have a safe, trusted outlet that consumers could look to in order to support socially conscious businesses. The fascination people have about the subject and the fuzzy definitions of social entrepreneurship are what motivated me. And thus, The Honest Consumer was born. My goal is to spread the word about these innovative companies and raise awareness of the power each individual has as a consumer. I want to make it easy on customers and show them that the purchase of common household items can make a difference. The items you purchase make a statement about you and what customers want. There are so many entrepreneurs changing the way we view business and as consumers we need to speak encouragingly with our purchases.
(Photo from Branded Collective)
Social enterprises are everywhere and people tend to be unaware at times because they do not know what they are looking for; this was another reason why The Honest Consumer was established. During breaks in school I would travel home to Dallas and visit friends and family. I was able to share about the products I purchased from social enterprises, and they became interested in these types of products just from listening to my experiences and sharing the stories of the businesses. These products are also sold in our neighborhood back home, there are restaurants and coffee shops in our city advocating social change as well, but people do not know about it. I too was somewhat oblivious to social enterprise before taking a couple classes that peaked my interest. As consumers we can be sucked into the robotic habits of purchasing what is convenient to us. The Honest Consumer was started to make people aware of what is going on around them, not only in the Dallas and Nashville areas where I am based, but online and around everyone. There are so many wonderful places and products people just have to know what they are looking for. When I was first starting out I contacted my friends and family who have shown interest in these products before and asked for their support. They went and liked my Facebook page or followed on Instagram and before I knew it I had more followers than I anticipated. People shared my pages and posts. I am very thankful to be surrounded by so many supportive individuals.
When I first contemplated starting The Honest Consumer, I was nervous because, from my experience, there are quite a few people who are not familiar with what social enterprise is, as I stated before it is a common question. The term is relatively new so I was concerned that people would not relate or be interested in my blog. However, I was nervous for nothing. I have been overwhelmed by the welcoming community advocating for social change. Everybody has been incredibly supportive. I am so grateful to the companies who have reached out to me and each individual who has shared The Honest Consumer with their friends. The hesitation I had in the beginning ended up driving me when I was starting out. As social entrepreneurs, it is our job to spread the word and educate people about consumer power. Even if people are unaware, do something about it! Start a company with an impact, create a product to change the world, or just simply write to get the message out there.
(Photo from CAUSEBOX)
The Honest Consumer features a variety of products that are promoting change, and the power we have as customers to choose these products over other brands is limitless. We need to actively support the companies who are advocating change. You can find a social enterprise that sells just about any product you’re looking for: food, coffee, clothes, jewelry, gifts, you name it! So make your purchase count. I know that buying fair trade or purchasing items from social enterprises can be a bit more pricey. I am on a college budget and work a minimum wage job. I’m not saying every purchase you make needs to come from a social enterprise because I know that is a bit unreasonable. However, there are so many opportunities for your purchase to support a great cause. I want to encourage you to support these innovative companies whenever you can, even if there’s just one simple item you can buy on a regular basis. For example, I’m an avid coffee drinker and have at least one cup a day, so to support others with my buying pattern, I choose to purchase fair trade coffee as often as I can because it is easy to find and an item I purchase regularly. If my regular purchase can create opportunities for others while feeding my caffeine addiction, it’s a win-win situation. What if everybody who drank coffee bought fair trade products? Think of the difference that would make. It would provide an abundance of fair paying jobs in a variety of countries along with sending a powerful message to the larger corporate coffee companies who do not have social good weaved into their business model.
(Photo from Conscious Magazine)
The term “social enterprise” is turning into a trend and customers love it. People are excited to read and learn more about these creative businesses. I believe that social enterprise allows the individual to be more engaged with their purchase and that’s what people want. It allows for a relationship to grow between the customer and the company because the customer is aware of the company’s drive and purpose. I love seeing people’s fascination when I start talking about a product that I am planning on featuring. My roommate was so excited she went out and bought a BRANDED bracelet the morning before my blog post came out. Customers are thrilled when their purchases are doing something good for others. So I encourage you to do some research. Try to find an item that you purchase regularly and buy it from a social enterprise. Or follow The Honest Consumer and the research will be done for you. Your purchase matters. It starts with you!