This week, we have the pleasure of talking with Laura Hertz, Founder of Gifts for Good, which curates corporate gifts for employees, clients, leads and business partners that support charitable causes.
Why did you decide to start a social enterprise with a focus on social impact gifting? Tell us about the path that brought you to Gifts for Good.
In our final project at the USC Marshall School of Business Social Entrepreneurship Program, my co-founder Jerry and I were challenged to develop a strategic plan for a social enterprise that provides an innovative solution to a pressing social problem. The plan had to specify the social enterprise’s vision and mission, its business model, its growth strategy and how the enterprise would measure social impact. Toward the end of the semester, Jerry and I quickly realized the material size of our total addressable market and the unique value our business idea could bring to the corporate gifting industry.
Today, the gifting market is estimated to be a $131 billion industry, representing around $1 in every $10 spent by Americans annually. Spending by corporations – just on promotional gifts/swag alone – represents 17 percent of the total gifting market, or $22 billion compared to $18 billion on corporate charitable giving each year. Jerry and I quickly realized that if every business purchased gifts that gave back – without spending any more money – companies could easily double their social impact.
Prior to business school, Jerry and I had both worked for – and with – companies that gave gifts to their employees, clients, business partners and leads. Most of these gifts were just throwaways and ended up in a junk drawer. They were never meaningful or thoughtful, just cheesy novelty products with a corporate logo on it. Additionally, in our own gift giving efforts, we struggled to find products that had meaning and aligned with our personal values. While gift-giving is about so much more than transactional exchange, giving a quality, personalized gift was difficult and time consuming. Jerry and I both felt motivated to bring more meaning and ease to gift giving!
Where do you see the social enterprise field heading over the next 5-10 years?
I predict the social enterprise field will grow dramatically over the next 5-10 years, both in terms of the number of new cause-focused enterprises that will emerge, as well as society’s general awareness of how business can be used as a force for good. At the moment, multinational businesses are not fully realizing their potential to alleviate society’s biggest challenges. As more and more millennials move into leadership positions at large companies, I believe there will be a fundamental shift in the way business is conducted as more corporations begin to behave in an increasingly responsible way. In ten years, I believe that “social enterprise” will no longer be a foreign concept to Fortune 500 companies but rather a framework for how business can and should be conducted on a day-to-day basis.
Are there any new social enterprise trends you are noticing and/or best practices to highlight?
In 2018, it is wonderful to see the social enterprise field flooded with men and women alike seeking to support and empower women in the workplace. Thanks in part to the #MeToo movement, America now has the momentum that will embolden women and corporations to make significant changes to workplace policies, close the gender wage gap, and achieve parity in corporate boards and senior management in the coming years. This is the time for women-focused and women-led enterprises to shine and focus their marketing efforts on how their products and services support and enable women.
What are some of your other favorite social enterprises?
Some of my favorite social enterprises are Thistle Farms in Nashville, Tennessee; Women’s Bean Project in Denver, Colorado and the Downtown Women’s Center right here in Los Angeles. These three organizations all follow direct employment models that employ and empower disadvantaged women – such as those transitioning out of homelessness and human trafficking – who make the incredible products sold by these enterprises.
Our conversation with Laura continues next week and can be read here.
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