Business Activist Entrepreneur

envisioning a better world through personal finance and entrepreneurship


018: Are you a business activist entrepreneur?

Are you a business activist entrepreneur?

Listen Here and Now for our *official* definition of Business Activist Entrepreneur

We share 3 stories that helped us come up with this term and 3 key characteristics of what it means to us.


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Quotable of the Week

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We’re defining “Business Activist Entrepreneur.”  That’s who we’re trying to become and hope you’ll decide to be one as well.


Highlights from the Episode

Intro [1 minute 40 seconds]

We’ve been using this term “business activist entrepreneur” for a while.  We launched this podcast back in October of last year but we were using the business activist entrepreneur idea as early as June when we started the Business Activist Entrepreneur Community on Facebook.  Yet, we’ve never really defined who we mean by using this term.  We’ve let people self-define really.  Which I’m okay with…

But we also realized it might be helpful to give some of our thoughts behind why we use this term instead of some alternatives like social entrepreneur, social enterprise, mission-driven business, mission-driven entrepreneur, purpose-driven, passion-driven… the list could go on and on…

Invitation to Comment and Disclaimer [2 minutes 30 seconds]

To help you understand the definition we’ll give you at the end of the podcast, we have to first tell you 3 stories.  These are true stories but we’ve masked certain details to protect the innocent (or the guilty depending on your point of view… we’ll let you decide).

Also, we have a little disclaimer: we’re going to share some controversial points of view in this episode.  You might be offended by something we say.  If so, we hope you’ll comment below and let us know.  The same if you have great stuff to share.  Seriously.  We’re opening the dialogue and we’d love to hear your thoughts.


Story #1 [3 minutes 38 seconds]

So, the first story is one you might have heard before.  It’s about how we got into this in the first place.  I was working for a large nonprofit when the recession hit.  Brandon had already started thinking about starting our own business.  I was already questioning the dependency of really good work in the world on outside forces of funding and their often imperial nature within local neighborhoods.  I wanted to figure out a way to empower local communities to do the work they knew would be best for them without having to cater or bow to those powerful and wealthy enough to have money to give them.  

So, I took Brandon’s coffee shop business idea and added my own activist nature to it.  We would be organized for the benefit of farmers around the world and for our local community prior to making a profit.  But we’d still get to do our own thing because we’d fund the entire thing through selling coffee, tea, pastries, etc.  Actually, selling the stuff would be how we impact farmers close by and around the world.  Then, we’d figure out how to take the profits and use them for the benefit of the community – most of whom had created the profits to begin with by being patrons of the shop.


Story #2 [5 minutes 27 seconds]

The second story is one we haven’t shared very much.  

We had a old friend who was coordinating a MBA program touring social enterprises.  They would go to a social enterprise for a week and do a project there then go on to the next one.  He contact us to see if we would host a group for a week.  We took the time to answer all his questions and everything but they decided not to include us.  Thankfully, they still stopped in for coffee as they went along their tour.  

We were very confused by who they decided to work with instead.   They decided to work with a local, minority-owned brewery.  Don’t get us wrong.  We like this brewery.  We have met the owners.  They make good beer.  We believe there should be more minority-owned businesses.  From our definition, they aren’t a social enterprise though.  They are just your average brewery.  

When I asked the leader of the group why they chose this brewery to work with and about his definition of social enterprise.  He responded that “any business doing any good could be a social enterprise.”  We disagree.  We thought social enterprises had a specific definition.  But this got us to thinking about how maybe different people define social enterprise differently.


Story #3 [8 minutes 14 seconds]

As we started looking for in depth at groups that serve social enterprises.  We definitely discovered a range of definitions.  The most common one we’d come across from large, national groups in the USA is that social enterprises are owned and ran by a nonprofit.  The nonprofit funding is needed to get started and for the first 7 years or so.  The hope is that long term the social enterprise will give the nonprofit more stable income that a complete reliance on outside donors.  

We agree this is one aspect of social enterprises but we weren’t seeing the mom-n-pop, family-run or individually-run social enterprises like we had being served by these larger groups.  In fact, we saw them catering to the larger nonprofits with larger social enterprises – seemingly because they pay higher membership dues and such.


