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Updated: Dec 20, 2015
Corporate social responsibility: it’s not just for Big Business anymore.
It’s been a record year of well-deserved economic recovery for American small businesses—and overall, the trends are looking up. According to a survey by Yelp, 85 percent of small business owners are feeling bullish about the New Year and expect their revenues to rise in 2016.
On the other hand, 60 percent of entrepreneurs still feel wary about their ability to attract and retain customers and 30 percent still fear competition from larger businesses.
Our suggestion? Create brand loyalty by differentiating your small business from the larger, more generic businesses in town—and give your customers heartwarming reasons to side their wallets with your business for the long-term. Why? As reported by TIME, 77% of American consumers think it’s important for businesses to be socially responsible.
Here are 3 ways to step up your small business social responsibility game—and turn your mission-driven model into your secret to success.
Consumers increasingly care about where their goods and services come from, and how they’re produced. It’s no longer sufficient to have an affordable price tag: today’s increasingly mindful Millennial customer may opt to pay a higher price point for a product that more closely reflects their values.
Anna Larsen, owner of Siren Fish Co., knew her customers cared about where their food came from. That’s why she founded her business upon a belief that consumers deserve affordable access to sustainably-caught seafood.
“What could I personally do to change the way we eat? I had to change the world.”
Customers quickly clamored for more of Siren Fish Co.’s finest local and sustainably caught seafood—beyond its operational headquarters of Sacramento, California. With the help of some affordable financing, Anna launched her first line of frozen sustainable seafood products in grocery stores in 2015, and plans to launch a new website to connect even more local customers directly to the eco-friendly fishermen they love.
In today’s highly competitive marketplace, it’s not enough just to create a good product anymore. The story behind the product matters too: it helps your customers feel a human connection to your brand beyond the first sales transaction.
The story behind Eyal Levy’s chiropractic furniture business, Yogibo, is deeply personal: his “lightbulb” moment happened in 2009 while journeying home to Israel with his very pregnant wife. Through his determination to find a way for her to rest comfortably while traveling, he stumbled upon a local style of stretchy material that had yet to be seen in the United States. Eyal knew Yogibo would make a difference in the lives of individuals undergoing back pain or a pregnancy like his wife—but he was humbly surprised when a different type of customer connected deeply with his product.
“I didn’t expect to make a difference in the lives of adults and children living with Autism and other developmental disorders. Yogibo products are very calming and help build our customers’ confidence. I receive amazing testimonials from therapists all the time, and nothing makes me happier.” Today, Eyal stays involved with his customer community by supporting Autism fundraisers through furniture donations out of his 20+ successful retail stores across the East Coast.
Another smart way to connect with your customers? Share the same values as them, and prove it through your products. Once you’ve identified what your core customer audience cares about most, you can reflect their values in the way you make and sell your goods—and the way you run your business.
Bésame Cosmetics started out as a side passion project, inspired by Fergus and Gabriella Hernandez’s love for beautiful design and the history of vintage make-up. They believed in the simplicity of pre-1950s makeup formulas, made from more natural ingredients and designed for sensitive skin—and it turns out, so did a lot of American shoppers too. “Everything we make, our daughter has to be able to wear. They say an average woman will eat 8 pounds of lipstick in her lifetime, so our commitment to safe products is a huge part of our philosophy.”
Today, Bésame lipstick is rated #1 on Sephora.com, and Fergus credits their passionate customer base—and the immaculate timing of their Funding Circle loan—for propelling their cosmetic line to national recognition. “When we got our Funding Circle loan, we were ecstatic because we knew it was an immediate bridge to a huge opportunity with national retailers. It was a blessing. There’s no other way to say it.”
Do you have a business model that customers can’t help but love? Take advantage of your opportunities for growth with a fast, affordable Funding Circle loan: check your eligibility today!
Paige Smith is a Content Marketing Writer and Senior Contributing Writer at Funding Circle. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and specializes in writing about the intersection of business, finance, and tech. Paige has written for a number of B2B industry leaders, including fintech companies, small business lenders, and business credit resource sites.