6 Lessons on Building a Business That Gives Back And the greatest of these is love.
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The past year has proven to be difficult for many entrepreneurs. Businesses have been living in a state of flux as the world collectively awaits more clarity from the current economic slowdown. For many entrepreneurs, this has led to a time of introspection — a time to think about what is important to them personally and professionally. For some entrepreneurs, this means thinking about ways of giving back. For others, this can be an exercise in self-awareness to determine what they are good at and what they can improve on.
For BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) entrepreneur Gaby Ghorbani, being born and raised in Mexico has led her to create two businesses that directly tie-in to her identity. Ghorbani is the founder of Love You More, a fair-trade fashion accessories brand, and Pledge to Humanity, a non-profit organization committed to youth volunteer engagement. Between her passion for social issues and altruistic spirit, Ghorbani has developed an entrepreneurial acumen that other entrepreneurs can learn.
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Here are her six pieces of advice for entrepreneurs looking to build a business that gives back and is meaningful to them and their target market.
1. It's okay to not have all the answers
Sometimes, people assume that successful entrepreneurs know every single aspect of business, but this is not necessarily true. It is important to be knowledgeable about the industry, but knowing everything is not feasible. For example, Steve Jobs was famous for not being an engineer or designer, but a visionary who knew how to manage talented people.
Ghorbani says that the biggest lesson she has learned as an entrepreneur is that you don't know everything. "Humbleness is really the key to success," she says. Asking questions is free, easy and one of the best ways to portray humility. When in doubt, ask someone who knows.
2. Develop a clear brand identity
Having a clear and meaningful brand identity allows customers to connect to a company's mission and vision. This can often be portrayed in a company's founding story or mission statement. The key is to be ruthlessly authentic in what you are projecting to the world.
When asked about her favorite testimonials, Ghorbani shared a poignant story that really highlights how customers identify and relate to brands. Since her company is named Love You More, the testimonials she shared were of many people commenting about why the phrase "love you more" is special to them. "They'll tell me that their mom or grandma or spouse would get in these cute 'fights' about who loves each other more," Ghorbani says. "'Love you!' 'No, I love you more!' 'No, I love you more!'"
This is a clear example of how a company's identity resonates with an audience to build a loyal customer base through a personal connection. The phrase invokes positive memories and correlates with the brand at the same time.
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3. Believe and don't take anything personally
There are times when BIPOC feel as if they have to work harder just to be treated equally. This can be a huge challenge when starting out as an entrepreneur, but Ghorbani has advice for her fellow BIPOC entrepreneurs.
"There are people who will underestimate you and don't take you seriously. There are comments here and there from people who doubt you, but I learned not to take the negativity to heart and instead let it motivate me. I learned it was important not to try to prove them wrong, but to prove to myself that I could do things that may seem unattainable and achieve what I set my mind to."
4. Be proud of your background
Ghorbani had a vision for her company and it involved embracing her childhood rather than abandoning her Mexican roots. Despite living in the United States, her company Love You More employs single mothers in Mexico to help craft some of the brand's jewelry. She saw an opportunity to help build up the lives of those still living in Mexico and seized it. This decision led to one-of-a-kind jewelry and some of her best-selling pieces that tell a story of hope.
This ties into the advice of remaining authentic at all times. Authenticity and identity are closely connected and that is something no competitor can replicate.
5. Use every encounter with another person as a learning experience
Every entrepreneur has to start somewhere and, even after success, Ghorbani's humility is an important value to her. Among the many pieces of advice that she has to offer is this: Most importantly, learn from everyone around you. Find the best in everyone and learn from it. Everyone has something to give, they each have a gift.
No matter what stage an entrepreneur is in, there is still more to learn. Ghorbani's attitude is one of appreciation and sets an example for those hoping to create a network that they can learn from.
6. Find opportunities to spread love
Ghorbani's philanthropic spirit has become a part of each of her ventures. Her childhood experiences seeing the harsh realities that plagued Mexico have shaped her and inspired her to give back. Love You More's Bohemian line is hand-crafted by the single mothers and ladies in Mexico, who are paid generously for their work. Many of those special pieces, along with a few others, are sold with 100 percent of profits being donated to various charitable and non-profit organizations.
Related: 4 Ways Companies Can Foster a Culture of Giving Back
Ghorbani believes that when someone really values the people they work with, they demonstrate that care through their actions. Words simply aren't enough. The importance of remaining humble every step of the way and finding ways to uplift others is a trait more entrepreneurs should look to develop. Keep in mind where you came from, who helped you and people who might not be in an as fortunate position.