After working in the non-profit world for three years, I became disenchanted by unbelievable amounts of waste and the lack of innovation. It wasn’t until after leaving this world that I started to see the merit of businesses with social missions. Plenty of people have written about it: how to create a social mission for your business and I’ve seen it pop up across some of the most frequented sites in the business world in the last year or so. I have to say, I’m a big fan of this business model — and there’s one local Boston-based business that really caught my attention: Janji.
To catch you up to speed: I love running. I’ve been recreationally running since 6th grade but didn’t start to really love it until after moving to Boston a few years ago. Like all millennials in ‘browse’ mode, I found myself on instagram scrolling through local Boston running photos and stumbled on Janji.
Their value: ultra-comfortable running gear.
Their mission: To construct, implement, and maintain clean water projects with 10% of every sale.
Their website does a great job at catching their team’s spirit: fun, approachable, and people who know a lot about running. And their homepage video is one of the that successfully tells a story about the people around Janji. Runners, by nature, have the unique quality of being fiercely independent and community-driven — from long hours alone on the road to race events dedicated to charity.
Janji has taken something familiar to runners (philanthropy) and woven it into their brand. Even though traditional brands distance themselves from social or political causes until it’s convenient to step in, they’ve taken the opposite approach. It’s given this small Boston business the opportunity to connect with runners in new ways and create powerful relationships with people formed around something other than the product, which is pretty damn great.
Why do I call these businesses leaders? More so than ever, millennials use their own personal values in determining whether or not to purchase an item. Look at brands like Toms Shoes, whose one-to-one program galvanized people around the brand. I’ll be honest, while balancing price and quality of ingredients, brand values are the biggest influencer for me. Instead of purchasing a product, I’d like to invest in a brand that is giving back to the global community.
“More than 50% of millennials make an effort to buy products from companies that support the causes they care about, according to research from Barkley, an independent advertising agency.”
– 2016 is the Year of the Millennial Customer, Forbes –
Janji’s authentic brand voice, no doubt, stems from it’s founders and staff. I visited last week to pick up some new running clothes and was impressed that the online brand experience translates to in-person. They’re disrupting the world of running clothes, which has traditionally been all about mass-produced and low-quality items, with high-quality gear that gives back —and that, I think, is pretty awesome.
TL;DR: All this talk about how great Janji is got me thinking about my own consulting business and how I could better give back (i.e. that my values as a brand were missing some of my personal values). Honestly, I haven’t let myself think about philanthropy since leaving non-profits and now is the first time in 3 years where I’m coming back to it. It’s going to be a journey to find out who I can work with — after all SEO isn’t all about eCommerce shops, it can also be about thoughts and causes.
In the meantime, join me in taking a look at your brand and see if any of your personal values are missing from it. If they are, think about adding some of them back in to give your work more personality and to bring people around both your product and greater social mission. It’ll be better for you, and the world, in the end.