B Corp for Startups

Congratulations on starting your own business! Being an entrepreneur is rewarding, challenging, always surprising and that’s likely the reason you love it. In the US approximately 550,000 people start a new business every month. This may seem like a large number, but in reality it represents about .33% of the US adult population. Growth in the startup space is being driven by women, and there was a significant increase in opportunity driven vs. need driven startups in recent years. This means more people were starting businesses based on an identified need, rather than to solely create self employment. (The Kauffman Index Startup Activity, 2016)

Despite the stellar growth in the startup sector relatively few of these new business ventures are social enterprises.  As of 2016 for example, there were 2000 Certified Benefit Corporations globally. B Corps use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. This elite group includes do good giants like Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, Kleen Canteen and Beautycounter.

For these companies becoming a B Corp requires them to pass a certification assessment called the B Impact Assessment. The assessment measures a range of corporate attributes such as environmental impact, governance and workers. Each company must be in business for at least one year and score a minimum of 80 points out of a possible 200 to be invited to the next step. After an interview and an amendment to the articles of incorporation (or other relevant legal documents) stating that the company will maintain their B Corp commitments, a company can be certified. The process is a bit different for startups.

New companies have the opportunity to achieve a Pending B Corp certification status. Essentially the business completes the B Impact Assessment as if they have been in business for one year. Like regular certification incorporated companies must amend their articles of incorporation to reflect the B Corp principles. Payment for the certification is typically $500 given that new businesses have very little revenue. The company will then be reassessed at the end of the year before receiving final certification.

Pending certification creates some significant opportunities for social entrepreneurs. Though you don’t get the full benefits at the Pending B Corp stage, there are several awesome perks:

  1. Access to an enlightened network. B Corps tend to be led by thought leaders and industry disruptors. B Corp hosts local meet-ups on a monthly basis which gives news business leaders a chance to connect with like minded colleagues who are already building success in the social enterprise sector. Many business leaders are also open to taking your call when you join the B Corp family.
  2. A great road map. Completing the B Impact Assessment helps you set your policies from the beginning. This is a huge advantage when you are ready to hire, or expand your business, as much of the HR and corporate governance elements are already in place and can be easily leveraged.
  3. Negotiating power. B Corps are at the intersection between not for profit and for profit enterprise. The next time you are negotiating a contract, ask for consideration from the supplier as a B Corp. You will be surprised by how many people and companies will bend over backwards to help you be a success.
  4. Cache. New businesses may be a few years away from brand recognition so hiring can often be a challenge. Millennials however, are more likely to work for, and stay with companies that have a strong social purpose, so becoming a B Corp can actually help you recruit and retain the best talent.

Becoming a B Corp is an amazing experience and responsibility. Your job is to achieve your business goals, while being a force for good. The great part is that B Corp certification can help you achieve both goals more quickly, efficiently, attractively and often with a smile on your face. They say money can’t buy happiness, but having a strong sense of purpose in life sure can.

Brand for Benefit is B Corp Pending, and is committed to helping companies discover, certify and share their greater purpose as a path to growth.

CEO Carolyn Ansley is an award winning marketer, entrepreneur and mother who believes using business for good is good business.

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