Breakfast session – Entrepreneurs: how purpose and stewardship contribute to success
It can be a challenge for some organizations to do well while doing good, but not for the leaders of four values-driven, for-profit companies. These panelists offered a roadmap to being a mission-driven company in a commerce-driven world — and make great profits while you do.
Though the companies they run — Warby Parker (retail), Honest Tea (beverages), EverFi (educational technology) and Mohawk (paper) — are very different in industry, age and mission, the strategies needed to run a company with a social conscience are similar.
It’s all about values and people, panelists said. Neil Blumenthal, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Warby Parker said, “You need to pass the 60 Minutes test.” Other panelists underscored the importance of baking your values into every aspect of the business, making sure each piece is run with integrity.
It’s just as important to make sure every employee is fully committed to your mission, according to Tom Davidson, CEO of EverFi: “It’s easy to make the assumption that every employee has bought in at the same level. It’s hard to continue to be vigilant about it.”
Entrepreneurs: how purpose and stewardship contribute to success
Deborah K. Holmes established and leads Ernst & Young LLP’s Corporate Responsibility (CR) function. Focused on skill-based volunteerism in the “3Es” (education, entrepreneurship and environmental sustainability), CR enables firm partners and employees to build skills while making a difference in their communities. Ms. Holmes joined the firm in 1996 to direct, develop and advance women, work that was featured in Fast Company and Business Week and led to Ms. Holmes being named a World Economic Forum Global Leader for Tomorrow. Ms. Holmes earned her BA and JD from Harvard University. She lives in New York City with her college sweetheart and her two school-aged sons.
Neil Blumenthal loves helping people see. Determined to transform the eyewear industry, Neil and three friends launched Warby Parker in 2010. Prior to Warby Parker, Neil had been the Director of VisionSpring, a nonprofit social enterprise that trains low-income women to start their own business selling affordable eyeglasses in developing countries. Neil was recently recognized as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and as one of the 100 most creative people in business by Fast Company.
Tom Davidson co-founded EverFi in 2008. While a senior at Bowdoin College, Tom ran for the Maine House of Representatives and was elected in 1994. As Chairman of the Utilities and Energy Committee, he led a successful effort with Governor Angus King to provide laptops to every Maine seventh-grader and to create a major expansion of the wiring of schools and libraries across the state. Following that, Tom served as an investment banker and venture capitalist at Village Ventures, where he invested in early-stage technology companies in the education and social media spaces. As CEO of EverFi, Tom has led two venture funding rounds that have raised $21 million.
Seth Goldman is President and TeaEO of Honest Tea. The company, which he cofounded in 1998 with Professor Barry Nalebuff of the Yale School of Management, was acquired by The Coca-Cola Company in March 2011.Today, Honest Tea is the nation’s top-selling ready-to-drink organic bottled tea and is carried in more than 100,000 outlets. Over the past 15 years the company has thrived as consumers have shifted toward healthier and more sustainable diets. Mission in a Bottle, the Story of Honest Tea, written by Seth and Barry, will be published by Crown Business Books in September 2013.
Thomas D. O’Connor, Jr. joined Mohawk in 1986 and was named Chairman and Chief Executive in 2004. During his tenure, Mr. O’Connor has overseen development of a world-class converting center, upgrades to IT and operational infrastructure, and expansion of global sales and operations. Positioning Mohawk for the future and leading the company into new areas of growth, Mr. O’Connor has diversified Mohawk’s product portfolio and expanded its distribution base through strategic initiatives including the acquisition of several companies. Mr. O’Connor has served as Chairman of the National Paper Trade Association and on the boards of the American Forest Products Association, St. Gregory’s School and the Advisory Board of M&T Bank.