By Cari Hanson
“Unless all of us are free and thriving, none of us is thriving.”
For a purpose driven business, achieving scale is so much more than a business challenge. Scale means real impact on the social and environmental challenges that these businesses aim to address. At the start of the second annual World Changing Women’s Summit, Konda Mason gave her own twist on the famous Emma Lazarus quote when she said, “Unless all of us are free and thriving, none of us is thriving.” It was a compelling reminder of the urgency and potential of the conscious business movement.
The January Summit, hosted by Conscious Company Media, brought together over two hundred women business leaders to share their experiences working to create a world in which all of us are free and able to thrive. Over the course of the summit, many of these leaders shared that they rely on a driving purpose to guide them personally as well as professionally, and that it has been a key element in successful scaling of their ventures.
Molly Hayward of Cora on the Importance of Clarity
During a trip to Kenya, Molly Hayward met a girl who couldn’t attend school during her menstrual cycle. Every month she had to miss class simply because she didn’t have the resources to buy pads or tampons. Molly’s first thought was that she could write a check to help this girl get supplies and stop missing classes. But then she discovered there are millions of girls and women all over the world who are missing valuable days of school or work because they can’t afford period products. That realization led Molly to co-found Cora, a company that uses the power of business to fight for gender equality.
Cora sells innovative period care products to support their mission to empower girls and women in need through free pads and health education. In just three years, Cora has grown so rapidly that they’ve been able to provide five million pads to girls and women in Kenya, India, and the United States. Cora’s products are now available for purchase in Target stores in the U.S. and the venture is looking to achieve even wider scale.
Molly shared that her company’s growing pains have taught her to focus on the most important details–and also to let go. She suggests that, as a founder of a growing purpose company, you have to learn when to trust your intuition and when to be more collaborative. As more people shape the development of your brand, being clear on what is right for you and your brand is paramount to staying purpose aligned.
Komal Ahmad of Copia on the Necessity of Support Structures
At the beginning of her journey to becoming a conscious business leader, Komal Ahmad made a connection between two vastly different challenges. This awareness came in a conversation with a U.S. military veteran, recently returned from his second tour of duty in Iraq. He told her that because his military benefits hadn’t started coming in yet, he could not afford food and hadn’t eaten in three days. As they talked, Komal thought about the UC Berkeley Dining Hall, right across the street from where they stood, which she knew threw away thousands of pounds of food every day.
Komal began doing some research and discovered that Americans throw away 365 million pounds of perfectly edible food every day–enough waste to fill the world’s largest football stadium to the brim. She realized that hunger is often not a problem of scarcity, but logistics.
This insight led her to build Copia. Her company’s proprietary software helps businesses identify trends that lead to food waste to reduce overproduction in the future, while connecting excess food with people in need today, or as Komal jokingly described this service of her software, “match.com for sandwiches.”
Komal acknowledged that being a business leader is tough and shared that being a solo founder can be even harder. You and your company must grow together. There is no definitive roadmap to creating a purpose-driven company that solves a massive problem at scale. Figuring out how and where to pivot in order to keep the business alive is part of the process. And as a founder, emotional resilience is key.
Komal suggests to all her fellow founders that it is critical to know who you can rely on for strength in moments of struggle or self-doubt. She advises you to recognize the people who pick you up and encourage you to keep going and to remember to call upon them when you need them.
Zahra Kassam of Monti Kids on the Power of Authenticity
Monti Kids Founder Zahra Kassam shared with her fellow World Changing Women that going on the TV show Shark Tank was “the most stressful experience of my life–more than giving birth.” Each year 40,000 entrepreneurs apply to appear on Shark Tank. Of those, 88 were chosen to pitch this year and few received a deal. Zahra got a deal.
Zahra is an internationally certified Montessori teacher for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. She’s on a mission to address the education gap from birth to three. When her first child was born, she discovered that most early childhood education is only offered to children over the age of three. This shocked her because research tells us that 85% of the brain is formed by age three. By the time a three year old begins school, their brain has established a pattern of processing information that they will use throughout their entire life. With her background and education Zahra started hacking together a program at home for her son and found that it was really, really difficult to find quality, educational resources. She founded Monti Kids with the belief that the best way to support your child during their most formative years is to empower parents.
The primary lesson that Zahra had to share with her fellow World Changing Women came from her own experience raising venture capital funds. She acknowledged that though it’s hard enough to raise venture capital dollars as a woman, trying to raise venture capital as a pregnant, Muslim, woman of color in a headscarf was “really challenging.” She urges that you don’t “lose yourself” in the process or constantly re-evaluate your own priorities to please others. She suggested that each of us needs to find the power to stand up for ourselves, regardless of where we sit in a company.
There is not only a personal benefit to being true to one’s own purpose, Zahra suggests. She believes the success of purpose driven companies lies in authenticity. Social media provides so much visibility that consumers will recognize true authenticity–and authenticity can power your brand. Being an authentic conscious company, she says, requires doing continual work, externally and internally, to stay true to your mission and purpose.
Lead By Example to Scale this Movement
The stories shared by these three leaders show how the conscious business community is working to not only scale solutions to challenges, but to scale this movement and change the culture of business globally.
Meghan French Dunbar, the Co-founder and CEO of Conscious Company, told the crowd at the World Changing Women event she believes that, by demonstrating a different way of doing business and sharing their practices, conscious leaders will spur the creation of more companies that “are in service to all life.” Change will happen as everyone who is a part of a conscious company takes those practices with them into their personal lives and to their next business. Eventually, if the conversations at the World Changing Women Summit are any indication, “conscious business” will one day become just the way business is done.
Cari Hanson is SOCAP’s Senior Content Manager
To hone your own conscious business practices or learn more about the movement, join leading CEOs, executives, investors, and thought leaders at The Conscious Company Leaders Forum April 10–12, 2019. This event gathers a curated group of business leaders at a world-class mindfulness retreat center to have real, unfiltered conversations about what’s really working for conscious leaders and businesses.