A World of Women Driving Social Impact
Women control upwards of $20 trillion, or 27% of the world’s total wealth; in a global study by the Center for Talent Innovation, 90% of women indicated that making a positive impact on society was important to them. Today we celebrate some of the countless incredible women leaders who are forging paths through the creation of their profit + purpose impact businesses. These women are championing social impact businesses by creating, building, and financing them.
Jane Chen and her work with Embrace is a stellar example of a woman who is creating a company around a social mission – saving newborn babies’ lives. In 2008, while pursuing an MBA at Stanford, she teamed up with graduate students in computer science, electrical engineering and material science to develop a device that keeps low-birth-weight babies warm even when the electricity in hospitals and clinics fails. The “Thermopod” looks like a miniature sleeping bag and provides lifesaving four to six hours of heat on a single 30-minute charge. After raising funds and after a successful pilot program in India, Embrace has struck a global distribution deal with GE Healthcare. The invention has landed her among Forbes’ Impact 30 list, and established her social impact business as a respected leader in the space. Yet her mission continues – Next up for Embrace? A hot-water-powered product that doesn’t require electricity to warm newborns.
Women are creating markets and moving economies forward via social impact businesses. Eleni Gabre-Madhin has created Ethiopia’s first commodities exchange to better connect buyers and sellers in the hopes of solving the nation’s constant food crisis. While studying at Cornell in the 1980’s, Eleni watched helplessly as famine killed millions in her homeland, even as parts of Ethiopia boasted a food surplus. Within three years, the exchange has gone from a startup to trading an average of $20 million a day. Women like Eleni are transforming a nation’s and economy with businesses rooted in social impact.
Women with successful social impact businesses are also investing in other women entrepreneurs with the same mission. Genevieve Thiers, creator of SitterCity has launched an investment fund called High Note Enterprises – specialized funding for women-led social impact businesses. With a dual goal of making money and boosting women entrepreneurs, High Note will invest in companies run by women who are solving problems for women. Although it is too early to look at the fund’s returns, Thiers is confident that the fund will grow since she feels there are other successful women who are looking to invest in this space.
In the same vein, but with a nonprofit lens, Maz Kessler started Catapult.org, a crowdfunding site for projects related to empowerment of women worldwide. Began in 2012, Catapult has changed the lives of over a million girls who are receiving an education, are free from violence, have access to family planning and are taking part in economic empowerment programs. Both of these women have created platforms that fund social impact work being done by women, for women. The idea of successful women supporting other women who are working to solve social issues has the potential to create a powerful virtuous cycle.
As the momentum builds, women-owned businesses are also using their philanthropic dollars and resources to create impact. Spanx Founder Sara Blakely was the first female billionaire to sign the Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes. Spanx’s Leg Up initiative recognizes that “Everybody needs a leg up in the beginning of starting a business.” and uses Spanx’s distribution channels to support female entrepreneurs and their businesses/products.
Profit + Purpose businesses have the potential to catalyze women’s economic independence and equality, advance economies, become sound business investments and generate profitable returns in addition to changing the world we live in. Keep in touch with us for more!
Maggie & Hector