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'Good' Ideas: News for Socially Conscious Business Owners


Socially responsible business practices – including organic, fair trade, handmade, giving back, and going green – are becoming the norm for for-profit, as well as nonprofit, businesses. We’re committed to covering this side of small business with our weekly wrap-up of news affecting businesses that have embraced this socially responsible model, combining a for-profit business with nonprofit sensibilities.

Best of the Best
From software developers to recyclers, the country is rife with some of the world's most promising social entrepreneurs. This week, Bloomberg BusinssWeek's John Tozzi highlights 25 of the top socially responsible business leaders. Among them are Jonathan Cedar, founder of fuel-efficient cook stove maker BioLite, and Eric Hudson, founder of Preserve Products, one of the first businesses in the U.S. to make toothbrushes, shaving razors, and tableware entirely out of recycled plastics .

Handmade Help
One possible component of being a socially conscious brand is to also be one that produces handmade products.  BusinessNewsDaily writes this week about Timothy Adam, a successful seller on Etsy , the online handmade marketplace, and author of "How to Make Money Using Etsy: A Guide to the Online Marketplace for Crafts and Handmade Products." Adam offers five tips for succeeding on Etsy, including treating it like a business and having varying price points.

First Steps
While it might seem like now is a terrible time to start a new venture, socially responsible businesses are thriving like never before. Susan Moran of the New York Times has suggestions for getting in on the trend; she wrote last week about how to get started as a social entrepreneur. The article offers advice from socially conscious business leaders and investors. Hiring creative people and looking for funding options outside of venture capitals are among the tips.

More Time to Get it Started
Young social entrepreneurs now have a bit longer to pursue their dreams, without the need for their own health insurance. BusinessNewsDaily reported last week on a new law requiring health insurance providers to extend coverage to the children of their subscribers until the children reach age 26, and how it’s giving would-be-entrepreneurs more of a chance to get their new venture off the ground. The article reported that before the law took effect this year, some young adults felt deterred from starting businesses because of the prospect of hefty insurance bills.

Help in Growing
One socially responsible business wanting to expand has turned to the industry's leader for some help.  Fast Company's Morgan Clendaniel writes this week about a competition that RecycleBank – the company offering redeemable rewards for recycling and other good behavior – held for young entrepreneurs in the StartingBloc Fellowship Program. The program exposes emerging leaders to new methods for achieving social impact. The more than 100 fellows had the opportunity to formulate business plans that would quickly increase RecycleBank user base as it tries to expand its offerings beyond curbside recycling.

A Second Chance
While it might not be the popular hire, there are businesses bucking the trend and giving ex-offenders a chance at employment. BusinessNewsDaily writes today about several of these owners who have seen first hand the positive impact that these one-time prison inmates have had on their operation. Among those taking the chance is Chicagoan Jim Andrews, who not only employs ex-offender at his paper company, but also built a business around them called Felony Franks.

Here are three business ideas on how to integrate a socially conscious aspect into your business plan:

Mamma Chia: the first ready-to-drink, organic chia seed beverage. The company donates 1 percent of its gross sales to support healthy, local food systems.
On Twitter @MammaChia1

T.S. Designs: a custom printed T-shirt company that uses organic cotton, lower-impact water-based ink and alternative energy sources to run its operation.
On Twitter @TSDesigns

Ember Arts:  a company that partners with women in Uganda, East Africa to create jewelry using recycled paper and plastic.  Through this connection to the American market, the Ugandan partners are able to rebuild their lives and families after a devastating civil war.
On Twitter @EmberArts

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.