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Six Questions for … Jon Carson


Jon Carson is the chairman and CEO of BiddingforGood, a website that allows businesses and organizations to auction off products or services for charitable fundraising. He is also a serial entrepreneur who has lectured at Yale University and Babson College in Massachusetts and has served on the boards of the e-Philanthropy Foundation, National PTA, National School Boards Foundation, and the Small Business Association of New England.

He tells BusinessNewsDaily about social entrepreneurship, the benefit of auctions to small businesses and the joys of being a new father. He also explains why health insurance is the biggest waste of a small businesses’ money.

BusinessNewsDaily: How do you define social entrepreneurship? Does it mean you have to be nonprofit?

Jon Carson: A social entrepreneur is someone who takes a risk to start an enterprise whose core reason for being is to address a society need. While many are nonprofit, there is room for for-profit enterprises. … The for-profit, by definition, is more sustainable, because it does not need to go back to the well. In our case, BiddingForGood’s purpose in life is to expand the fundraising capacity of the nonprofit sector by creating a new category of e-commerce called charitable commerce.

BND: How can small businesses get more involved in helping their communities?

J.C.: There are three primary ways:

  1. Share your human capital and enable employees to volunteer for local community projects.
  2. Try to buy and hire locally.
  3. Support your community with your product to the degree feasible.

BND: How useful are "bidding" sites to small businesses looking to purchase what they need while keeping costs low?

J.C.: Auctions are the most efficient pricing mechanism there is, so small business will always get the best price from an auction website. It’s great for the buyer and good for the sellers who have low costs.

BND: What's the thing small businesses most often overpay for?

J.C.: Health insurance. It is shameful how much insurance companies charge small business vs. larger business. We are NOT that much more expensive to administer, and our employee populations are not noticeably sicker or older. And public records show that small businesses have a much lower percentage of their premium dollar going for actual health care delivery.

BND: How did you come up with the idea for BiddingforGood?

J.C.: The initial idea was not mine. My contribution was continuous improvement to building out a vibrant shopper community of 200,000-plus consumers and enabling advertisers to provide product to our clients in a way that gave them marketing benefit.

BND: What's the most surprising thing about fatherhood?

J.C.: How much you can love something, and how kids remind you of your own mortality and the need to make a difference.

Carson has started and sold three companies, most recently FamilyEducation Network (Fen.com), which used a unique public/private partnership model to become the largest education portal on the Internet. He is currently on the board of Taunton Press, a midsize publisher of magazines, books, and websites, and Net-Impact, a national organization of 240 college and MBA chapters promoting corporate social responsibility and social entrepreneurship.

Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.