The Life-Changing Power of a Good Nap—And a Smart Business Plan
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Social enterprise is often described as a marriage between mission and profit, doing good and doing well. Ideas for socially conscious ventures don’t typically spring from market testing, but from a eureka moment: There’s a problem in the world, and, hey, I know how to fix it.
Those motivating origin myths make for great stories, but many social enterprises fail by getting so caught up in the thrust of inspiration that strategy becomes muddled or is skipped altogether.
Yellow Leaf Hammocks, a rising socially conscious lifestyle brand, could have launched fast after its inspiring moment only to crash and burn. Yet smart planning and business sense gave the company the organic, slow-growth start that offers it the best shot at a sustainable future. Howyou run your company is just as important as why.
The Eureka Moment: Why Hammocks are Awesome
It might take a particular form of corporate burnout to make a man fall madly, wildly in love with a hammock. Or it might take a very special hammock to change a man’s life.
Joe Demin, 28, founder of Yellow Leaf Hammocks, had been lucky by recession standards. Laid off from a green building firm, he landed a finance job at a Big Four consulting firm and was studying for the GMAT. A month before the exam, he and some buddies traveled to Thailand to burn off some steam.
There, outside a shop, Demin found the softest, most comfortable object he’d ever come across—a handwoven hammock. “It was love at first swing,” he says.
Stretched out there, Demin listened to the shopkeeper describe a Thai hill tribe, the Mlabri. Rapid development and deforestation had eliminated all but about 400 Mlabri people and cornered the former hunter-and-gatherers into a small village where they’d been exploited and forced to become slash-and-burn agriculture workers. They suffered exposure to toxic chemicals and high rates of cancer and malaria. Though they wove as many hammocks as they could sell to visiting tourists, their meager living was earned primarily working in deforested fields.
Swinging in the hammock, Demin realized that if selling small numbers of hammocks had created some opportunity for the Mlabri, steady weaving work could build a true alternative. He also realized there wasn’t a major competing hammock brand.