July 31, 2019, by Sekinah Brodie
Episode #33 of Shades of Success features Cullen Schwarz, a driven individual who aims to empower others to make informed decisions of their purchases. He’s passionate about helping brands that leave a social impact. Even Forbes Magazine recognized the start-up as “Amazon For Good”. As such, individuals should learn to support these brands in making the world a better place. Upon talking with Cullen, I can sense his fulfillment in running DoneGood and partnering with brands that practice sustainability. In this interview, we learn about his experiences in politics, how DoneGood differentiates itself from other online shopping platforms, and his goal towards reaching 1 million users to use the platform for their shopping needs. Listen to the episode here.
Cullen Schwarz is the CEO, founder, and notably the Chief of Good Thoughts of DoneGood. DoneGood is an online shopping platform that aims to carry and support brands that serve a purpose. Over thousands of brands are featured in the DoneGood platform, and he and the team believe that they can partner with more brands to stand up to the “big guys.”
He once served under the Obama Administration as a senior communications advisor. During his tenure in the public sector, he realized the money he gave was towards profit-driven corporations, while there were those in poverty or work in poor labor conditions. So then, he left the public sector and decided to start DoneGood with fellow minded people wanting to promote change through purchases. Since then, he no longer finds a reason to wear suits every day. His dream when he retires is “move to the jungle to write books.”
Cullen and his team founded DoneGood in the summer of 2015. Their mission is to ensure that the money spent could become the greatest force for change. In doing so, DoneGood finds brands with a purpose and commit to creating a sustainable world. With this in mind, it helps enable consumers to become empowered, more aware, and feel good over their spending.
In choosing brands for their platform, they have a thorough approach in ensuring that the brand is committed towards change. The start-up looks for three main components:
DoneGood looks for companies that ensure durable products created with ethical production practices.
The B-Corp wants brands that ensure people are in safe working conditions, empowered workers, not trafficked and not child laborers, and paid living wages.
DoneGood searches for companies that use only renewable energy sources to produce their products and reduce carbon footprint.
So far, over 100,000 people have supported DoneGood and its partner brands and have diverted $500,000 to ensure these companies continue the fight in creating a better world to live in.
[00:29:07] What were some of the biggest challenges when you first started? As far as building your team, figuring out how to run a start-up.
At first, it’s figuring out what it is we’re doing. We’re going to help people use their purchasing power to create change. There’s a lot of different ways to go about that. We actually started more like a Yelp app looking for local brick-and-mortar stores that had a positive social impact. There’s a lot of challenges with that. If, you know, like, we have offices in the same area to meet for coffee, is there a highly ethical sustainable coffee shop in that small area? If you thought, I’m in the mood for Italian food, we have that kind of restaurant three miles away, ethical and sustainable. I’m not walking three miles on foot. You’ve got to go where it’s convenient. The level of change you’re asking people to make is bigger than if it’s like looking for a shirt online. You’ve got to make it easier for people.
[00:41:34] How important is your team in what you do and how do you decide who you’ll bring on?
The team’s critical. We want people to believe in the mission because then we have that shared passion. Diversity is really important. If a large majority of our buyers are women, then it’s good to have the perspective of women in the team. Just having different perspectives from different backgrounds genuinely strengthens the team.
[00:45:00] What do you enjoy most about your work?
You know one of the things that I used to enjoy a lot in the early days, that I still get to do a little bit, but then I don’t as much anymore is talking with people from our partner brands. Everyone’s story is “So then I quit my career to trying to start some business that I really believe in that’s doing something good for the world.” All of these people are really nice, they committed their lives to it and put themselves through hardship. It’s always nice to connect with other brands. There are more conscious consumers than ever. There are more social entrepreneurs than ever. More impact investors than ever. I really believe that over the course of the next century, the biggest ideological shift that will have ever occurred in our time is an idea of what a business ought to be and how to act.
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