Companies with Purpose: Why We Should be Building Them and Buying from Them

by Deepti Sharma, Founder and CEO of FoodtoEat

The millennials have arrived. There will be 73 million of us by the end of this year. We’ll be the largest generation in U.S. history, with the largest share of consumer purchasing power to match (thanks for passing the baton Baby Boomers!)

And if you haven’t heard by now, we want our brands to stand for something. It’s not just about “what” they’re selling, but “why” they’re doing it. According to Forbes, millennials prefer to use their buying power with companies who emphasize sustainable manufacturing methods and ethical business standards. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because 81% of millennials even expect companies to actually make public declarations of their corporate citizenship.

Deepti Sharma, Courtesy of Deepti Sharma

Companies like Nike and Bumble have taken clear steps to articulate their values, and have been roundly rewarded for their socially conscious approach. It’s not just “good” for the sake of being good, but good for business as well.

But while it’s in vogue today to build a mission-driven business like FoodtoEat, that wasn’t the case when I founded the business in 2011. It was difficult then for customers to understand the value in a service that supports local women as well as minority and immigrant-run food businesses. It was a question of budget for our corporate clients, rather than purpose.

But now times have changed. Having a clear mission on what you do as a service and why you do it is essential to your success and expected by your customers.

At FoodtoEat, we have two core, complementary missions. First, help minority, women, and immigrant-owned food vendors scale their catering businesses. We take over their sales and marketing for a big-ticket, highly profitable part of the business, and share their stories with large businesses in the community. Second, help corporations reinvest in their local communities through food. Too often they think about diversity and purpose strictly from an internal recruiting standpoint. Instead, they can successfully execute on their corporate social responsibility and diversity goals simply by reinvesting in their local food ecosystem.

We recently launched our own social campaign called #IMadeYourFood to take our efforts one step further and literally identify the human beings who create our customers’ meals. We want those consuming the food to understand the importance of their purchase and pay homage to those who enable them to enjoy one of the most critical parts of their day (eating!) We believe it’s important that our clients (and New Yorkers in general) have a better understanding of the human beings who create and cook and deliver their food everyday: their background, their beliefs, their passions, and their stories. Putting these stories at the forefront of our business forms a lasting connection between the maker and the consumer. It bridges the gap between two otherwise disconnected individuals.

For our vendors, the campaign has helped many of them discover their “brand”. Instead of simply putting food on a plate, they’re understanding how their experiences and values influence their business, and how they too can better articulate these values to win over a new generation of customers. They’re seeing themselves as true entrepreneurs, rather than merely operators.

The term “Millennial” generally sparks a range of emotions these days. What’s undeniable though is the sheer size of their purchasing power, and their ability to influence the direction of some of our largest corporations. They’ve spoken – they want their businesses to stand for something.

It’s taken some time since we first started FoodtoEat, but it’s exciting to see more major companies expand their efforts in supporting the immigrants, women, and minorities that have dedicated their lives to nourishing ours.

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