Are you passionate about a cause? Do you have an idea that can help others and want to learn how to turn your idea into a successful business?

If you aspire to use your business experience to make a positive impact on the world, you might be the next social entrepreneur. The global foundation Ashoka defines social entrepreneurs as “ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues, and offering new ideas for wide-scale change.”

Career goals, cost, faculty. Read more about how to choose the right online program in entrepreneurship.

The following three companies, each with their own mission, demonstrate how social entrepreneurs are building for-profit businesses with products and services designed to solve social problems.

1. The Shoe Company that Gives Back

After seeing children without adequate foot protection in an Argentine village in 2006, Blake Mycoskie founded Tom’s to give shoes to people in need. He styled a simply-designed Argentine shoe for mass appeal. Then Mycoskie capitalized on the low-cost of production to set-up a business model where Tom’s donates a pair of shoes for every one they sell.

To date, Tom’s Shoes has donated over 60 million pairs of shoes to children around the world. The company has also expanded this One for One® model into eyewear, backpacks, and coffee.

 2. The Tech Company that Helps Nonprofits

Founder Dahna Goldstein came up with the idea for Philantech (not part of Altum) while measuring the impact of Ashoka’s fellowship program. She was shocked to learn all tracking was done on paper and that nonprofit organizations and foundations waste up to 13% of grants on administrative work. The company’s online tool, PhilanTrack, helps nonprofits streamline the grant application process and enables them to spend more money delivering services.

Philantech is a certified B Corporation, a worldwide-recognition for socially- and environmentally- responsible companies.

3. The Business that Reduces Waste

After a dinner with eco-friendly friends, TerraCycle founder Tom Szaky was surprised to watch them scrape table scraps into a bin full of red wiggler worms (a popular composting worm). He was even more surprised to see how the friends’ houseplants thrived due to the resulting fertilizer. The next year, Szaky emptied his bank account to start a business using worms to upcycle food waste.

After becoming one of the most well-known, organic fertilizer producers in the world, TerraCycle expanded its mission to eliminate all non-recyclable waste. Today, TerraCycle works with hundreds of major U.S. brands to upcycle waste once destined for landfills into new consumer products.

Social entrepreneurs like Blake Mycoskie, Dahna Goldstein, and Tom Szaky were motivated to start a business from their desire to create positive change. Their success, no matter how important the social issues, wouldn’t be possible without leveraging solid business principles.

If you have a cause you’re passionate about and an idea for how to help others, consider enhancing your business management skills in Capella University’s online MBA in Entrepreneurship program.


The program is offered in both structured and self-paced learning formats. A Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship is also available.

See graduation rates, median student debt, and other information at Capella Results.