Entrepreneurs Find Business and Mission Can Mesh

By May Ortega The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The idea of supporting businesses that give back to their own locale is a key pillar of an emerging category of the economy called the "Fourth Sector." The division is composed of social enterprise, social businesses, conscious capitalism and benefit corporations. All four include some purpose beyond making money.

The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) The Springs may be on its way to becoming a hub for socially conscious businesses.

About 60 locals filled the room Friday morning where Jonathan Liebert, CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado, led a discussion on how businesses can contribute to the city through a new economic sector.

"People now are asking, 'What are you doing as a business to support and give back to my community?' They live here, they work here, their kids go to school here; they want to give," he said. "I think that as we see more and more of that, there's going to be more opportunity for businesses to say, 'Come support me locally, because I'm giving back to my community.'"

That idea of supporting businesses that give back to their own locale is a key pillar of an emerging category of the economy called the "Fourth Sector." The division is composed of social enterprise, social businesses, conscious capitalism and benefit corporations. All four include some purpose beyond making money.

Social enterprise organizations, for example, have an emphasis on solving a social issue such as getting homeless people jobs.

Around 55 percent of people who took a social responsibility survey by Nielsen said they would pay extra for a product committed to a positive social or environmental impact. On that same note, 90 percent of Americans surveyed by Cone Communications in 2015 said they would switch to a comparable brand associated with a cause.

Most people at the town hall in the Citizens Service Center said they attended because of socially driven business goals. The newly formed Colorado Coalition for Social Impact, created to build structure for local businesses under a "fourth sector," was the focus of the event.

Drew Johnson, owner of TechWears.com, wore a tie crafted of recycled circuit boards he made himself. He explained why such businesses are valuable.

"The community is defined by the makeup of its small businesses. Colorado Springs is well known as a nonprofit hub, and I think that's why it lends itself to being a social enterprise hub as well," he said. "There's just a lot of do-gooders in this community, so small business defines the region and the community."

While he is the sole employee of his company, he plans to hire at-risk youths or disenfranchised individuals.

Terry Hayes, CEO of the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce, was glad to see so many entrepreneurs in attendance.

"I agree that there's a lot of people that would like to get into this sector, so this should help them to get into it," she said.

Liebert encourages those interested in helping to develop the local fourth sector to contact the CCSI.

"I think that this is such a powerful source. It's changing the way we think and changing the way we buy. It's going to create more opportunities for everyone," he said. "That's why I think this sector is so important for everyone. It's a win, win, win.

The businesses win, the individuals who are purchasing products win -- everybody wins."

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