Creating Social Value Blog / Social Innovation

What is Different About Creating a Different Business?

By Jennifer-Trisha Kuhanga, Babson Undergraduate Student and Intern at The Lewis Institute.

Leading up to Seth Goldman’s (cofounder of Honest Tea) fireside chat with Heidi Heck we gave out free copies of his book “Mission in a Bottle” at Good Business Fridays (GBF). According to the founders of Honest Tea, this book is “the honest guide to doing business differently”. During the GBF discussion we talked about the things that inspire us as we aspire to become socially aware business people. One student spoke about how he is motivated to combine the powers of art and business as a means of inspiring the world. Another student said that the idea of sustaining a business without having profit as the only end goal excites her. Another young lady spoke about how she is drawn to social enterprise because she feels the need to give back to her community.

After the discussion I thought about what it really means to do business differently.  I mean, since we are all different people . . . isn’t that inevitable?  What is a different business? How do you do business differently? We all have our own views about business, but how is it that only a few people do business “differently”? How can Babson students do business differently if we are all taught the same concepts? What’s the secret ingredient (and can I sell it J)?

Well, I still don’t have the answer to these questions. But the fireside chat with Seth Goldman on Monday ignited a light bulb in my mind. Seth was asked about how Honest Tea survived among several other tea companies. He replied that the word “tea” is not as powerful as the word “honest”. His perception was not to create a tea company, but to create an “Honest Tea” company. He was also asked about the times when he thought of throwing in the towel. Seth replied that there were no such times.  He said the thought of giving up never crossed his mind because he simply did not perceive failure. Therefore he didn’t create failure.

It became clearer to me that maybe the secret to doing business differently lies in our perceptions of business. Our business actions are guided more by our perceptions of business than the fixed concepts that we are taught in class. While certain theories of business remain constant, it is possible to approach business differently if we chose that perception of it. Our perceptions of business and how we do business are synonymous because people can only create what they can perceive. When we decide to create our own perceptions of business we realize that there are really no bounds, and that the “rules to doing business” are just there as guides not hard and fast instructions.

As aspiring business people, it is imperative that we evaluate and recreate our perceptions of business, before we create a business . . . differently.