Lauren Bush Lauren: Social Enterprise Is Her Bag
Friday, August 23, 2013
By Donna Fenn
Last week, 30 Under 30 alum Lauren Bush Lauren and I took the stage at SXSW V2V in Las Vegas, where we talked about how she grew FEED Projects into a powerhouse brand. Over the past five years, FEED has donated $6 million and 60 million meals to school children worldwide. While today FEED has more than 55 products, it all began with one: a burlap bag that Bush Lauren designed when she was a student spokesperson for the United Nations World Food Programme.
Here are just a few of Bush Lauren’s musings on building a sustainable social enterprise.
The mission comes first. Bush Lauren first came up with the idea for FEED when her travels with the World Food Programme showed her “the realities of hunger and poverty,” she says. “870 million people around the world are food insecure and that’s a massive, overwhelming statistic, but hunger is a solvable problem. The world has enough food to feed everyone; it’s a distribution problem.”
Feeding needy children in schools by dedicating approximately 10% of each product’s retail price to hunger organizations is her top priority. “Consumers are weary of good-washing and sniff out companies that aren’t authentically doing good work,” she says. “If you’re starting a social business, it has to be the core of your business, not just an extra marketing thing on the side.”
Don’t give up. It was Bush Lauren’s dream to see FEED bags in Whole Foods. While she was still at Princeton, she met the company’s founder, John Mackey, who opened the door for her. Still, it took her more than three years of “physically gong to every single region of Whole Foods to convince them that FEED was a great program.” Ultimately, Whole Foods bought so many bags that FEED was able to feed school children in Rwanda for a year. And the partnership gave FEED the legitimacy it needed to scale.