What these stories led to [10 minutes 24 seconds]

That’s when we started to explore for terms.  We wanted to find something that would speak to the entrepreneur out there starting or running a business because of the change he or she wanted to see in the world, with profit as a secondary motivation.


Business Activist Entrepreneur Characteristic #1 [10 minutes 44 seconds]

One thing that immediately came to mind for me is that I would often find myself saying, “I’m an activist first, business-person second.”  My life had been driven by my desire to make the world a better place.  I worked in the non-profit sector except for 1 job the summer after high school.  I didn’t have any formal business training.  I thought a lot of others out there starting businesses to create change could relate to this idea of being an activist first, business-person second.


Business Activist Entrepreneur Characteristic #2 [11 minutes 26 seconds]

I definitely think that the person we were trying to describe is also always looking at the triple-bottom line of their endeavor.  Are they making money?  Are they doing good for the environment?  How are they helping people better their lives?  All 3 of these questions are evaluated in designing and running their businesses.  They walk a fine line.  They won’t sacrifice environmental or social impact for more monetary profit but they definitely want to be monetarily profitable as quickly as possible.  They definitely don’t rely on charitable funding.  In fact, they wouldn’t be eligible for tax-deductible contributions anyway.

Business Activist Entrepreneur Characteristic #3 [12 minutes 12 seconds]

From these two aspects, “activist first, business-person second” and “always looking at the triple-bottom-line” we’d add a third and final crucial element: “entrepreneur.” So what about the idea of entrepreneur?  Who is an entrepreneur?  

The best definition we’ve come across is someone who takes something of value and puts it at risk to create something of greater value.  Let’s be clear this is not someone trading on the stock market.  They put value to risk through a business venture – they buy and sell products and services for a profit.  An entrepreneur might start a small business or plan to scale big.  She might be a sole proprietor or a CEO with a large staff.  Those specifics don’t matter as much in our opinions.  What matters is the risk.  Even if the activist business is just a side-hustle right now, there are still risks of time and money with the hope of creating greater value for self, for others, and for the planet.


Putting It All Together [13 minutes 38 seconds]

Let’s put it all together.  A business activist entrepreneur has 3 key characteristics:

  1. “activist first, business person second,”
  2. always looking at the triple-bottom-line, and
  3. takes something of value and puts it at risk to create something of greater value.  

Are these 3 characteristics what drive you and your endeavors?  If so, you’re totally in the right place.  Are there others you think should be included?  Would you tweak any of these?  If so, let us know.  Like we shared before, we want to hear from you.  Leave a comment on this post.  Let’s start a dialogue about the words we use to describe this crazy activist business stuff we’re doing.  I’m sure you’ve come across people who just don’t get you or what you’re doing.  We’d love to help you find the words to describe yourself and your endeavors even better.

A Good Reason to Leave a Comment [14 minutes 48 seconds]

As an extra incentive to join the conversation on the show notes page, we’re going to chose 1 commenter at random and give him or her 1-week to try out Business Activist Academy for free.  You’ll be able to go in and view as much of the content as you’d like in that 1-week.  We’ll do the drawing after the comments reach at least 10 or February 15, 2018 arrives, whichever comes last.  So leave a comment below now and share your thoughts about the term, “business activist entrepreneur” and how you’d define it.


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    I really enjoyed this episode and look forward to many more. Thanks for sharing your experiences and knowledge.

    Good to know where the term “business activist entrepreneur” comes from! I use social enterprise usually, and hadn’t heard the example you gave in story two before. That seems way too broad : “any business doing any good” isn’t a definition of anything. If that was true, every corporation that has a grant-giving foundation would be a social enterprise. Ha! Good on you for creating a new term. Keep up the good work friends!

    Thanks for your comment Beth and all the work you do to serve entrepreneurs making a difference whatever they decide to use as their definition. I agree with story 2 that it seemed very broad and that “any business doing any good” isn’t really a definition. thats why we decided to define business activist entrepreneur in this episode! thanks for listening Beth!

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