It’s been said that eight in ten millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to corporate social responsibility. Millenials today expect more than just a good product to win them over thanks to companies like Warby Parker and Toms who have made it cool to “buy one and give one”. Today’s cause-sumption nature has made an incredible impact in America and beyond. There are thousands of new startups that are not only thriving, but changing and improving the world. These Social Enterprises, or For Purpose businesses are starting to become a mainstream way of doing business in America.  We’ve curated a list of some inspiring startups that are shaping the future while contributing to the greater good.


Sseko is a fashion brand making a sizable difference in a social problem – women’s education. Sseko, a shoe and accessory company, provides jobs to women in Uganda after high school and helps them save for university. At the end of their work period, Sseko matches up to 100% of the women’s savings for school. To date, Sseko has helped 71 women continue on to university.


In patriarchal and male-dominated societies, women cannot access the same employment and economic opportunities as men. Sseko partners with a non-profit, then works with women who have recently come out of the commercial sex industry.


“Providing stable, dignifying and fair wage employment is a key component to keeping women from entering back into prostitution. We believe that every woman has the capacity to end the cycle of poverty and that it can be done in a way that is fair, dignifying, honoring and life-giving.”


The company believes that a large part of economic development lies in the business sector and by providing sustainable jobs, they can address the deeper issues of extreme poverty instead of simply treating the symptoms.


Sparrow is a mobile carrier that provides a free mobile device to a person in need to break the cycle of poverty. They have teamed up with Black Girls Code and the Latino Startup Alliance to teach young girls of color mobile app coding.


Sparrow was launched as “BetterWorld Wireless” in 2014 and evolved into Sparrow in 2015 after rebranding. They landed on ‘Sparrow’ because sparrows are one of the most common songbirds in the world and the Latin word ‘spero’ means hope. The company aims to spread hope and make mobile just as common as the sparrow.


“Children in Kenya are learning to read so they can read to learn, girls across the U.S. are learning how to code and becoming the next generation of technology makers, women small business owners in Malaysia are becoming entrepreneurs through mentoring, and homeless individuals in the U.S. are getting smartphones and, more importantly, on-going service to help them get back on their feet.”



Boxed Water is Better provides filtered water packaged in paper, a renewable resource, rather than plastic. They also use 1% of their sales to support reforestation and water relief. Their carbon footprint is lower due to their shipping process and they only work with responsibly managed forests.


The company also succeeds in its social media initiatives. The Retree project aims to encourage customers to post a picture with boxed water on social media with the hashtag #Retree. In response, the National Forest Foundation will plant two new trees for each post. Social media goes hand in hand with a social mission because of the connection created online when sharing values with friends and followers. Those followers, in turn, are more likely to get involved.

Boxed Water via The Denver MBA

According to Millennial Magazine, Boxed Water is Better’s tree-planting commitment of one million trees over five years is the single largest tree-planting commitment the National Forest Foundation has ever received.


TreeShirts sells sustainable organic cotton and bamboo t-shirts, shipped in envelopes composed of recycled newspaper, to make a positive change in our environmental landscape. They donate $5 from each sale to fight deforestation; currently they are planting in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil.


They have found that “centering [their] startup around a social mission has really given it purpose.” In just over a year, TreeShirts has evolved from a college entrepreneurship project to a fully fledged business. The founders, RJ Hoover and Tess Barsody of John Carroll University, were inspired to create a business that had a positive impact and informed consumers about environmental issues. “Companies today are more horizontal and transparent than ever before. Partners, employees, consumers and the public are greater informed on business practices and principles. A company is a reflection of its people and what they stand for.”


Does all this talk of the future of Social Enterprise have you itching to launch your own startup? Here’s a word to the wise, don’t go it alone, or blind. The Daniels College of Business reinvented our MBA program to provide its students the opportunity to launch their own startups. We understand firsthand the best and fastest way to learn how to do something new is to start from scratch—whether it is a new company or a new initiative inside a big organization.

Students will interface with incubators, successful new businesses and new product launches for real-world learning. There is a reason Forbes has ranked Denver #2 for the best place to launch a startup. Don’t be left in the dust with an MBA earned while you sat in a classroom for two years. What are you waiting for? Emerge ahead of the game by applying to The Denver MBA today.

Images via Sseko Designs | Boxed Water is Better | TreeShirts | Sparrow