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America's Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs

Posted by: John Tozzi on June 8, 2010

Social entrepreneurship isn’t a niche corner of the business world anymore. The idea of using business to create social and environmental value alongside profits has reached nearly every sector of the economy—and that breadth is evident in Bloomberg Businessweek’s second annual U.S. roundup of promising social entrepreneurs.

The 25 finalists profiled in this slide show, culled from more than 200 reader suggestions, include entrepreneurs in insurance, banking, pharmaceuticals, and construction, as well as more conventional social enterprises like organic farms and fair-trade coffee companies. Other entrepreneurs have found opportunity in helping traditional businesses—including titans like Wal-Mart—increase their impact. The companies in our round-up range from fresh startups to established, multimillion-dollar enterprises. All share a commitment to using business to create a broader benefit.

While the idea of “blended value” companies that mix profits and purpose is clearly catching on, not everyone is convinced it’s a good one. Muhammad Yunus, the microfinance pioneer who founded Grameen Bank, argues that when entrepreneurs try to make money and impact, they often compromise their missions for profits. In a new book, Building Social Business, Yunus calls for a new type of company that employs business methods to create social change, without founders taking profit out of it. He challenges what has become conventional wisdom among social entrepreneurs: That businesses can be dedicated to both private profits and public benefits. Read an excerpt here.

Social entrepreneurs are trying to prove that they can. Take a look through our round-up to see how. Then vote on the one you think is most promising. We’ll publish readers’ top five selections on June 29.

Reader Comments

Ravi Mistry/Founder/The Mistry Group

June 9, 2010 4:18 AM

I have been following the social entrepreneurship sector for the past few years, mainly through my involvement as a mentor at Stanford BASES Social E-Challenge competition. I am so delighted to see DripTech's name as one of the top 25; DripTech was a participant at the BASES 2009 competition and received honorable mention. I had the honor of mentoring the co-winner of first prize, Respira Design, that year. A newer kid on the block that is worth watching in future, is Angaza Design, 3rd place winner at the 2010 BASES Social E-Challenge competition that I also had the priviledge of mentoring. Angaza is modeled more in line with Mr. Yunus' new thinking about treating social entrepreneurship as business first. They have a compact solar panel product that would light up the off-grid BoP homes in E. Africa and other similar parts of the world at a cost affordable by these communities.

I heard Mr. Yunus' broadcast on C-SPAN couple of weeks back where Mr. Yunus talked about his efforts to expand "social business" around the world. Mr. Yunus argued that the profit-making power of capitalism can be harnessed to fulfill social needs and build economies. I am reading his new book you mention above.

Support Social Entrepreneurs - they are out there to do the world good.

Founder, The Mistry Group

Felecia Nieves

June 10, 2010 1:13 PM

Thats' good to know. I will keep my eyes on the new kids and see what happens.


December 1, 2010 4:24 AM

Pricing for Social Entrepreneurs Social entrepreneurs have a dual mission in life - to provide quality products and services and help others elevate themselves personally and economically

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What's it like to run your own company today? Entrepreneurs face multiple hurdles new and old, from raising capital and managing employees to keeping up with technology and competing in a global marketplace. In this blog, the Small Business channel's John Tozzi and Nick Leiber discuss the news, trends, and ideas that matter to small business owners. Follow them on Twitter @newentrepreneur.

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