By Chris Olsen
Purpose-driven organizations have many things in common. First, they start with a clearly defined purpose. This may seem obvious, but many businesses are challenged to pinpoint their WHY. It’s admirable to want to change the world, but you’ll need to be more specific if you want your audience to get behind it.
Next, these organizations communicate their purpose with conviction every chance they get. Doing so in your founder story is a great place to start, and it’s equally important to integrate WHY throughout your communication channels.
Perhaps most importantly, the founders of purpose-driven businesses demonstrate their values in everything they do. They are authentic and vulnerable, and they show the world what they stand for. And as a result, they attract partners, employees, customers and supporters who not only align with their values, but who value the brand and their connection with it.
Minnesota is home to some amazing womxn-led, purpose-driven organizations. Here are just a few female-indentifying founders who are leading with their WHY and inspiring others to do the same:
Jacquie Berglund, FINNEGANS Brew Company and FINNOVATION Lab
Jacquie Berglund is a disrupter who’s not about to settle for the status quo. She got the idea for what is known today as FINNEGANS beer two decades ago, when there were only a handful of social entrepreneurs using business specifically to do good. In fact, next to Newman’s Own, hers is the second-longest-running social enterprise in the country, donating 100 percent of its profits to help solve a societal problem. For FINNEGANS, that’s alleviating hunger.
When I sat down with Jacquie to learn about her WHY for a feature story, I was not surprised to learn she had always had a heart for giving back—even as a kid. She credits her Catholic upbringing and a family that believed in paying kindness forward. What makes Jacquie extraordinary is that she has not only created a product that has generated nearly $2 million to help feed the hungry, she is also sharing what she’s learned along the way. Through the FINNOVATION Lab, an incubator to help aspiring social entrepreneurs pursue their WHY, she is paying it forward thousands of times over. She’s the definition of a female founder fueled by purpose.
Nancy Lyons, Clockwork
Anyone who’s heard Clockwork founder Nancy Lyons present at an event will tell you she’s the real deal. She’s not shy about taking a stand or rallying around causes she believes in. She’s a trailblazer for workplace diversity and inclusion, an advocate for family equality, and on election day she closes her Minneapolis-based tech company, so employees can vote and advocate for causes close to their hearts.
I interviewed Nancy for a white paper on women in leadership transforming tech a couple of years ago. Not only did she openly share tons of valuable information and industry insights, when the interview was over, she wanted to know more about me. She took an opportunity that was intended to be focused solely on her and her Minneapolis-based technology company and turned it into a two-way conversation—because she genuinely cares about people. It’s no wonder her company has won numerous “best place to work” awards. It was founded on a simple principle: Put people first. Nancy is wholeheartedly living her WHY.
Nora McInerny, Still Kickin and Hot Young Widows Club
Nora McInerny emceed a women’s event I attended, and it was the first time I’d seen her live. She glided on stage like a gazelle in a plain white tee imprinted with her nonprofit’s name—Still Kickin—emblazoned across the front in a rainbow of colors. From my table in the middle of the room, I squinted to get a closer look at the tattooed sleeve on her left arm. I’m pretty sure it included the name of her online community, Hot Young Widow’s Club.
Nora is the founder, creator and chief brand ambassador of many things, and they all have something in common—her WHY. She made it her mission to help others get comfortable with being uncomfortable after her husband Aaron died of brain cancer. His favorite thrift store T-shirt was the inspiration for an apparel line that supports individuals and families going through something awful. Her books, podcast and TEDTalk were all born from her desire to connect with others experiencing grief and loss, to let them know they’re not alone. In being vulnerable, Nora has inspired millions of others to also be brave, share their stories and support one another.
Building Your Brand on Purpose
It all begins with clarifying your WHY. If you need support, My Founder Story offers online tools and live workshops to guide you. Already know your WHY? We can help you build or refresh your brand to better reflect your purpose and to ensure your values shine through. We’re a social enterprise on a mission to support female founders in developing the skills, strategies and assets needed to engage audiences, inspire communities and ignite action.
Why do we do it? Because despite the fact that there are more than 12 million women-owned businesses employing more than 9 million workers, female founders are still being denied critical resources to launch and grow small businesses. Women who confidently communicate their purpose and impact are more likely to receive funding and other resources to ensure their success.
To learn more, give us a ring or drop us a line.
About the author: Chris Olsen is a radio veteran turned communications consultant, educator and author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose”. Through her work as a consultant partnering with startups, Chris realized her WHY—to support womxn-owned businesses in confidently communicating their purpose and impact, setting them up for entrepreneurial success. She created My Founder Story as a platform for doing so.