This editorial article is a part of Growth Companies Month of Technical.ly's editorial calendar.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit the Philly region last spring, Saxbys‘ growth plans took a hard break.
Like many other regional companies, the pandemic was initially devastating for sales and the company’s business model — no longer could folks hang out in its more than two dozen cafes. But the pause gave founder and CEO Nick Bayer the opportunity to revisit something he’d long wished for: to reach the standards needed to register the company as a B Corp.
At their core, B Corps are for-profit companies with social consciences. They voluntarily adopt rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Other local companies that are certified B Corps include Arcweb Technologies, Simply Good Jars, ROAR for Good and Houwzer.
To qualify, companies must meet a certain score on the B Impact Assessment, which examines their impact on their workers, community, environment and customers. It asks questions about a company’s governance structure and accountability, and questions are split into two categories: operations, which covers a company’s day-to-day activities, and impact business models, which awards additional points for business models designed to create additional positive impact.
Bayer said he’d begun applying for the certification a few years ago, only to realize how time consuming it would be. At the time, the company was in growth mode. But with nothing but time in the early days of the pandemic, Bayer said the company threw a ton of resources at bringing its practices up to snuff. B Lab, a Wayne-based nonprofit behind the B Corp idea, certified the company in 2020.
“We’ve never been able to put all this time and attention into it before,” he told Technical.ly. “It was almost like we had a blank slate.”
A decade and a half into the life of the company, here’s why Bayer said his team went for the certification: The business world has become more comfortable with social impact work in recent years than it was in his early days as an entrepreneur. Now, he’d tell others to start the process or keep the standards in mind in the beginning stages of their company.
“We don’t really hear anymore, ‘I want to start a business just because I want to make money,’ which is essentially what I would hear when I was young,” the founder said. “Most people now, most young entrepreneurs, are inherently down to run a double-impact business.”
The assessment process also helped the company realize that certain values it held before, like having a diverse team, needed to be documented, not just idealized. It also showcased that while the company had been doing work in the social impact and workforce development space — including through its Experiential Learning Platform Cafes, where college students get beyond-traditional cafe leadership experience, like professional mentorship and academic credit — it had improvements to make with its environmental impact.
Bayer also said he’s seen a shift toward the rise of mission-driven companies as millennials and Gen Z-ers, two generations who have proven to put their money where their mouths are, gain spending power.
The founder also recognized the strength the B Corp status will give Saxbys to continue its growth, now that it has a handle on its post-pandemic plans. The company currently employs about 200 people, and Bayer said he believes the high standards and mission-driven values will attract top talent.
And customers themselves in the coming years will also likely favor companies with missions over those that are purely for-profit, he said.
“Typically, when you’re trying to grow in old-world capitalism, you’re just making money,” Bayer said. “Growth for us is now double-impact growth. When we grow, inherently so does our impact, our ability to hire more people and get more diverse. We are a stakeholder business, not just a shareholder business.”
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