Purpose In Action: How Thistle Farms Leverages Its Core Business For Impact
Today’s consumers want to support companies that leverage business to build a better world. Purpose-driven organizations attract consumer advocacy. They also expand opportunities for partnerships, brand storytelling and earned media. Many companies want to position themselves as purposeful trailblazers. But to grow your business with purpose, you must authentically weave mission-based action into your core strategy.
An organization doing an amazing job building its brand around internal culture is Thistle Farms. The social nonprofit dedicates itself to assisting women survivors regain control of their lives. Thistle Farms is building its organization and community around its workforce and the belief that love has the power to heal. All 6 Thistle enterprises employs survivors of trafficking, prostitution, prison, addiction and abuse. By offering wholesome, living wage employment along with two years of free housing and strong community support, Thistle Farms is transforming the lives of women through love and business.
Here’s how Thistle Farms uses business as a force for good:
Leverage core business for impact:
To efficiently build a business around authentic purpose, you must weave impact into the fabric of your organization. By putting purpose first and figuring out ways your business can support your mission, you will build both your brand and social good. Thistle Farms mission is enabled by its businesses. Via the Thistle Farms Shop, the organization sells select goods handcrafted by women survivors — such as the Nourishing Body Butter and the Calm Essential Oil Blend. The more they sell, the more Thistle Farms can provide honest, living wage employment to female survivors. In other words, the enterprise’s impact is married to its bottom line. When your business relies on your impact and your impact relies on your business, you strengthen your brand image and authentically intertwine purpose with profit.
Invite consumers to join the community:
Conscious consumers want to feel like they’re part of the brands they love. When consumers feel they are making a positive impact by buying your product, you can drive consumer goodwill, loyalty and purchases. In addition to selling accessories, body & bath products and home goods, the social enterprise runs The Cafe at Thistle Farms. The Cafe is run by women survivors, many of whom live on its Nashville premises. Customers have a human-to-human connection with the Thistle Farms community every time they visit the cafe. This strengthens the connection between consumers and the brand. Using the concept We First describes as ‘contributory consumption’ in shop, Thistle Farms actively invites consumers to support its mission. Both with financial contributions and physically being at the establishment, consumers feel like they are contributing to a good cause. Ultimately, brands that ignite this sense of community and accessibility within consumers foster emotional ties with their customers and expand their network.
Flexibility to scale your mission:
Just as flexibility is essential in fast paced capital markets, being able to pivot your business to run more efficiently is essential to having the most impact. Via a pop up in a Greek refugee camp, Thistle Farms provides Syrian refugees with gainful employment. The refugees have been repurposing life vests and blankets to make door mats. In less than a year, they’ve sold over 1,000 mats, generating more than $100,000 in proceeds for the refugees. By following their mission, partnering with communities of survivors and applying creative product development, Thistle Farms developed a new purposeful product that’s also providing work to women facing adversity.
By putting your core workforce at the center of your business and social impact you can scale profit and purpose. Thistle Farms is a great example of how to be a ‘mission with a company, rather than a company with a mission’. By prioritizing purpose you will gain clarity on how to build your business in a way that also builds a better world.