Interview: Project 7 Founder, Tyler Merrick Talks Social Responsibility and Moonlighting Dreams

Learn how Tyler Merrick connects consumers and non-profits, landed Whole Foods as a customer and why he believes entrepreneurs should always moonlight their dreams.

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Social entrepreneurship is on the rise.

Identifying and solving problems on a large scale breathes new life into the age-old concept of humanitarianism. “The role played by entrepreneurs in advancing positive social changes” has shifted, according to New York Times columnist David Bornstein. “I don’t mean businesspeople solving social ills, but people spreading new approaches — through nonprofits and businesses, or within government — to address problems more successfully than in the past.”

“Today, as problems have grown increasingly complex, a big question is how can we reorganize the problem-solving work of society so it is more responsive to needs … Today, our societal challenges — in education, health, or the environment — demand innovation from many directions,” said Bornstein.

Entrepreneur, Tyler Merrick decided to become a benefactor for good and address seven areas for good around the globe. In 2008, Merrick launched Project 7, a socially conscious company dedicated to making “products for good.”

“If people are going to buy things. Lots of things. Then let’s use those things they purchase to help change the world around us. Let’s make everyday products for everyday people to solve everyday problems around the globe,” Merrick notes.

After finding himself at a professional crossroads, Merrick decided to help more people through his business endeavors and be a catalyst for change. Partnering with nonprofits to help provide financial support, Project 7 raises awareness for their partner organizations and aims to educate consumers about global issues. Today the company focuses on seven areas of need: Feed the Hungry, Heal the Sick, Hope for Peace, House the Homeless, Quench the Thirsty, Save the Earth, and Teach them Well.

Learn how Tyler Merrick connects consumers and non-profits, landed Whole Foods as a customer and why he believes new entrepreneurs should always moonlight their dreams.

Company: Project 7
Founders: Tyler Merrick
Location: Costa Mesa, CA
Industry: Food & Beverage
Startup Year: 2008
Startup Costs: Undisclosed

How I Got Started:

I grew up in a family business within the pet food industry in which I worked for seven very successful years following college. While it was a great opportunity both personally and financially, I still was not satisfied and felt that I needed more of a purpose. Specifically, I was making and selling pet food that was better and more than many people in our own country were able to eat or afford.

With that thought, as well as my love for marketing, consumer goods and retail, I decided to create a brand that would give people the power to help others through their purchases. Long story short I thought, why don’t we build a brand around 7 issues that when people buy them they help out one of these areas of need: FEED The Hungry™, HOUSE The Homeless™ and SAVE The Earth™ . People were going to buy “everyday products” anyway so why not give them a buying vehicle where they could choose who and how they wanted to help?

So I started to map out what would become Project 7. I wanted to apply the things I had learned in the pet food world to a new world of consumption, I wanted to create a system where people could feel good about helping someone in need at the same time they were getting something [in return] (i.e. gum, mints, etc …). I also wanted to build a brand that was “always on” when it came to giving, not just a campaign that was off and on during certain times of year.

My ultimate goal was to create 100 items in the grocery store that would be dedicated to issues in our world and each grocery cart purchase began to add up when you added one town with another town and one state with another state and so on.

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