The story of American Capitalism - in all its vibrancy - is one of ongoing tension between two seemingly contradictory ideas: business as the pursuit of profit; and business as a means to secure a better society. As jobs, the economy, and the growing wealth gap dominate our domestic agenda, business is at once lionized and demonized. Unleashed, some claim, business will return jobs to our shores and lift us out of despair. Unleashed, others argue, has given rise to the greed and concentration of riches that are the root of our economic woes.
But what if the dichotomy is false? What if it isn't a zero-sum game and profit and purpose can co-exist seamlessly? In Marshall, Arkansas, Falling Sky Farm founders Cody Hopkins and his wife Andrea Todt are producing grass-fed livestock while transforming the local economy and food environment. In Miami, Florida WorkSquare founder Vanessa Bartram is heating the norms for worker placement, retention, and employer satisfaction by proving that people with tough life circumstances can be great workers; and that businesses that rely on lower skilled workers can be great employers. In Denver, Colorado BOULD founders Shane Gring, Shane Baldauf, and Stephen Lepke are skilling-up green builders as they change the face of affordable housing. In Chicago, Illinois John Piercy's Neighbor Capital is cultivating new and unconventional entrepreneurs as fresh produce Neighbor Carts are cropping-up in neighborhoods once known as food deserts.
These, The Hitachi Foundation's 2012 class of Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneurs, join award recipients from our first two years and the tens of thousands of American entrepreneurs past and present who demonstrate that profit and purpose are not at odds. We launched this program in 2010 in order to discover entrepreneurs whose business innovations had economic and social value. We wanted to learn from those who are inventing sustainable market-based to our most pressing social challenges. The candidates over three years, hailing from 30 states, the District of Columbia, and the US Virgin Islands and reflecting the full range and complexity of our heterogeneity, have been nothing less than awe inspiring. And, all of our prior award recipients are still in business.
Henry Ford began with a vision as invented the systems that defined our industrial age: "An idealist is someone who helps other people be prosperous." If we choose to perpetuate the dichotomy between profit and purpose, we will ever be limiting prosperity. Fortunately, in every generation, there are entrepreneurs who embrace both and see no contradiction.
- Barbara Dyer, President & CEO, The Hitachi Foundation