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Key Idea: Start A Business To Fund A Cause

Debra St. Claire shows that customers will buy from you when they know they are helping a good cause.  She is helping to fund the Ethno-Medicine Preservation Project.

Key Question:


One way to stand out in the crowd is to attach yourself to a cause.

First, customers like to buy products when they know some profits are going to a good cause, and second, the cause keeps the entire company jazzed about what they're all doing. It especially works on Debra.

People who suffer from feelings of uselessness are often urged to go out and do something for someone else. Stop studying your bellybutton and, by all means, stop your whining. Get out of yourself. The same is true for companies. If you focus all of your attention on yourself and how much money you and each employee is going to make, cynicism sets in. Debra is enthusiastic about indigenous medicine. This wakes her up every day, and she's giving the vegetarians of the world a strong peppermint to displace Altoids. She's good, she's getting two things done at once. That's efficient and that's smart.

Q:   There are at least two big reasons that doing good is good for business. What might those be?

A:   The most obvious reason and the one that we have talked about here before is: Customers like the good feeling they get when a part of their money goes to a good cause. Most all small business owners work in their communities and make donations to local causes. But several of the ones we have studied here have had "the cause" as part of a corporate strategy and are committed to a particular issue. Two Hands in Providence works with a school for children with disabities while Katz Deli gives 10% of its sales from one particular table to Aids Research.

The second reason doing good is good for business is that the employees are energized by helping others. Coming to work every day is not just about making money. It is about doing for others.Or, it is about trying to changing the way people act. In the case of EcoNatural, they want to stop the distruction of native plants.

Keeping people productive and focused on a task is hard.With Debra's "cause" foremost in people's mind, she has a much better chance to recruit and retain quality people than if she was simply trying to get the world to use her breath mints. We met some employees at Sundance Catalog  who told us they like working in a business that has a cause.

Q: Did Debra's strategy to buy land in Peru help her beyond the two ideas we've just discussed?

A:  Yes. Her cause helped her raise money. She attended a conference on the topic of how to be a socially responsible business and met a woman who invested $10,000 to help her.

Think about it

What charity work are you already investing in?  Is cause marketing a strategy that might work for your business?

Clip from: St. Claire's Mints & Organic Sweets (EcoNatural Solutions)

Boulder, Colorado: Debra St.Claire started her business, EcoNatural Solutions in 1993 to begin manufacturing  a totally organic breath mint and a healthy candy for children and adults.  She is an herbalist, naturalist, and vegetarian. When she learned that there was beef gelatin in her favorite peppermints, she was so disappointed, she said, "I'll make my own!"

Today St.Claire's Organic Sweets are on thousands of store shelves around the world.

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St. Claire's Organics started as EcoNatural Solutions, Inc.

St. Claire's Organic Sweets, a global business

6235 Lookout Road
Boulder, CO 80301

Visit our web site:

Office: 303-527-1554

Business Classification:
food processing

Year Founded: 1993

Start A Business To Fund A Cause

HATTIE: (Voiceover) The cause Deborah is most interested in is the preservation of the medicinal plant knowledge of indigenous peoples. The current project is in the Amazon Basin of Peru, where land has been purchased to save a wide variety of plants for research.

DEBRA: (Voiceover) Ten percent of the profits flow to the Ethno-Medicine Preservation Project.

HATTIE: What is a socially responsible company?

DEBRA: It's a company that has a mission statement that keeps it in line with things that are good for the planet. So a socially responsible company -- let me just tell you how ours is socially responsible -- I use ingredients in my product that I feel comfortable giving to my own children. The base of our product, organic molasses granules, is better than refined white sugar. Again, you asked me about Altoids. They use white sugar. They use beef gelatin. I use organic molasses granules. It's a totally vegetarian product. So I made myself a niche in that respect. How could I be different with a strong powerful breath mint?

My situation at the point that I started this company is that I had recently divorced and I had two children. I had to find a way to make my living as well as carry the responsibility for this huge project and create a company and a product line. So the whole weight of everything that happens in the first point of financial stability was above me like this.

HATTIE: DEBRA ... why didn't you go get a job?

DEBRA: Remember I told you about my father, `You're too stubborn to work for anyone else. You'd better do it yourself.' Because I'm a leader. I don't follow well. I'm the point on the tip of a spear.

HATTIE: You had to create your own.

DEBRA: I had to. This is what I do. This is the way I arrange my life.

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