“Work is love made visible.” ~Kahil Gibran Increasingly, mission-inspired businesses are being created by entrepreneurs who see business as an effective way of creating positive social change. Samovar Tea Lounge, based here in San Francisco, appears to be one of these companies. With a clearly articulated and extremely audacious mission and values statement that claims:
At Samovar, we are in the business of true, deep, positive human connection, aka Love. ..Tea, food, teaware, snacks, sweets, and treats are all just vehicles for connecting us, first to ourselves, and then to those around us.
the company has created a powerful unique selling proposition, that when combined with hard work, product innovation and a shared belief system among its employees and customers sets the foundation for the elements required to create a differentiated, successful and growing retail business. The photo above is from an email newsletter from Samovar. Instead of the traditional promotional offers, coupons, recipe ideas or free shipping announcements found in most retailer email newsletters, Samovar used the majority of the email to share 6 beliefs that were generated as a result of an employee meeting. The first belief states:
To live life to the fullest means making the biggest impact we can, with our limited time here on earth. Creating a momentous impact starts with Love. First for ourselves, and then for others. Let it flow.
Before you react that this must be some kind of church run operation or surely just an eclectic group of twenty first century hippies on the fringe of business success, note that Samovar’s founder Jesse Jacobs opened his first store in 2001, and has opened new stores in 2006 and in 2009. Inc. magazine reported that it has increased revenue from $700,000 in 2005 to $2.3 million in 2008 and had a 230% growth rate. The company’s customer reviews at Yelp are strong and it’s seemingly not only innovating products but also in marketing by generating a wide variety of content in the forms of email newsletters, educational podcasts on ITunes and video tea tips. It even hosted a recent live streaming webinar of Tea & Wine Pairings with Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library, and Kevin Rose of Digg.com. It’s clear that there are many companies that aim to use their businesses to create positive social change. Many do so by helping charitable organizations with dollars or volunteer hours. Some do it by attempting to reduce its environmental impact by reusing boxes to ship e-commerce orders. But in this case it’s not so much the specific initiatives the company takes, but rather how bold it is to clearly state that it’s in the business of love and that its primary operation is merely a way to facilitate human connections. If creating and building an enduring brand is about creating an emotional connection with its customers, and if the savviest marketers understand that successful products (and companies) appeal to the heart, not the mind then what stronger way to accomplish that than through love? I can tell you why love doesn’t make it into strategy discussions more often. It’s because “the word love freaks out businesspeople.” Fortunately there are business leaders such as Mark Sanborn, who recently published a manifesto at changethis.com titled “The Four-Letter Word That Makes Your Work Irresistible,” and who in it provides a framework for how to think about and apply the concept of love to the business world. And there is Isabel Parlett who teaches entrepreneurs to dig deeper than the Language of Information with its descriptions of mere features and benefits in order to develop a Language of Connection to articulate and integrate “the biggest, deepest message” owners are here to share. It’s got to be hard work and to some degree a leap of faith to say you’re in the business of creating love through deep, heartfelt connections instead of just selling a product or service.