By Michael Pirron, Impact Makers’ Founder and CEO
What if you had an idea to change the way business works so that you could help to address social problems? Would you do it?
What if you only had $50 and a laptop in order to realize your dream? Would you do it?
What if your “crazy idea” actually was successful but you realized that it could do even more good by formally giving the company to the community? Would you do it?
I started Impact Makers with fifty dollars, a laptop, and one contract with the idea of living my values through my work. I had no idea that other people – future clients, employee consultants, volunteer board members, and community supporters – would come to share my passion for using business as a force for community impact. But here we are, having grown to a team of more than 75 consultants and almost $12 million in revenues in 2014, and having made the Inc 500 list of “fastest growing companies” three years in a row. More significantly, we just eclipsed $1 million in cumulative impact from our financial and pro bono consulting contributions to our charity partners.
Just as I was able to answer “yes!” to the first two questions above and feel successful about those decisions, I had another thought. What if we could create even more social impact by giving the company’s equity to our community, thereby formalizing the commitment we made at Impact Makers’ founding? Well, I answered “yes!” a third time and that is just what we have done: Impact Makers has gifted the company’s equity ownership to two nonprofit organizations, The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia, and Virginia Community Capital (whose subsidiary for-profit bank is also a fellow B Corp). We took this action, a first amongst social enterprises, in order to preserve and grow our philanthropic mission. The gift also is helping enable The Community Foundation and Virginia Community Capital to create funds that support charities and invest in B Corps and other companies with a social mission.
The Community Foundation now owns 70% of Impact Makers and Virginia Community Capital has a 30% interest. The volunteer Impact Makers Board of Directors is retaining the governance of the company and will continue to select the company’s charity partners.
Meanwhile, in order to ensure Impact Makers’ continued growth and to make an even bigger impact, we are beginning a unique equity raise – getting investments while at the same time staying authentic to our original purpose and mission. Specifically, we will be doing an “impact investment” preferred stock equity raise solely from foundations and large nonprofits, to keep all ownership in the nonprofit world. We will use those investments to open new offices in targeted geographic markets and expand our service offerings.
I found the inspiration for the creation of Impact Makers from Newman’s Own and its “all profits to charity” business model. Bob Forrester, CEO of Newman’s Own, shared his thoughts recently on the significance of what Impact Makers has done “Paul Newman was among the first to promote the idea of businesses doing well by doing good. Impact Makers now has created a similarly innovative model that we hope other enterprises will emulate.”
I hope that you can find your “yes!” answers, and the inspiration to do something similar to use business as a force for good, from the fact that we at Impact Makers are a group of middle-class professionals doing the same work we have always done, but structuring it differently and collectively making the same impact in the community as some of the foundations in Richmond. Now, with the gifting and restructuring, we have a chance to make the same impact as the larger foundations in town.
There are a lot of social and environmental issues to solve in the world, and yes – even locally in Richmond, Virginia! The government and nonprofit sectors are essential to solve them, but insufficient. In a capitalist society, we must harness the power of the free market, and the business sector generally, to be a force for good to help solve these issues. A growing number of social entrepreneurs are doing just that and being successful internationally. Impact Makers is but one story of thousands. There are iconic brands like Warby Parker, Newman’s Own, Dansko, Tom’s Shoes, Etsy, and many, many others who are successfully using free market capitalism to make a difference. Employees, consumers, and even investors are following along and ensuring these brands are successful. Doing good in fact is good business, too.
Why don’t you join us?
The Impact Makers Difference
Impact Makers is a management and technology consulting company based in Richmond, Virginia focused on helping to improve the community while supporting its clients’ success. The company provides services in Management and IT Consulting, Program and Project Management, Digital Services, Governance, Risk and Compliance, and Healthcare Solutions. Impact Makers is a for profit company that has gifted its ownership to the community and contributes 100% of its net profits to charities over the life of the company. Impact Makers’ charity partners are Rx Partnership, Family Lifeline, Peter Paul Development Center and FLiPM (Future Leaders in Project Management). Impact Makers also is a founding B Corp and received for the third consecutive year a Best for World designation. The company also has made the Inc 500 Fastest Growing Companies list for the past three years.