I’ve never had a real job.
Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. Sure, as a kid, I had a newspaper route, and I worked at Chuck E Cheese’s because I liked pizza, video games, and giant animatronic mice. But early on, I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and stopped working for other people so I could work for myself instead. I always wanted to run my own show.
Where did this bug come from? When I was nine-years-old, I was convinced by Jerry Lewis that I could cure muscular dystrophy. Although I honestly didn’t truly understand what the disease was, I organized a fundraising fair for my town for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The fair was a success, we raised a lot of money to help sick kids, and above all I began to recognize my ability to develop creative solutions for worthy causes.
Today, I still develop creative solutions for worthy causes, as the Founder and CEO of Causecast, the leading cause engagement platform that helps companies of all sizes increase their positive social impact and improve their bottom line by connecting their employees to the causes they care about. We do this by working tirelessly to make the employee volunteer and giving experience interactive, social and mobile, which helps workers better engage with their employers, colleagues and communities.
What drove me to become a successful business owner wasn’t wild fantasies of wealth or fame. Nor was it an allergy to reporting to a boss (and by the way, we all have a boss - if it isn’t the CEO, it’s your shareholders and customers).
What drove me was philanthropy. A sense that we’re all powerful enough to make a difference in the world and no one will stop us from trying. In fact, I’ve found that when you’re trying to do good in the world, everyone bends over backwards to see you succeed. When your business is social responsibility, you get a much warmer reception from the business community and customers than when you’re selling widgets.
The difference between the world of nine-year-old me and the world today is how giving back is discussed. Everything has changed about how we look at doing good in the world, even the words. We don’t use the word charity as much as we refer to social responsibility. It’s less about being a philanthropist, more about being a social entrepreneur. We focus not on effort, but on impact. The relationship between benefactor and benefactee has shifted from a one-way transaction of giving and receiving to a two-way dynamic where the person giving back is getting as much from the experience as the person, nonprofit or cause is.
And this shift has opened up a whole new business field dedicated to the idea that doing good is not just philanthropic, but profitable. SOCAP15, the recent Social Capital Markets conference in San Francisco, was just another reminder of the world of opportunity that awaits those who want to do good. A world-renowned conference series dedicated to increasing the flow of capital toward social good, SOCAP brings together impact investors, global innovators, foundations, governments, institutions, and social entrepreneurs for a forum on how best to change the world. It’s nearly impossible to leave without feeling inspired and ready to take on any challenge to social progress.
LaunchFest, a leading San Francisco startup conference that helps founders build, scale, and fund the next generation of outstanding companies, is opening up a new category just for social entrepreneurs this year. I’m happy to be speaking there and meet new people with fresh ideas about how to achieve social change around the urgent issues facing us.
Philanthropy planted the seeds of entrepreneurialism for me, and it continues to drive me to this day. If you want to be your own boss, consider focusing on how you want to make the world a better place, and then find people who will support your socially conscious endeavors.