Passion and a paycheck. Oftentimes, these two things don’t go hand-in-hand in our lives.
We had the chance to contemplate this idea with Jess Ekstrom, founder of Headbands of Hope and creator of Mic Drop Workshop. Currently, Jess is operating her business out of a pimped-out Airstream.
If that’s not living the dream, I don’t know what is.
If you ever wonder what it would be like to start a business founded in one of your greatest passions, check out what we’re covering today.
Here’s what we’re unpacking today:
- Falling in love with the problem, not the product
- Understanding that social entrepreneurship is entrepreneurship
- Noticing the American dream is shifting
- Hiring people who treat your company as their own
This post is based on a podcast with Jess Ekstrom. If you’d like to listen to the full episode, you can check it out here and below.
Fall in love with the problem, not the product
Being passionate about a social issue is the first step in creating a business that fuses passion and salary together.
To offer people real value, the problem you’re serving has to be at the heart of your company. Jess notes that business innovation is rooted in the problem you seek to fix, not necessarily the tool that you use.
Headbands of Hope began after Jess saw the need for kids fighting cancer to have moments that make them feel special and loved. She discovered that she could provide value to customers while also filling an important need.
Social entrepreneurship is entrepreneurship
Through her experiences, Jess has come to the conclusion that social entrepreneurship is simply entrepreneurship.
As modern entrepreneurs, we have an innate responsibility to give back socially, culturally, and/or environmentally. Finding time on the side of business has been the orthodox approach to social responsibility. Yet, maybe we should be more serious about combining the two.
TOMS Shoes is an excellent example of a for-profit company based on sustainability. Their one-for-one business model serves as one of Jess’ inspirations for Headbands of Hope. To generate their $625 million valuation, TOMS coordinates with strategic partners like:
- Informed consumers. These aware consumers are concerned with sustainable causes. TOMS products appeal to customers through trendiness and the company’s commitment to giving one pair of shoes to someone in need per pair they sell.
- NGOs involved in TOMS distribution. Partnerships with independent nonprofits are key to the success of TOMS’ business model.
- Affiliates. Resellers that support TOMS’ cause are provided with products, limited edition styles, promotional links, and more.
For Jess, entrepreneurship means creating what she wishes existed. Just like TOMS, Headbands of Hope’s one-for-one model allows Jess to make a living and serve a greater purpose at the same time.
The American dream is shifting
Our dreams for the future are not the same as our parents’.
Jess points out that the white picket fence is not a priority for upcoming generations. Leaving a mark is less essential than decreasing our carbon footprint. Sustainability is becoming a requirement, not a marketing trend.
As social responsibility continues to be a business fundamental, it begs the question:
“What about nonprofit organizations?”
Nonprofits are still warranted and necessary for moving sustainability forward. However, Jess emphasizes the fact that since she’s providing customers with value, she doesn’t have to worry about spending time applying for grants or fundraising. Plus, being a for-profit business, Headbands of Hope is able to donate resources to nonprofits that advance their cause.
Along with the new American dream, consumerism is shifting to being more concerned with how spent dollars are being used. It feels good to purchase something you need and know that your money is going to support a sustainable cause. Now that more and more for-profits are concerned with social responsibility, they’re answering the consumer question,
“Where’s my money going if I buy this?”
Hire people who treat your company as their own
Headbands of Hope has found success thanks to the dedicated team behind it.
When you find a meaningful cause to serve, others will want to be involved. Having a one-for-one business model allows Jess to employ team members and to focus more on what she’s good at. It also allows her to travel the country in an Airstream, spreading awareness for her passion.
Once you have the capacity to recruit team members, you’ll have a whole new network of advocates for your cause. Plus, a passionate team will make it that much more exciting to be doing what you love and making a living at the same time.
Passion and paychecks can live in harmony
Don’t believe that your passion and salary can be united?
Take a note from Headbands of Hope. Modern consumers are searching for quality products that provide value to them, as well as those in need.
Find a problem you can fall in love with. Make the product. Make a difference.