Two Conway business leaders spoke on a panel Tuesday evening about the new face of philanthropy - social entrepreneurship.
The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute and the Clinton School of Public Service hosted Social Entrepreneurs: Doing Well By Doing Good, Tuesday evening.
The event was held to look at new models of philanthropy including social entrepreneurship. The Rockefeller Institute defines social entrepreneurs as those who find innovative solutions to social problems through business practices.
Kathleen Currie, director of programs for the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, said social entrepreneurship is becoming a popular business trend.
“We can buy food, beverages, shoes or eye glasses knowing our purchase goes to purchase one for someone in need,” she said.
Ashton Samuelson, co-founder and owner of Pitza 42, was invited to speak on the panel because of her for-profit business that donates 22 cents to non-profit Feed My Starving Children, for each product purchased at her restaurant.
“Because you came in and purchased a product,” she said, “you can have the benefit of both being full and knowing you helped to create a positive social change.”
Samuelson said the restaurant was the vehicle she used to give to her cause, and the business aspect has been the most challenging part.
“The most important thing is the mission, but we also have to give so much more weight to the product because if you don’t have a product people want to buy, you don’t have that built-in sustainability,” she said.
Samuelson said she and husband Austin developed a passion for hunger when they heard the statistic that 18,000 children die each day from hunger-related causes.
David Knight, executive vice president and general counsel of Stephens, Inc. and member of the board of advisors for Bridge2Rwanda and chair of the Hendrix College Board of Trustees, was invited to speak on the panel because of his work with Bridge2Rwanda and Hendrix Village.
Regarding Hendrix Village, Knight said Hendrix wanted to build a town of green homes for the concepts of new urbanism and walkable neighborhoods.
There are now 40 homes filled with faculty, coaches and members of the community. Students live above the commercial space that consists of two restaurants and a bookstore.
Hendrix recently announced a second phase that will add more student housing, a Purple Cow and bank.
“If there’s anything students like better than purple milkshakes it’s cash,” Knight said.
The Rwanda Presidential Scholars Program takes the top 100 high school students in chemistry, biology, physics and math, and brings them to the U.S., so they can attend college. In exchange, the students go back to work in Rwanda for five years.
The program now involves 18 schools and has 150 students.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has partnered with the Rwanda scholars program offering English as a Second Language courses, the Clinton Presidential Center has provided grants and churches and families have housed students.
Knight said he frequently hears people say that individuals can make a difference, but if individuals can get organizations to come together in a partnership it can make a huge difference, he said.
Rep. David Whitaker (D-85) served as a panelist to talk about the Arkansas Benefit Corporation Act that went into effect this summer.
The bill creates legal security and a certification for socially conscious, for-profit businesses. The act requires these businesses to be more transparent by providing an annual report that includes what was done for society and/or the environment in addition to required financial information.
“You’re attracting the impact investor, the person who wants you to go out and do good things,” Whitaker said.
Knight said the benefit corporation act will make help make capital available to more social entrepreneurs.
It’s clear and upfront what the mission is, what you’re tying to accomplish and shareholders won’t expect a business‘ main goal to be profit, he said.
(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1215. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)