The Rise of Social Enterprise
When Samar Shaheryar, 36, and Alicia Wieser, 29, got together for a playdate with their newborns in Hong Kong two years ago, this busienss Baby Hero, an organic baby products business, was born. “We’d had difficult deliveries and our colleague, who had a complicated C-section, was convinced she would have died in childbirth if she’d lived 100 years ago,” recalls Shaheryar. “I remember thinking ‘that’s still happening in parts of the world’.”
With years of experience working in investment banking in New York City and working with non-profits, the duo decided to create a for-profit social enterprise – financed with their own funds and sweat equity – as their primary business, with a non-profit foundation set up to improve maternal and infant health in developing countries. “In the non-profit world, you have to hustle for every dollar to effect change. It’s not a very effective way of making a positive impact on the world,” says Shaheryar. “As a for-profit business we can have a bigger impact on women and children and be more sustainable.”
For every product purchased on Baby Hero, the company donates a clean birth kit, containing essentials for delivery, to a mother in Pakistan. “Every day, 800 mothers die due to labour complications and three million infacts die a year in developing countris,” says Shaheryar. “That’s pretty horrific because most of those deaths are preventable with these low-cost measures.” To date, they’ve donated 827 clean birth kits and aim to be profitable by 2015.
As a social enterprise, Baby Hero embraces the triple bottom line principle of economic sustainability, positive social impact and minimal environmental impact. “We’re giving back with the clean birth kit and we have chosen to have a completely ethical supply chain,” says Wieser. “Our products are made with sustainable organic cotton at a fair-labout certified factory. From seed to shelf we’ve tried to create an ethical product that’s doing good at every touch pount and we’re extremely proud of that.”