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Why Charities Are Launching For-Profit Businesses

Can making money be the key to creating more change and impact?

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This story appears in the September 2019 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Kenton Lee was traveling through Nairobi when he had, as he says jokingly, “the only idea I’ve ever had.” He saw an orphan girl’s shoes that were way too small; someone had cut off the front so her toes could stick through. “Right there, I thought, Wouldn’t it be nice if there were shoes that could grow?” Then he went home to Boise, Idaho, developed a shoe that expands five sizes, and founded the nonprofit Because International -- which today, 12 years later, has distributed more than 250,000 pairs worldwide.

Viktor Koen

And somewhere along the way, an unexpected thing happened. American parents started asking to buy his expandable shoes for their growing kids. He saw the value of it: If he sold shoes, he might not have to do as many fund-raising dinners and golf tournaments. But he wasn’t passionate about selling. “That’s not what we do,” he’d reply. “We’re a nonprofit.” 

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