Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A First Look at Social Business

Something I wrote awhile ago, and found it happenstance as I was cleaning out me email files: My brain has a great way of always trying to turn some small annoyance or idea into a business plan. One of these business plans began with the annoying task of matching small white socks for three little children. One day as I sat and matched, I began with the usual process of wondering if there was a better way. Usually, my ideas come pretty much in their complete form; and thus started my business: smart socks. Smart socks would include colored toe-seams for the same sized sock. Thus each child’s socks would have a different colored toe seam. That would make mating and shelving a whole lot simpler. Then came the idea of having new socks appear at my doorstep every four months. Of course the socks would perfectly match the others that I already had. Thus I could always feel free to toss any that had become stained or that had a hole. Individual matches would never be an issue because, every sock would match every other sock. And of course, I would receive a little reply card before the actual shipment where I could mark if I needed the company to move my child to the next size up. I had the whole product line: colors for boys and girls, quality demands, different sock styles perfectly arranged in my mind. The nature of the shipments, and the facts that the socks would always match the previous ones I already had, in my mind made a great marketing and returning customer tool. The idea could easily expand into t-shirts and underwear also. Taking care of the basic underclothing needs of kids is something a mother has to do, but is often procrastinated until it might be a little embarassing for someone to see the state of my children’s underwear conditions. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it just automatically happened every few months without a lot of effort on my part? In Jan 2001, I sent off an email to Hanes about my idea. I tried to be vague. I wanted a business partner, not just an implementation of my ideas. But within a couple of years, there was Hanes with my "colored toe seams." I have enjoyed using them. They have been a small miracle in the laundry chores of motherhood. And for a time a forgot about the idea of business. But over the years of buying these socks, the quality is less than I would prefer, buying what might seem like the same socks from different stores often produces two imperfectly matched socks. And I have yet to get an automatic shipment to my door. I new there was still room for my business. In late 2009, I picked up a book by Muhammad Yunus. The books was on micro-banking and social business. A social business is a non-loss, non-dividend company designed to address a social objective Now, I had the missing key. Providing great socks and underwear service to mothers was one things, clothing the naked was another. My business idea is now named Our Brothers Keepers. Smart socks will just be a product in the overall idea. Basically, my business will operate as a way to stock Clothes Closets in every county in the United States, and maybe beyond. My idea is to have every family that joins Our Brothers Keepers Smart Socks program, pay for at least one extra complete set of under clothing for some other child in their county. Even though I don’t want to operate as a not for profit (I would like to make a nice living for my family doing this,) my first aim is "to clothe the naked." Smart Socks is just the vehicle to get this done.

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