Social Enterprise Company Spotlight: The Mutual

The Mutual is an awesome new social enterprise that rewards people for doing good.  That’s right, you give to get.  You can see why we love them so much.  I had the opportunity to catch up with co-founder and CEO Dan Vallejo.  He was kind enough to share The Mutual story and offer some great job and social enterprise advice.

If you love what you read and happen to be in the NYC metro area, think about interning with The Mutual!  They are currently looking for Mobile Design + Mobile Developer Interns and a Marketing and Social Media Manager.

Tell me a little bit about The Mutual…

The Mutual is social enterprise that rewards people for donating to charity with Perks from great brands.

 

How did The Mutual get started?

The idea came from a study by, OgilvyEarth (where I used to work), which found that while 82% of Americans have good green intentions, only 16% follow through on them. This group of Americans, described as the “Green Gap” represents 66% of the U.S. population, or 156 million Americans who are 18 or older.  This intent to us represents potential energy that could be converted into positive environmental action. The gap between intent and action exists because it is not easy for an individual to affect change, it’s not aligned with their interests and the way they live and it’s difficult to understand your own impact. The Mutual makes creating impact financially rewarding and near effortless.  It’s our way of converting that unfulfilled intent into positive environmental action.

The Mutual helps individuals and businesses operate and live more sustainably by connecting them to non-profit causes in a model that creates value for all three parties.  The Mutual is about making it profitable, rewarding and easy to do what’s best for our planet.

 

What can we expect from The Mutual as you grow?

We have a lot in the pipeline.  I’ll mention a couple initiatives that we’re particularly excited about.

The Mutual recently partnered with a mobile app, 2nd nature that recognizes individuals who share and discover new environmentally friendly products and lifestyle choices.  Going forward, individuals can join The Mutual via 2nd nature and receive access to our network of Perks by maintaining a certain score but will be billed at our monthly donation rate if they do not maintain that score.  We think this model will help people uncover easy and gamified ways to improve their own EcoSocial choices and influence the choices of others.

We are piloting The Mutual as a corporate rewards program.  We sell our product to businesses, which can subscribe their employees.  Each employee gets a Mutual membership and can allocate the cost of the membership (paid by the employer) to a cause of their choosing.  For the corporation, it’s a great employee engagement tool and provides clear visibility, as 80% of the cost represents a charitable donation.  To the employee, it sends a strong message: ‘my company donates on my behalf, cares about the environment, and provides me a with program that gives discounts not only on phones and computers but the deli where I buy lunch every day.’  Given the amount of money corporations donate to charity and spend on incentive programs and branded merchandise annually, we see a tremendous opportunity in this market.

We’re also partnering with the crowdfunding platform LaunchT, to reward their donors, who are supporting social projects with a discounted rate on The Mutual.

 

How does The Mutual have a positive impact on society?

Impact and measurability is an inherent part of what we do. Our model is pretty simple, we incentivize and reward people to donate to charity and live better. Our focus is on democratizing the ability to do good by making it easy and advantageous for people of any income level and businesses of any size to participate in a relevant way.

We’ve made this possible by redesigned the traditional coupon and applying it to a model akin to a balanced ecosystem in which each of the three participants gives to and takes benefits from one another.

 

How do you balance the profit mission and the social mission?

We are a social enterprise and going for our B Corp certification. We have goals in place beyond just maximizing shareholder value. We don’t make money and our company doesn’t succeed if we don’t do a good job driving large, on-going sums of money into the non-profit sector first.

We want to prove that there is a better way to do businesses.

 

What’s your educational background?

I studied marketing and French in school. Since graduating I worked at Ogilvy & Mather, where I definitely learned the bulk of what I know today.

 

How did you get your start in social enterprise?

I always wanted to start my own business and have always had an interest in the non-profit and social sectors. I had the opportunity at Ogilvy to help design and build OgilvyEarth, Ogilvy’s sustainability marketing practice. It was like being on the ground floor of a startup but with a safety net. That’s how I got a taste for it.

Once I cemented the idea for The Mutual, I went out and found the resources, missing skill sets and partners I would need to launch. Once all that was in place, I quit my job and worked night and day with my partner Matt to get The Mutual to launch.

 

What three qualities are a must when looking for a potential employee or intern?

All startups will be looking for specific skill sets like familiarity with Rails or product design. Beyond that we want people who are:

  1. Resourceful
  2. Creative
  3. Relentless

 

If you could give advice to someone looking to get into social enterprise, what would it be?

  1. Share your idea with people. Don’t feel like everyone will try and steel your idea. Feedback at the idea stage is invaluable, it enables you to make improvements before you build anything
  2. Push out light products. Don’t try and create the final, perfect product for launch, it doesn’t exist. Then get feedback and iterate
  3. Listen to user feedback but trust your own ideas. If you ask someone what they want, they will only tell you what they know
  4. Network like crazy. People in our space love to help
  5. Look for smart strategic partnerships, if you don’t have the resources to do something be creative in finding a way to work with a complimentary partner who does
  6. If you don’t love what you’re doing, don’t bother
  7. Don’t ever forget the social part, we are here to do good

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A huge thank you to Dan for taking the time to tell us a little bit more about the fantastic work that The Mutual is doing.  We can’t wait to watch you guys grow.

If you want to keep tabs on them as they grow as well, be sure to follow them on Facebook (/themutual) and Twitter (@the_mutual).  And don’t forget to check out these internship opportunities!

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