During this year’s online SXSW conference, entrepreneur, investor, and author Jonathan Quarles participated in a fireside chat with One America Works Founder Patrick McKenna. Their virtual session was titled “Making Dollars While Making Change” and the conversation focused on purpose-driven entrepreneurship. The idea of making change and doing business is the direction that many companies and entrepreneurs are heading.
This popular session centered around the idea that businesses that do social impact work are growing, many of whom are led by individuals that value social change for their communities. A few of the key insights from the session include:
Passion and Purpose are Critical Ingredients to Success
Jonathan and Patrick shared that many of the most successful entrepreneurs they know decided to work in areas that resonate with them personally, aligning passion, inspiration, and the desire to make an impact. They would see a problem that was socially or personally important to them and create solutions to address those problems. It is truly a matter of finding the “why”, considering what about your unique personal or professional background gives you insight to create solutions that will succeed in the market.
Both Jonathan and Patrick have used their passion and drive to pursue successful business ventures. After watching his mother and millions of other families be continually underserved by the financial services industry, Patrick co-founded Facet Wealth. Now, this company is disrupting the wealth management industry and showing all clients what is possible with the right tools for the next generation of financial life management. Similarly, Jonathan grew up in Flint and when the water crisis happened, it was an opportunity to make strategic investments in real solutions. Putting people first over profit eventually allowed everything else to fall into place. Now Jonathan leads Quartz Water Source, a company that serves as a second-line water solution for places like Flint, Baltimore, and others while operating with a triple bottom line to maximize economic, social, and environmental impact.
There is Money in Social Impact
Money is a tool. It can be used to do some wonderful things. In the case of these entrepreneurs, they wanted to connect the idea of making money and making change. In doing so, they have helped create some very successful companies. Doing business with a double or triple bottom line with socially meaningful outcomes is often financially sound. Tackling social issues by creating a business can work. Understanding the purpose and importance of the “why” behind the work motivates people, allowing them to attract and track capital investments. Additionally, socially conscious businesses are attractive to consumers. Many of them are not just looking for companies that can produce an amazing product, but want to know what the companies are doing to create change in the work and the environment.
Talent and Innovation are Everywhere
Many people think narrowly about where the best talent is – the innovators and disruptors of the world. Often, people don’t look beyond the coast in places like Silicon Valley, New York, and Seattle. But the reality is that talented people exist outside of the traditional corridors. Patrick stated that he specifically looks outside of Silicon Valley for unique entrepreneurs who are dealing with unique problems in their communities and have deep, constructive insights. During his career, Patrick has deployed venture capital at the early stage across with the idea that people who have a different background see the world differently and if there’s a business there, he can offer networking capitalism.
Middle America needs Access
One of the ways that Patrick has furthered the idea that talent and innovation are everywhere and that diversity of thought can bring big benefits to companies is through Catalyst Opportunity Funds. They’ve raised $150 million of investment capital to plug directly into middle American cities, places with a lot of growth potential that do not have as much access to capital.
Talented individuals can also benefit from expanded access. A lot of intelligent, skilled people did not make the move to a coastal city to pursue a career. Maybe they didn’t have the opportunity because they have to work, got to state school, or any number of factors that put them on a different path and didn’t lead them to the typical ways people get to Silicon Valley or Wall Street. Knowing this has allowed people like Jonathan and Patrick to attack these problems with new solutions, reinforcing the idea that talent is everywhere, and technology can enable those talented people to work or a creative entrepreneur to bring a new service to market.
Access goes beyond that too. Many entrepreneurs in smaller hubs need access to capital and a network in order to fund and support innovative ideas. In fact, Jonathan and Patrick met in Aspen, but that eventually led them to Flint on a tour. Their networks of highly-connected individuals and resources were quickly exposed to places like Baltimore and Flint where amazing people and ideas are abundant. Since then, a lot of impactful investments have been made in these places and others. Expanding access makes that possible.
Overall, there were several great insights shared at this session between these two entrepreneurs with their unique backgrounds, experiences, and successes. To learn more about how to invest in some of America’s growing cities, check out One America Works and follow Jonathan and Patrick on Twitter to stay connected.