Last Update: July 10, 2015
Social problems are aplenty. In the wake of recurring national disasters, environmental issues are front and center of the media landscape. Similarly, activists fight every day to end injustices associated with sexism, racism and economic inequality. From violence to intolerance, social responsibility is prevalent in western society. But what happens when business joins the race to social arms – is it sustainable, a fad or a precursor for things to come?
With the help of several VCU students, one entrepreneur is betting everything, literally, on a trend that he believes will “Inspire, inform and invest in under-served youth – primarily in the areas of new media and internet technology.” Drew Little, the Founder of Illuminated Ventures, seeks to promote producism while providing aspiring talent with a venue to experience startup culture and low-risk ownership.
Little discusses his task to create and keep wealth in local communities and why a lack of resources shouldn’t stop anyone from pursuing their dreams.
Company: The Illuminated Ventures Project
Founder, Age: Drew Little, 27
Location: Richmond, Virginia
Startup Year: 2011
Startup Costs: $50
How I Got Started
I noticed the various socioeconomic problems facing low-income youth, the lack of diversity in new media and how people give-up their passion to pursue monetary gain. So I decided to solve these problems via social entrepreneurship.
By definition, social entrepreneurship is the act of a person who recognizes a social problem and uses web entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change. The web enterprise’s main mission is to positively contribute to a humanitarian and/or environmental cause while making a profit by providing value to local communities.
I understood how technology is second nature to the current generation and the enormous amount of wealth being created from the Internet. Noticing the success of startup incubators such as Y-Combinator, I wanted to bring a similar model to youth in urban areas throughout the country, starting with Richmond, Virginia. I bought our domain name, hosting, and a premium WordPress theme, set up social media accounts and reached out to college students to join our cause.
Best Success Story
Well there’s two actually. The first is one of our projects, Kollage Klub, becoming the media sponsor for the largest fashion show in Virginia, STRUT VCU. The second, is being selected to 33Needs.com to raise startup funds to for our organization. We got selected out of 1000+ startups.
Running a startup with a lack of resources. Our laptops are outdated, we have low-end video and photography equipment, black & white marketing material, and lack of transportation. We’ve taken the grassroots, lean startup route by starting with what we have, provide value to our target market the best way we can, and hope to attract the additional resources we need.
Start now, give, and align your startup with a cause. Get started on your project with the resources you have, and upgrade when the opportunity arises. Network with your target market by learning about their needs and offer your risk-free product or service to build your contacts, gain feedback and establish a customer base.
Lastly, according to research*, consumers think more highly of brands associated with causes they care about (85%). Most consumers are also likely to switch brands if one supports a cause and the other doesn’t (80%). Cause association is a great way to incite trial, given 61 percent of customers say they will try new brands given their cause affiliation. The numbers speak for themselves. People want to do business with organizations that have meaning.
*Source: 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study
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