Pitza 42 cofounder Ashton Samuelson will participate in a panel discussion Tuesday about the trend of social entrepreneurship and its role in the future of business and philanthropy.
The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute and the Clinton School of Public Service are hosting Social Entrepreneurship: Doing Well By Doing Good, Tuesday from 3-6 p.m. at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center’s Great Hall.
Jeff LeMaster, director of communications and marketing for the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, described social entrepreneurs as people who are looking to solve social problems by using business models.
Samuelson along with her husband Austin, fit this description with their local business Pitza 42. Through the sale of pizzas made from local pita bread and merchandise, as well as donations from individuals, organizations and businesses, the restaurant raises money to feed malnourished children in Africa.
“It’s a prime example of someone finding a business model not only to drive profit, but to also drive social change,” said Payton Christenberry, program coordinator for the event.
Every 22 cents Pitza 42 makes goes toward providing a meal for a child. Samuelson said using a business model to raise money has proved to be effective as the company has been successful and able to provide more than 438,000 meals to malnourished children.
“Instead of asking for donations,” she said, “we’re asking people to do what they’re going to do anyways. You might as well give back to society while you’re eating lunch.”
In addition to Samuelson, Tuesday’s panel discussion will include two Arkansans who will bring their own experiences and insights to the discussion including David Knight, general council of Stephens Inc. and executive vice president of Bridge2Rwanda, an organization that provides scholarships and opportunities to Rwanda’s top students and Todd Brogdon, CEO of Westrock Coffee, a company that revitalized a neglected coffee mill in East Africa.
The panel will be moderated by state Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock), executive director of the Arkansas Regional innovation Hub, who co-sponsored a bill during the 2013 legislative session to establish benefit corporations in Arkansas, making Arkansas one of 30 sates that have passed or introduced such legislation.
On July 27, the Arkansas Benefit Corporation Act went into effect. The bill creates a corporate structure for socially conscious, for-profit businesses. The act requires businesses to create an annual benefit report outlining the company’s social or environmental performance using third party standards in addition to an annual corporate franchise tax report.
The act also allows corporate directors to think outside the realms of maximizing financial gain. They are protected by law to also consider non-financial stakeholders when following the mission of their business.
Rep. David Whitaker (D-85), primary sponosor of the bill, will also serve as a panelist Tuesday. Arkansas was the 13th state to adopt benefit corporation legislation.
Samuelson said she’s interested in learning more about how the act can enable more entrepreneurs to pursue their interest in social change at Tuesday’s event.
“It’s going to give protection to for-profits, and help shareholders realize that their goal isn’t profit and return, but having a positive impact on society,” she said.
Samuelson said her goal while speaking on the panel will be to encourage young entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams for social change.
“You don’t have to have tons of experience or capital to make a change,” she said. “I remember writing 23 meals on a tiny chalk board when Austin and I first opened. Many people have great ideas. You have to have the courage to go for it.”
The panel discussion will follow a presentation by keynote speaker Matt Flannery, co-founder and CEO of Kiva, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.
A light reception at the Clinton School of Public Service will conclude the event. An opportunity for business leaders and philanthropists to pick each other’s brains and talk about ways to develop more social entrepreneurship in Arkansas, LeMaster said.
The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited and will be handled on a first-come, first served basis.
(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)