They’re seeing that ethics profit more than their conscience.

“During his M.B.A. studies at University of California at Berkeley,
Jeff Denby told everyone his ultimate career goal: to start an
underwear company…

“But Mr. Denby—who had formerly worked in industrial design and went
to business school interested in supply-chain management—decided early
in his program that he wanted to create a company that was about more
than just boxers or briefs. In his view, it was critical to create a
product that was environmentally friendly and sustainable—and whose
sales could help support good causes.

“This type of social entrepreneurship – that is, building a
for-profit company with a social conscious or linked with a social
cause – is becoming increasingly attractive to would-be business
founders. The idea is to make money while either directly impacting
consumers with its services or funneling a portion of profits to
charities. Often, these companies employ people or source resources
from economically depressed areas of the world that then also benefit
from the charitable donations from the profits.”

This is the upside of the global economic crisis, and also the answer. Human resourcefulness and the unlimited power of a creative mind.

“Sean Conway needed to raise funds for his start-up, Notehall.com,
an online marketplace for college students to buy and sell class notes.
But a year into the venture he was broke and investors weren’t willing
to infuse the company with a capital boost…

“I had invested my life savings and I knew there was no turning back,” says Mr. Conway, a 2007 graduate.

“So last March he submitted his idea to DreamIt Ventures, a sort of
entrepreneurial boot camp in Philadelphia—funded by four economic
development organizations—that provides office space and mentoring to
fledgling business owners, and helps set them up with potential
investors. Notehall.com, one of 10 ventures chosen to participate in
the three-month summer program, walked away with about $500,000 in
investments…

The common thread to all these stories is the enterprising spirit of
these individuals who had ideas but needed money to launch them. What
they had to invest was time and determination.

“I quickly realized that to do this, I’d have to reach outside my
comfort zone,” [Marc Fienberg] says. “There was no room to be shy or
humble.”

I would re-word that to say don’t be defeated or
humiliated…different from humility, which remains a virtue. But then,
we’re all outside our comfort zones now, so time to learn new
behaviors. And the moral of this story is that we benefit from new
ventures the more they benefit the common good.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....