This fall, I had the pleasure of attending the annual B Corp Champions Retreat. I was an anomaly there: in a room full of 350+ business leaders I was the lone nonprofit leader, invited to speak about the work we’re championing in West Michigan to “Measure What Matters.”
It was incredible to spend a week with like-minded entrepreneurs – creatives growing financially profitable enterprises that are making deep, meaningful impacts, on their communities.
One of the days, we had the opportunity to tour a local B Corp. I chose Vermont Creamery and learned about their year effort to build a sustainable local food system in Vermont. Founded thirty years ago by two young entrepreneurs, Vermont Creamery now employs 40+ people and supports over twenty dairy farms. They’ve won a plethora of awards for their high quality artisan cheese, and as the demand for their product has grown it has outstripped their supply of raw material (goat milk). Instead of buying milk from overseas, the Creamery recently pulled together several creative financing partners, purchased a heritage farm, and started to build its own goat herd. They have plans to train new farmers and to supply them with carefully curated goat herds (and a guarantee to purchase their milk). They are creating new jobs and expanding opportunities for entrepreneurs in their own community. And, they’re helping to preserve the traditional agricultural landscape in Vermont.
This is just one example of the way a local business can leverage its success to create positive outcomes for its community. At the Champions Retreat, I was surrounded by 350+ such examples – a bakery willing to hire anyone who asks for a job (including ex-offenders), a paper company rethinking sustainable foresting, a pet toy manufacturer using its buying power to drive demand for recycled materials. You name it – someone was working on it.
Entrepreneurs are passionate people with the means to create impact. Right now, there are five certified B Corps in West Michigan (and many others who care about their social and environmental impact). I came back from the Champions Retreat inspired to help these leaders connect. What could happen if we, as a community, made a concerted effort to leverage the power of business to create good?
From the statewide roll out of Good for Michigan to celebrating Local First’s 15th Anniversary to kicking off our annual Fork Fest in the fall, 2018 was an exciting year for Local First, our members, and community partners.