Written by Kate Flynn, Co-founder & CEO
Like many people, I had no idea what a B-Corp was until recently. (Still don’t know? Learn more here!). I saw the little “B” symbol on the back of a Patagonia Provisions package a couple years ago. A Patagonia employee explained to me what it meant, and I instantly thought to myself - “that sounds awesome - one day when Sun & Swell is a big company - I want to be one of those.” I made up my mind without asking any more questions that getting B-Corp certified was a super expensive, super hard to get status that only companies the size and stature of Patagonia could achieve, and didn’t think about it again for a while.
Several months later I was introduced to some local entrepreneurs - Avery and Becky from Everoot Consulting. I met them initially to talk about what it’s like launching a business. I quickly learned they were in the business of making other businesses more sustainable, and they specifically suggested we explore becoming a B-Corp. My immediate questions:
- “Wait, aren’t we too small?”
- “We don’t do everything perfectly - we still have so much room to improve - I don’t think we’d be able to get certified!”
- “I don’t think we’ll be able to afford it!”
Avery and Becky reassured me these were all false assumptions, and that becoming a B-Corp was totally achievable for a business our size, in our position, and in our financial situation.
So began our B-Corp journey. Now that we are certified, I can’t recommend it enough - especially to early stage companies. I am SO grateful we did it when we did and am a huge advocate for any size business to pursue the certification. For reference, we completed our B-Corp certification when we were doing about ~$50K in revenue, and definitely not profitable!
Here are the top 3 reasons I am so glad we became a B-Corp (and am extra grateful we did it as a young company!).
#1: It gives you guardrails. I often say our B-Corp is our ‘North Star.’ Being a B-Corp makes decision making easier for me as a founder because it gives me guardrails. I am constantly faced with decisions that make me consider whether to do something the ‘better’ way, and doing things the more cost efficient way. Of course, building a sustainable business financially is top of mind for me. But a B-Corp gives me permission - and requires me! - to think about more than just the bottom line.
Here’s a simple example: Our main ingredient is dates. Southern California - where we are based - is a mecca of dates. We are often approached at trade shows about buying imported dates that are slightly less expensive. For me, this is an easy, hard no - because as a B-Corp, we are committed to sourcing locally when possible. In the case of dates, it is entirely possible and economically practical. Without having the B-Corp as a guiding light and reminding me I need to think about everything - not just cost - I would be much more likely to consider the cheaper option.
Keep in mind - this never means I would make decisions that are not economically feasible for our business. For example, we can’t offer amazing employee benefits for our small but amazing team right now, because we financially just can’t afford it. But it is a #1 priority once we can? Absolutely.
#2: The earlier you do it, the easier it is. One of the first questions I get from people about becoming a B-Corp is - “was it hard??” Honestly - I can see how for a big, established company, it could be really hard. The amount of stakeholders that would need to be involved, changes that would need to be made, and financial impact would be a huge undertaking.
But for a small company - where all of the decisions are made by myself and my co-founder - it was pretty easy. It involved a lot of policy documentation, and some decisions that are way easier to make now than they would be if we were big. For example, in order to incentivize carpooling (something that helps our B-Corp score), we give our employees $1 towards the farmers market everyday they carpool. Can we afford less than $100 / month to incentivize our employees to carpool? Absolutely! And now that’s built into our business model. But you can see how this little policy change for us early on is super easy and affordable, but if you’re a big company with thousands of employees, not so much.
I should add - our certification process was made extra easy because of the help from our amazing friends at Everoot. Could I have eventually gotten the certification without any help? Probably...but as a founder, my most precious resource is time. And having Everoot guide me through the process efficiently it super seamless and achievable in a short amount of time.
#3: THE COMMUNITY! The B-Corp community is legit. Just a couple of reasons why:
- We want to support each other! We buy each others products. We prioritize each other as vendors. We collaborate on brand partnerships. We are stoked to help each other out.
- We proudly wear our B-Corp ‘badge of honor’ together. Like most B-Corps, we of course rock our B-Corp sign at tradeshows. I can’t tell you how many people came up to us at Expo West just to say ‘Hiiii!! We’re also a B-Corp! Woohoo!” It’s like finding out someone is an alum from the same college as you. Instant connection.
- And most importantly - we are all on the same mission: to use business force for good! As a founder with an early stage company, there’s nothing more important that surrounding myself with like-minded people and businesses. People who challenge me to do better, people I feel accountable to, and people I can lean on for help that I know have a similar mindset to me.
To summarize - thinking of becoming a B-Corp? JUST DO IT!