Anatomy Of A Decade

Good Will

Going The Extra, Altruistic Mile.

By Debra Phillips

When entrepreneurs Mike Hannigan and Sean Marx say they're giving it their all, they're not speaking metaphorically. These founders of Give Something Back LLC in Oakland, California, donate nearly all their net profits to local community groups.

"We donate as much as we can," says Hannigan, 48, who teamed with Marx, 32, to launch their office supply company six years ago. That means that, with the exception of money set aside for salaries and company growth, the company's earnings--totaling $7.5 million in 1997--are given to groups that provide everything from trained dogs for the disabled to assistance programs for the homeless. Says Hannigan, "The money goes to the communities in which we market."

Inspired by actor Paul Newman's philanthropic food company, Hannigan and Marx set out to replicate his success in a field they were familiar with. Yet Hannigan stresses that Give Something Back is still a regular business. "The idea that the profits are given away is unusual," he says, "but our feeling is that any product that is bought and sold can be bought and sold under these conditions."

And Give Something Back's founders are getting something back for the approximately half a million dollars they've invested in good works. Observes Hannigan, "The feeling that you're involved in your community is something you can't put a price tag on."

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This article was originally published in the December 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Anatomy Of A Decade.

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