Unfortunately this is the predominant belief when it comes to for-profit vs. non-profit business models. KEZA recently converted from a 501c3 non-profit charity to a for-profit social venture.
We spent four years living in Africa so we could listen to the people/culture and learn how to serve her. We are non-traditional and innovative in all we do. KEZA is the result. Here are the top four reasons we converted to a for-profit, and I assure you none of them have to do with greed.
Business Women Not Aid Recipients
As long as the artisans are working for/with a non-profit aid agency, they are recognized by their community as “aid recipients”. But their resounding cry is to be recognized as business women, owning their own business, trading with a US for-profit business. (This is where the dignity comes in.)
We are there to teach independence from aid. Non-profits can buffer their mistakes with donor dollars. As a for-profit, we are subject to profit and loss, like a real business. What better way to teach than to lead by example?
When a boutique or department store hears that we are non-profit, they assume their orders will be late, the quality will be inferior and we will expect a lot of grace because we are “doing good”. As a for-profit, we are expected to be treated as a competitive business partner.
Proof of Viability
We are attempting to inspire investors and corporations to do business in Africa. As a for-profit, we are able to show them a working model that yields comparable quality and profitability, yet remains ethically grounded. There is no better way to entice an investor than to show her proof.
KEZA is a for-profit because we work for Africa, and she’s asking for trade, not aid.