Seven years ago, Lauren Bush Lauren founded FEED, a for-profit with a social mission – to raise money through the sale of bags and other products to feed children through the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). Today, her organization has raised funds to cover more than 60 million meals through WFP and has provided tens of thousands of children with essential nutrients through UNICEF. Lauren leads a special session at SXSW this year on the power of social business and Entrepreneur.com talked with the model, activist and CEO about her goals for FEED and how she defines success.
Entrepreneur: How has FEED has changed its approach to social entrepreneurship since its founding in 2007?
Lauren: We have stayed true to our mission to ‘create good products that help FEED the world’. Our approach has evolved over time from focusing on partnerships to focusing more on growing our core product offering through our online sales channels. And, at SXSW this week, we will announce a new consumer engagement program, which will further enhance our giving capabilities and overall brand growth.
Entrepreneur: How important is it for social entrepreneurs to learn how to balance business needs and social needs?
Lauren: Being a social entrepreneur is a balancing act between growing and sustaining a business, while also growing the company’s ability to give back. Personally, I find myself some days more focused on the design, sales, partnerships and marketing, while other days are focused on the cause aspect of what we do. But, in the end, one has to learn to be focused on both fronts since both are essential to what you are building.
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Entrepreneur: How do you work toward that balance?
Lauren: The business aspect and the social aspect of FEED go hand in hand. The more we can strengthen our business, the more we are able to give. And the more we can focus on giving back, the more customers will want to buy our products, thus strengthening our business.
Entrepreneur: What's been the biggest challenge to that balance and how have you worked to overcome it?
Lauren: The reason I started FEED was to create a conduit for others to become aware and donate to help feed people in need around the world. Thus, our main reason for existing as a company is the ‘do-good’ part of what we do. What regular businesses might see as a ‘balancing’ act between doing good and doing business, it is one in the same for FEED. By staying focused on the initial intention behind FEED, we have grown an authentic and transparent brand that has already given over 75 million meals globally to date.
Entrepreneur: If you were going to advise a new social entrepreneurship venture on how to stay focused, what would you say?
Lauren: Having a solid mission, which not only is owned by the founder, but wholly believed in by every single member of the team is key. And it is good to be reminded of the mission by getting into the field as a team. By volunteering and engaging with the beneficiaries you aim to support.
Entrepreneur: It seems more and more established companies are taking the lead from emerging social entrepreneurs. How do you expect this trend to take shape in five, even 10 years?
Lauren: Throughout the past five years, millennials have been leading the way by supporting companies that are authentically associated with a cause. According to a Pew study, 93 percent of millennials will buy a product because of a cause association. And as millennial spending power increases in the coming years, we will see more and more businesses incorporating a social mission into their existing business and new start-ups starting with a social mission.
Entrepreneur: How do you measure success as a social entrepreneur?
Lauren: True success for FEED would be the day we close our doors because world hunger is no more. Until that day, we measure our success through the number of products we are able to sell on our website and through stores which translates into the number of meals we are able to donate.
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