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Mark Dusseau

8 mins read

7 Practical Tips for Building a Profitable Mission-Driven Business as a Black Founder

Mark Dusseau’s journey through the foster care system has instilled in him a deep commitment to social impact.

His company, Dusseau and Company, is dedicated to leveraging software technology development to create positive social change. With a background in creating predictive models for leading companies and governmental bodies, Mark’s expertise spans various domains.

In this article, Mark addresses a few tips for building a profitable business model for a mission-driven startup.

1. Profit = Mission

The first point is more of a mental shift. When creating businesses that impact the world positively and that are for-profit, we must understand that without a healthy, profitable business, the mission is unlikely to succeed–no matter how good our intentions are. After all, the lifeline of any business is cash flow.

While “why” you start your business shouldn’t be focused on just making money, we must maintain a profitable business model that aligns with our vision and mission.

2. Tap into the community

A startup’s biggest challenge is creating hype around a new business idea, service, or product. Without a working product, sometimes it’s harder to get your potential customers excited about what you are building. In the case of a business that has a clear purpose, marketing your concept is easier. That’s because you can build a community early on around your mission. 

Here’s an example: let’s say you are building a sneaker brand that donates a pair of sneakers to disadvantaged kids every time it sells a sneaker; you can build a community to shed light on some of the basic needs some children need in certain circumstances. As you develop your products, you tell a story to draw others in and create buzz around your product.

3. Having a great mission doesn’t negate the need for market research.

Remember how I talked about having a great mission that will help sell your products? Yes, that is true. But there’s a caveat: only if you are truly solving a problem worth solving and there’s a big enough market of people willing to pay for the solution to the problem.

Having a great mission doesn’t necessarily mean people will want the product or service you offer. While your target audience might love your mission, most people buy things they see as needed.

As a result, you want to ensure that you perform some form of market research, either formally or informally, with your target audience to see if you are building a product to solve a problem worth solving.

4. Market the mission

There’s no point in having a great mission if no one knows about it. Use the mission to get free press, interviews, and other opportunities to get as many eyeballs as possible on your business and mission. The bonus point is that if you are in a highly saturated marketplace, the mission is part of what will differentiate you.

In addition to being a pioneer in the eyewear industry, Warby Parker has excelled in marketing their mission. Their ‘Buy a Pair, Give a Pair’ program is a part of their business model and a compelling narrative that resonates with customers.

Through engaging content on social media and partnerships with influencers who align with their values, Warby Parker has effectively used their mission to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

5. Pay attention to trends and pivot when needed.

While having a mission-driven business makes your business model different from a traditional business, it’s at the same time no different from running any other business. Pay attention to trends and pivot when needed; ensure you stay true to your core mission.

Blueland, for instance, started with a mission to reduce single-use plastic waste through innovative cleaning products. As sustainability gained momentum, Blueland capitalized on the trend by expanding its product line and emphasizing the zero-waste movement.

They pivoted by introducing refillable cleaning tablets and leveraging a subscription model. This aligned with environmental concerns and appealed to consumers looking for convenient and eco-friendly cleaning solutions.

6. Don’t let the unknown scare you.

Starting a positive impact-driven business can be daunting, especially if you can’t find similar companies in your industry. It’s important to remember, however, that uncertainty is a natural part of the entrepreneurial journey. Instead of seeing uncertainties as a roadblock, view it as an opportunity for growth and innovation. For a positive impact-driven business, you are working to change what is, so it might be difficult to find a working blueprint. 

Take, for example, Patagonia, a renowned outdoor clothing company with a strong commitment to environmental sustainability. When they started incorporating recycled materials into their products, they faced skepticism from the industry.

The path to sustainability was relatively unexplored in the fashion world then. However, Patagonia persisted; now, they are a profitable business and a beacon of sustainability in the fashion industry.

7. Learn from unrelated industries.

Finally, starting a mission-driven business might be challenging because sometimes we don’t see others doing what we do. However, while there might not be a direct working business model that you can learn from when it comes to your chosen service, product, business, or industry, there might be another unrelated service you can learn from.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you build an artificial intelligence application or create a one-in-kind coffee shop experience. So long as you have a mission, you’ll find many other examples of mission-driven companies making an impact. Draw inspiration from it, learn from it, tweak it, and apply the positives to your business. 

At the end of the day, it’s up to us to make change through the businesses we build, no matter how big or small, because the truth is – no one is coming! Together, we can truly create a positive impact on each other’s lives. 

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