Philanthropy Is Good BusinessA conversation with…Joley (40), entrepreneur and business owner, Dallas, Texas

When she was growing up, Joley and her mother used to experiment with the natural herbs they grew, and would create creams and lotions that they gave as gifts. Then people wanted to buy them. So she started a company, got funding and hired the technical help needed to ensure the quality of the products, and one thing led to another. Her company is now one of the fastest growing and most successful businesses in Texas. It has also been a model for how small businesses could be philanthropic.

“A few years ago I was invited to a dinner party…Lots of people I didn’t know, a bunch of new faces, that sort of thing. Anyway, I was seated next to this woman and we were just making conversation about what we did for a living. We started talking about my company and I mentioned that one of the things we did was at the end of the year was to give to a handful of local charities – and that who and how much we gave depended on our revenues that year. I guess I thought she’d tell me how wonderful and generous that was…no matter how much we gave.

Instead she asked me about what my company stood for…you know; what its values were, what my passions were. Then she began talking to me about what she called “building a brand” and saying that our brand should communicate specific company values to people. That, she told me, is how a small company like mine could really get some traction in the marketplace.

Something she said really resonated with me: ‘People all have to do business with someone; and most of them want to do it with someone they like and who thinks like they do.’

That’s when I started to get serious about making charitable giving a big part of my company. It was not just a marketing gimmick, it became a way of life for us. Within a few years we were known as much for being socially responsible, for giving back, and for being supportive of local charities as we were for our line of beauty and skin care products. It became our brand: To a lot of people our products and our philanthropy went hand in hand.

"It wasn't just a marketing gimmick, it was a way of life for all of us."

What’s more, it opened doors for me. It was like my world got bigger overnight and so did the business. We expanded into Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and Louisiana and every time we entered into a new market our management team made giving back as much a part of the process as the site selection, cost analysis and market study.

Frankly I couldn’t have put our corporate philanthropy program together without some help. My attorney, the philanthropic advisory firm we hired, and our marketing and HR heads, worked closely together on making a program that would have real meaning. We set up a 2 to 1 employee contribution match. We paid them to volunteer. We supported programs that were really important to me personally...to employees...to our communities. And we grew. We were known as a company heart…and people just seemed to respond to that. And I’m not just talking about our customers, but our employees too. It helped retention. It helped recruiting too. We just seemed to start attracting a better level of employee.

Look, I know adding a charitable giving program as part of a business strategy may not work for all companies, but it certainly had an impact on my company. In fact, I’ve been putting some of the ideas to work in my personal giving. I’ve become a lot more thoughtful now and more focused on achieving specific objectives. I guess you could say I’m thinking with both my head and my heart.

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