As CEO of Beth Helmstetter Events, a full-service event design and planning studio in California, I've spent the last over 15 years in the wedding industry.
In 2016, I applied my educational background in nonprofit administration with a personal commitment to philanthropy to create The Good Beginning, an online wedding registry for contributing to charitable causes around the world. In addition to (or in lieu of) a traditional wish list of home essentials, couples can invite their guests to join them in supporting a worthy charity.
I was inspired by the experiences I had while planning weddings in places like Bali, as well personal volunteering missions in Haiti, Nicaragua, Sumba Island and in Los Angeles. I had a strong sense that my clients, and others, may share my personal instincts to give back.
My business has let me marry my business experience with my personal passions while providing couples an outlet to support worthy causes in a way that is accessible, effective and impactful.
Here are six things I've learned over the years.
Don't assume that business and charitable giving are mutually exclusive
When it comes to running a small business where your persona is considered part of the brand, you can assume many of the clients that are attracted to you are of similar mindset — echoing your values and appreciating your pursuit.
When appropriate, embrace the opportunity to show people a different side of your company that aligns with your personal values. That insight could lead to deeper relationships with those in both your personal and professional networks.
Realize it's OK to make money and be charitable
Running a social enterprise can be confusing to some consumers, but with a bit of education and confidence in your charge, you should be able to communicate the charitable mission while also maintaining financial strength.
Use your platform for good
With maturity and success in your business, consider your brand's voice an extension of your own. It's your responsibility to take advantage of that attention and use your business as the springboard for your greater mission. It's not the time to be passive or take a hands-off approach.
This may feel like a risk initially as you may worry about alienating clients, but from experience, I can assure you what you lose will be replaced with far more fulfilling business.
Cover your expenses
Understand that every social endeavor will demand an investment. It's a common misconception about nonprofits that every penny can be fed directly to the charitable organization at the forefront of that mission.
However, the administration of running these businesses are very expensive and you have to understand that you will incur many expenses as you build, maintain and grow that social initiative. Be comfortable implementing and explaining how the funds are disseminated and why, for some ventures, a portion of your funds will need to be reinvested into the business to maintain its sustainability and longevity.
Don't be greedy
Stay true to the intention you set when you started your charitable mission: to help communities in need and initiate positive change. While you need to cover your expenses and cost to operate, the vast majority of income should be serving that goal for charity.
If you are able to turn a profit from that business model, consider either reinvesting the funds into expanding the level of social impact your business commits to or making your own charitable donation.
“Stay true to the intention you set when you started your charitable mission — to help communities in need and initiate positive change.
Prepare for growth
One thing I didn't realize is how adding a social enterprise element to my business would become so essential to our brand, making our services more desirable to those who identified with our charitable mission. As a result, we've seen overwhelming growth and have had to adjust our business model for our main business.
People love to support businesses that align with their own values as well as business owners who are doing their part to make the world a better place.
Beth Helmstetter is a top destination wedding planner in the country as recognized by Harper's Bazaar, Travel & Leisure and Martha Stewart Weddings. She's the CEO and Principle Event Designer of Beth Helmstetter Events, a boutique event company specializing in intimate and approachable multi-day events throughout the world, and the founder of The Good Beginning.