A few weeks ago, we were approached by Jenn Viane Riese, a San Jose, California-based social entrepreneur who wanted to get more involved with the Social Business community. She has a background in non-profit and marketing, runs a consulting business called Modern Humanity, and is in the midst of launching her own social enterprise, Modist Market, which she describes as "the Moxie/Modcloth mashup for socially conscious designer fashion." (We'll be featuring it on SocialBusiness.org as soon as it launches.)
After learning about her projects, we were eager to share her story with you. In the interview below she talks about her own business models, her sources of inspiration, and the differences between CSR and truly adhering to a triple bottom line.
4 Questions With Jenn Viane Riese
1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
Consumers today are demanding more from companies – they want to know that a company’s values align with their practices and procedures, marketing and sales, and the way in which they treat their customers and employees. A company can no longer say they support Breast Cancer Awareness because they slap a pink ribbon on their product or website – they need to prove their care and support goes far beyond marketing just to look good. But it is a process for a company to think and change their business to a triple bottom line – people, planet, profits – and not just profits.
Traditionally, marketing and advertising companies use “cause marketing” as a tool, not a rule, so they’ve fallen behind on what consumers really want to see -- cause-related partnerships that are impactful and important. With this changing tide among consumers, it became apparent to me that helping nonprofits align with a strategic for-profit partner is the best way to raise awareness for their cause and help companies take a step in becoming concerned with the triple bottom line.
2. How did you decide to join this sector?
I’ve been in marketing and business development for nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses since I graduated Santa Clara University. During that time, I’ve been actively involved in several nonprofit organizations and community groups and I determined the best way to help nonprofits succeed is not by working for or starting another one, but by leveraging for-profit partnerships and starting my own for-profit social enterprise.
I’m currently working on two startups, one with friends, which is a mobile app for retailers, and my passion project that I’m developing on my own: an online marketplace for sustainable designer fashion –- mission-based with the intention to create ongoing funding and awareness for causes making a positive impact on the most underdeveloped communities around the world.
3. How do you get your inspiration?
I find inspiration in the thought that my work may one day prevent my children and grandchildren from having to experience any of the many injustices people face in the world today. But more than inspiration, I feel it’s my responsibility to help others because it’s how I was raised. Instead of telling me I had to be an attorney or doctor, my parents showed me I could change the world by volunteering and aspiring to live by the simple rule of being respectful and kind to people, not because it makes you feel good, but because it’s what people deserve. My mom introduced me to volunteerism at a young age and my dad built an amazing career in the Entertainment Industry (not always known for its humanity) on this principle. When I became a mother, I realized how important it was to instill this in my children and practice what I preach. To see so many people suffer in need is reason to dedicate a life to helping them.
4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
“Can you do coffee, lunch or drinks?” has resulted in amazing conversations and insights from people –- old friends, new friends, acquaintances, strangers -– who always have something to share that I can learn from. I’ve also been actively involved in groups like Women 2.0, Startup Weekend and accelerator programs like Startup Monthly. Being surrounded by creative people motivates me to do more and challenge myself. But showers are my reset button, it’s where I do my best work –- I scribble things on the shower door, and read them out loud several times to remember them for notes later!