With apologies to Shakespeare, some are born altruistic, some achieve altruism and some may have altruism thrust upon them. Or maybe not. But in some circles there is the belief that altruism has a genetic component. Born altruists are thought to be those who go after jobs in the Peace Corps. They want their work to reflect their desire to uplift those who are not fortunate to be born into auspicious circumstances. These are also the people who volunteer their time, donate money and engage in charitable activities. And when altruists start a business they are likely to be social entrepreneurs, which is not the same thing as social media entrepreneurs. But it could be.
One such notable social entrepreneur is Judy Wick, who co-founded the Free People’s Store with her husband, forty years ago. They sold donated and other used clothing and had a box of free clothes for those who couldn’t afford the rock-bottom prices – aimed at the students at the nearby university in Philadelphia. Eventually, it turns out they were on different pages in very compelling ways and soon enough the couple split. Her now ex-husband, ditched the free idea and reinvented the company that we all know as Urban Outfitters.
But altruism was possibly in Judy’s genes. She created a new venture called the White Dog Café, a successful restaurant that help fund several of her social causes. “It was always very important for me to be a model of a business, to show that the purpose of business should be to serve, and that money should be a tool that we use but not the ultimate goal,” said she. Additionally, Judy questions the wisdom of working to expand a business. To her small is better, otherwise you lose touch and are unable to make informed business decisions. Even after selling White Dog, she insisted that the new owners sign a “social contract” regarding local sourcing and ownership, “green” practices and a commitment to equitable pay for employees.
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