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Social entrepreneurship is a term that’s been around for the past few years. The general principle is that while running a business, you’re able to do something for the greater good of society. One of the first such social enterprises was Tom’s Shoes, promising to send a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair that’s bought in their store.
Social entrepreneurship is the attempt to draw upon business techniques to find solutions to social problems.
With the ability to set up Print on Demand sites quickly and with little hassle, there are many online t-shirt and print stores that are taking advantage of the ease of use to make a mark in the world and sell products online to help others. And they do it well. Many socially aware projects have managed to attract media attention for their altruism, which in turn offers a big boost to the store’s traffic, and ultimately, purchases. Here are some stores that are great examples of online social entrepreneurship.
The Lion King illustrator, Aaron Blaise, having been moved by the death of Cecil the Lion, created a tribute animation inspired by the Lion King. He donates the proceeds of the print to WildCRU, an organization that deals with wildlife conservation.
This print went viral and has been featured on all sorts of international media, for example, the Daily Mail.
Other POD sites have also committed to supporting Wildlife conservation. This site offers to send the profit to your choice of charity, also largely inspired by the Cecil the Lion tragedy, such as this t-shirt created by Raccoon Brand.
The See America project works together with the National Parks Conservation Association. Artists are able to contribute their artwork to feature and support the beautiful nature of American National Parks.
The rejuvenation of the art-deco style posters has sparked the interest of international design communities, resulting in publications featuring their style, such as this Fast Company article.
Political activism won’t be left out of the mix. 23 year old founder, Ryan, believed so much in Hilary that he created his “I’D bottom for Hillary” store, selling t-shirts to others who trust and support Hillary Clinton.
The store quickly went viral, and Ryan has also participated in several interviews, such as this interview with Huffington Post.
If you’re thinking about trying out social elements to your own store, you’ll have to consider several questions – the balance between profit and expenses, which products to use, how to manage the donation element. Keep in mind that you’re by no means limited to simply donating proceeds, you can also get more creative with the way you give back to the community. Here are some tips and suggestions to get started:
Which product to start with? Posters make a great product to start with social entrepreneurship, as they provide you, the store owner, with a good profit margin. That gives you more capital to maneuver with when you’re considering the financial elements of the social support. Once you’ve got that down pat, you can consider expanding to other products like t-shirts and mugs, which are great because they have an everyday use.
Donate all profit or a portion? This is up to you, if you want to donate all of the profit or only a portion to your cause. This largely depends on the goals and purpose of your online store. Make sure that you’re able to cover your expenses before donating all of your profits.
Should proceeds be donated from all products or just certain ones? Depending on the premise of your store, you might decide to apply your social support element to either all products in your store, or to one of a few of them. For example, a “limited edition” version, with proceeds going to your choice of cause.
Which cause should you support? Regardless of which cause you choose to support, the most important element is that you do your research. Make sure you know where the money would be going, that it’s a cause that really does good and you’d be proud to support.
With ever more businesses realizing that there’s plenty to gain from having social elements to your store, even more are getting involved.
What do you think? Should ecommerce stores get on the social entrepreneurship bandwagon?
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