Tuesday night we had the immense pleasure in welcoming Andrew Kassoy (left, above), co-founder of B-Lab, to share the story and challenges of getting one of the most influential, field-building organizations in social enterprise off the ground. Kassoy was interviewed by Impact Hub Boulder Managing Director, Greg Berry (right), in a wide-ranging and intimate conversation that covered Kassoy’s inspiration for getting involved in social enterprise, and reviewed the legal, legislative, investing and marketing impacts of B-Corp certification. It ended with an outlook on where the movement is headed, and an engaging Q&A, with the help of CTO and cofounder of Rally Software, Ryan Martens.
About 15 HUB Members, representatives of approximately 10 certified B-Corps, and a large group of Rally staff were greeted by a friendly Impact Hub Boulder team (including new Operations Director Peter Begley), enjoyed fresh organic food and local beer, while they mixed and mingled amidst a diverse group of multi-generational community members.
David Wolf, CIO for BSW, one of Boulder’s top wealth management firms, chats with Laura Foster (right).
Kassoy engages conversation with two community members during networking time.
Bea Steiner, an MBA student at the LEEDS Business School at CU gets to know Riley End, of Given Goods.
Kassoy’s journey from growing up in Boulder, Colorado to working in social enterprise in New York City is one influenced and inspired by many people along his path. His career in the world of social enterprise began as a board member for Echoing Green, where he connected with fellow board members who were part of non-profits with a for-profit component. After some time learning about the innovations in global social enterprise, he formed B-Lab, five years ago with his two best friends from college.
Kassoy spoke about his trials and tribulations in a thoughtful, yet lighthearted manner. It was a long journey – his first two years included delays and challenges, which ultimately provided the founders time to refine their vision. With the certification agency model firmly grounded, Kassoy and his partners invested (technically, donated) an initial tranche to get the organization started. This helped inspire some large foundations with the confidence to provide the substantive philanthropic support which has allowed them to scale their activities.
To become a certified B-Corporation, a company must meet a minimum set of social and environmental standards. They have to pass a rigorous, multi-step process, which includes an on-site visit by a B-Lab team member. After time, he began to notice that businesses began changing their practices to meet B-Lab requirements and standards.
Kassoy spoke about how the financial crisis in 2008 may have been the impetus for creating conversation in this arena. Traditional business leaders began to recognize they needed to do something [in regards to business practices.] Now, more and more B-Corporations are connecting and doing business with each other with sustainable and environmental practices in mind.
The Q&A included thoughtful questions from the audience including how startups can become B-Corps more quickly, what’s happening with B-Corp legislation in Delaware (the state where the most publicly traded companies are registered), and began a discussion about how B-Lab will begin driving consumer-based marketing to increase the demand for certified B-Corps, among others.
Today, there are 580 certified B-Corporations, most of them being in North America, but every day the network is expanding globally to places like India, Ghana, and Brazil. “This has gone from a certification to a global movement to define success in business practices,” Kassoy said. “More and more standards and common definitions are being formed.”
While Greg and Andrew listened to community members’ final questions, Kassoy added how he continues to enjoy his work in the Big Apple. He truly believes “there’s a movement here. It’s all about the entrepreneurs and those willing to support them. We’re creating noise!”
Overall, he intimately shared the evolution of the organization and thoroughly engaged the community members. Andrew was honored by the audience, which showered him with a large round of applause.
Thank you so much to Andrew Kassoy who came to share his story with us, and to all those from our wonderful community who came out to participate!