How to start a business that does well by doing good

To get ahead as an entrepreneur these days it’s key to realise that ‘doing well’ comes hand in hand with ‘doing good’ - and we’re chuffed about that.

Customers quite rightly, buy into brands that share similar values. It also makes them feel much better about buying a product if they know that some of the money will go towards a worthwhile project, better a community or help a charity. High profile examples are footwear brand Toms, which donates a pair of who to a child in need for every pair of shoes it sells, or Gandy’s Flip Flops, which donates some of every sale to helping orphans around the world.

So when launching a business it’s vital to think about the values that your brand supports, align it with those of your target customer and boom – there’s another reason for them to buy from you.

Here are two businesses that we’ve funded who use their business to support a wider mission and are doing well, by doing good.

Violet Palmer of Violet Jay – received £4,000 from Virgin StartUp

VioletJay, VirginStartUp

Violet Palmer is the founder of Violet Jay, an ethical hair extensions company that is also developing a range of all-natural hair products based on argan oil.

“Moroccan argan oil is one of the world’s rarest and most expensive oils due to its production methods, and the fact that it the nut argan is only grown in the southern parts of Morocco. The tree is endangered and protected under the UNESCO.

Across Morocco there are co-operatives set up and run by women to help alleviate poverty among single women and mothers and elevate these women to a better way of life. Vulnerable women who have been widowed, made homeless, and who have children to feed can go to these co-ops to learn a new trade and work for a living.

I visited two of these co-operatives in Morocco to find out more the traditional ways of making argan oil and about how the co-operatives help the communities and women in Morocco. My company will purchase argan oil directly from the cooperatives at a fair agreed price. The pure oil will then be used to create a range of organic hair and beauty cosmetic products. My business will operate on a transparent supply chain where my consumers will know the exact origin of the products and about the production and elements involved.

Over the next two years, I plan to continuously visit Morocco to speak with more women and encourage them to be more entrepreneurial and independent. My company's long-term goal is to set up a women’s co-operative in an area with a great need that will teach women about basic life skills, and how to make argan.

You can find out more about argan oil and the importance of its production to women in Morocco in my short documentary below.”

Luca Parmegianni of Atipico  - received £5,000 from Virgin StartUp


Luca Parmegianni is the founder of Atipico, a company that makes high-quality shoelaces in a variety of colours. But they don’t just look good – every pair of shoelaces sold provides a meal for a child in need.

“To be successful in business today, a company must do more than just sell a good product.

According to a recent study 80% of consumers are likely to switch brands, if comparable in price and quality, to one that supports a social cause. In response, many businesses have changed their practices to be — or at least appear to be — more connected to social causes.  Some companies give a percent of their profits to charity. Others host lavish philanthropic galas.

ATIPICO business model is of the principle “buy one, give one”. So for every ATIPICO accessory purchased, we provide funding for a school meal to a child in need. We lace up to fight hunger! The idea came from our own life. Having experienced problems feeding our first-born child, we thought about what would have happened if he’d been born in a developing country without enough to eat – our son was one of the lucky ones. And so we decided to do something to help invest in the future of children less fortunate, giving them the nourishment they need to live a happy and healthy life.

ATIPICO is about more than simply making money. It’s about creating a sustainable successful business that also connects supporters to our belief to make a great impact in the world. As consumers, our costumers will want our product for typical reasons (i.e. because of the price, because of aesthetic reasons) but as supporters they also believe in what we do. They’re buying in our story because it's real and they want to be part of it.

If you incorporate giving into your model, your customers become your partners in marketing your product.  And for us, it’s much more than just a business – it’s something to fight for and be proud of!”

Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons