Successfully Launching a Brand that also Makes a Positive Social Impact
Whether it’s donating one product for every product sold or donating a portion of profits, companies that aim to make a social impact have popped up for all types of businesses. TOMS shoes, Warby Parker glasses, Ark Collective school supplies, and many more. And while the buy one, give one model has been criticized, the prevalence of small businesses that set out on a mission to do good in the world has shed light on what consumers truly desire—and it allows us to take a closer look at brands who are doing it right, like The Soulfull Project.
The Soulfull Project not only provides nourishing food to those who purchase their products, but they also make donations to food banks to help those who are less fortunate. One-sixth of Americans don’t have enough food to eat, and The Soulfull Project aims to tackle this issue and promote healthy, wholesome eating for all. Chip Heim, Co-Founder and Head of Marketing, The Soulfull Project, sat down to chat more about how he runs a business with a buy one, give one model, how they stay connected to the community, and to help us understand why more and more consumers these days want to put their money towards something good.
Tell us a little bit more about how The Soulfull Project operates with its “buy one, give one” model. How does this work from the aspect of running a business?
Chip Heim: We are all about our mission: to provide good, wholesome food to those who need it most and inspire people to get involved in their own communities. We make it easy to make a difference. For every serving of our multigrain hot cereal you buy, we give a serving of our 4 grain blend to a food bank in your region. How great is it that you get to enjoy wholesome, amazing tasting food and someone in need gets to do the same? It’s that thought that inspires us every day. We launched in August 2016 at a handful of Wegmans stores in the Philadelphia area. The sales there benefitted our first three giving partners (Philabundance, Food Bank of South Jersey and Community Food Bank of NJ). We have already donated 42,000 servings, but we aren’t stopping there. We just expanded to 64 Wegmans stores up and down the East Coast including Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. As we grow, so does the number of giving partners we can help. We have begun partnering with more than 200 food banks across the country. We track our sales in each region and work with the food banks to determine how much and when to make our donations.
We’re seeing more and more brands that aim to do some level of social good. Why do you think these types of brands are resonating with consumers?
Chip Heim: Your dollar is your voice. Buying things with a purpose, something that does some type of social good is one way for you to make a difference and support something you believe in. But it’s not the only way -- we are always sharing stories about people who volunteer and the various programs our food bank partners run. When we launched in August, we challenged our team of four people to do 100 volunteer events in 100 days. We called it the Soulfull 100. We met so many amazing people who inspired us that we shared their stories on Facebook. People commented and shared them on their own and we cold see how a brand with a mission like ours resonates. Our brand allows your purchases to live on and have a positive impact on your own community.
Unfortunately for many people today, buying healthy (non-GMO, clean) foods isn’t easy or even possible. Why is making healthy food accessible to all such an important part of your mission?
Chip Heim: According to Feeding America, more than 42 million Americans are food insecure and may not know where they’ll find their next meal. But for us, it’s personal. A few years back, we were visiting a family as part of a research initiative and, unexpectedly, we noticed that they had no food in their home. Their cabinets were empty. They were living hand to mouth, trying to make ends meet. We saw first-hand how they struggled to put good food on the table. While we gave them food and money, we left there knowing we wanted to do something more meaningful, something that could make a bigger impact. We promised ourselves that we would find a way to make a real difference. So we created The Soulfull Project. We found a way to make high-quality, nutritious food more accessible to those in need and we’ve been doing it ever since.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered with the Soulfull Project? How have you and your team overcome them?
Chip Heim: Our biggest challenge right now is spreading the word. Word of mouth is extremely important because our marketing dollars are what pays for the giving. Our vision is to grow beyond breakfast into other categories, maybe even beyond food. We need people to spread the word and share so that we can keep going and make an even bigger impact. The amazing thing is that when you are inspired and talk about it… others get inspired too.
How did you aim to have your mission and core values communicated in your packaging and branding?
Chip Heim: We lead with our mission. Our mission is part of our DNA. So we incorporated the “You Buy One, We Give One” into our logo. We also have an infographic that explains how the giving works. On our larger packages, we have been using images from the volunteer events we participated in and telling the stories of the people we have met in the hopes of inspiring people to get involved. But as I mentioned earlier, this is personal to us and we truly appreciate it when people buy our products, so we decided to hand write “thank you” notes. Under the cup lids there are stickers and on many of the sticker backs, we have written notes to thank people for buying our cereal and for helping us make an impact. To date, we have written over 10,000 notes. And no, they aren’t printed, they are hand written by the team. Because every time someone buys, it does make a difference.
What advice would you offer brands or companies that want to give back to their communities?
Chip Heim: We have been traveling, meeting with various food banks and learning more about their needs and the needs of their communities. The more we learn, the more we realize how many of our neighbors need help. There’s a huge potential for brands and companies to help fight hunger across the country through programs of their own. When brands support local communities it gives people more ways to make an impact. It gives people a chance to feel more connected. Choose a cause that you are passionate about and use that fire that inspires you to inspire others.