Impact-driven individuals create impact-driven categories

If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities. — Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou — such individuality, imagination, and originality. I’m constantly in awe of her. The impact she had on people’s lives is profound.

I only knew of Maya’s poetry and a bit about her childhood abuse. What I didn’t know was:

  • She was the first black female director in Hollywood
  • She was an activist that worked with Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X
  • She was on two presidential committees — Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter

What I love about Maya is not just the poetry but how she “performs” it. She has had such an impact on contemporary literature. She IS an impact-driven category.

Source — https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maya-angelou-ttu-2012-tn1.jpg

I listened to Christopher Lochhead’s podcast episode with Gero Leson, from Dr. Bronner. Hearing Gero Leson talk about the roots of the company and about Emanuel Bronner, I came to a firm realization.

If the entrepreneur/founder is at his/her core — an impact-driven individual, then they can’t help but translate that impact into everything they do. The challenge though lies in making mindful decisions every day that enhance that impact and not reduce it.

From the label, the activism, the decision to not bring in external sources of funding all point to one-thing — Dr. Bronner’s didn’t want to dilute impact for-profit and market share.

As Christopher noted, this courage of conviction has strengthened their brand and category. It has enabled them to remain relevant and profitable for over 70 years.

Many functional category creators and leaders become irrelevant, lose market share to newer categories or merely die a natural death in much shorter periods of time.

The reason? The founder wasn’t a true believer. They didn’t maintain their impact and idealism. They gave it up for more profits, market share, and investors.

There is an interesting parallel I noticed amongst impact-driven founders. The category they create and dominate is almost a by-product of their beliefs. They didn’t start out (I think) knowing they wanted to create a category to create market share. They started out wanting to promote their ideals and morals to the world. They choose to do it through their product. And inadvertently end up creating an impact-driven category and movement.

And this is captured perfectly in what Maya Angelou said to George Plimpton, as detailed by Poetry Foundation:

“Once I got into it I realized I was following a tradition established by Frederick Douglass — the slave narrative — speaking in the first-person singular talking about the first-person plural, always saying I meaning ‘we.’ And what a responsibility. Trying to work with that form, the autobiographical mode, to change it, to make it bigger, richer, finer, and more inclusive in the twentieth century has been a great challenge for me.” Source — https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/maya-angelou

She only realized later the tradition she was following. Because she leads with her impact. Her impact spoke in the form of her poetry.

Similar parallels can be drawn between other impact-driven category creators like TOMS, Everlane, Conscious Coffees, Angel Hub, and more.

But Dr. Bronner’s has managed to pass down the impact through generations. And that’s quite a feat. Creating impact-driven categories that also honor the legacy of the founder and lasts generations.

I can write about creating impact boards, Wicked 7 clauses, and impact-driven category design. But what really matters is for us to care enough to stand up to what we believe in. Care enough to focus on the long-term societal benefits and less on short-term profit. Care enough to wake up every day and hold steadfast to our beliefs and impact. Care about this planet and its future. Care enough to understand that what's good for society is ultimately what’s good for the individual. We need to consciously care!

In closing, I would like to thank Christopher Lochhead for inspiring me to write this post. Go, Pirates!!!!

Impact-Driven Category Designer | Working group member Wicked 7