A year ago, social entrepreneurship was a two-word term for an arena of work that required a ton of confidence, a ton of background information, and a fully-formed concept of today’s business landscape. Now that I’ve been working on a startup for several months, every day there’s more and more things I realize I don’t know – though that’s probably just about growing up in general – but I have learned that “social entrepreneurship” is much more about taking practical action on a vision that really means something to you and others.
For us, that vision is Designed Good, a new community where we curate the best in design and social good. We hand-select and sell clothing, artwork, gear, gadgets, and accessories, and provide the stories about how they’re making a difference. We want to showcase this exciting intersection between design and social responsibility, and we want to start by sharing this idea: that every product that we wear or see or use can actually be designed for good.
Our ideas for building this kind of community came out of a thousand conversations. My best friend and brilliant co-founder, Imran Khoja, came up with Designed Good over the course of our junior and senior years in college; he asked me to join him in entering the first Williams College Business Plan Competition last January. I was drawn to his vision and interested in ways we could reach people through his passion for products. When we won in April, our amazing third co-founder and Williams 2001 alum, Joe Bergeron, had also already agreed to join us.
When I graduated from Williams three months ago, I was excited to start working full time on Designed Good. But I was scared to lose the experience of being with my peers all day, every day. They are the people who inspire me, the people who have helped me come up with my favorite ideas, and the people for whom I want to create things.
To pick the right products and tell these stories about change, we depend upon that collaboration with our classmates, friends, and networks. They are the people who told me about their summer adventures volunteering, who bounced around ideas about designing our dorm rooms, and who got groups of people together to sit around talking about changing the world.
Last week, we featured an interview with Kari Saratovsky, who created Social Citizens and who is co-writing a book on millennials with Derrick Feldman of Achieve Guidance. She talked about how millennial leaders are not hierarchical and work with more of a work-life blend than a work-life balance.
That kind of framework is exactly how I think about Designed Good. I spend every day working with great friends and talking to other awesome people about what we can do better. Sometimes I think about how separating work and life might make things less messy. But in trying to build a business about something I really care about – and partnering with causes that mean something to me and picking products that help real people – it helps me to stay close with those family members and friends who taught me what it means to care in the first place.
The exciting thing about launching Designed Good this summer is that all the friends I was scared of losing on graduation day don’t feel very far away at all. Some of them are tweeting at us, lots of them are sharing us on Facebook, and all of them have been happy to answer our random questions about their favorite blogs and checkout systems and products.
And the best part is, this isn’t just for our friends. It’s for the friends of our friends, and absolutely everyone that anyone wants to join this community where we think design and social change can intersect.
Millennials are interested in sharing. It makes sense that we should create and offer each other things worth sharing. No intimidation required.