Do start-ups that don't have a positive impact exist?

When a consumer supports a triple bottom line or a B-Corp company, they feel empowered. It's human nature; when we do something that helps someone else, we feel better about ourselves. Buying Toms shoes means the we get ourselves a pair of shoes and in doing so, give someone in need a pair of shoes too. It's purchasing situations like this that give us a stronger sense of satisfaction, because not only are we meeting our needs – we’re helping others in meeting their needs too.

Companies like Toms or TenTree reflect this perfectly. They stand out to customers because their positive impact is built within their business model and reflected through their branding initiatives. Their financial success is driven by a social or environmental mission. But arguably, shouldn't this be the case for all businesses?

When we take a step back and look at the purpose of business, it's to solve the problem that a group of people are facing. The reason that a start-up lives, grows and thrives is because its product/service is helping a demographic or target market by solving a problem they are facing. If people don't see the value in the start-up, they won't buy the good or service being offered. If the start up isn't getting revenue, they won't stay afloat.

With that being said, it's also important not to undermine the impact of financial success. By generating revenue, paying employees and purchasing items from suppliers, among other financial transactions, businesses can have an incredibly positive impact on their local economy. By supporting the local economy, they are keeping money local which supports others within the region.

So what is my argument here? That start-ups exist to create a meaningful solution to an inhibiting problem, generating a positive impact. Without solving a problem, the start-up would never exist. However, it should be noted that the solution at hand is only going to be valuable for the target market it serves, not everyone will necessarily understand the positive impact of a business unless they are well versed within that realm of work. Patagonia clothing products are not going to be a meaningful solution for farmers looking to increase their produce. HotSpot Merchant Solutions might not appeal to scientist studying and monitoring the impact of the pine beetle or spruce budworm on the native trees of a given region, but it appeals to people – downtown associations, small businesses, champions of the local movement – who can identify with the purpose and mission of the business at hand.

In order to effetively reach the targetted market of consumers businesses should convey their impact and reason for existence through their brand image. By clearly stating their core values through all external communication (social media, product labeling - everything), customers should be able to understand the positive impact of that business. To enhance and add credibility to this positive impact, businesses should consider certifications like B-Corp. Not only can they add value through external communication, they can have a tremendously positive impact internally. Employees, in particular those of the Millenial generation, crave a sense of purpose in the work that they do - a desire to know that their work day-in and day-out is impacting the community at large. By getting this certification, it's clearly reinstating the postive impact of the business.

At HotSpot, we work day-in and day-out to build thriving downtowns with strong and resilient local economies. How do we do this? With our beacon technology, we're able to help Small Businesses connect to their customers and enhance the customer journey. In doing so, we're able to help Downtown Associations on a broader scale by giving them the tools to understand their downtown and how downtown shoppers interact with it. Although this all started from a pay-by-phone parking solution, we've evolved into a company that is harnessing the power of technology and data to make loving your local as easy as pie (locally produced pie, that is).