What Should a Business’ Role in the Community Be?

Small business owners, like everyone else, often find themselves pondering what role they play in their community. They, after all, are tied to a physical location (unless they are e-commerce only business) and must rely on others for labor, supplies and a sense of community.
One of my favorite poems is by John Donne. In part, it reads,

“No man is an island entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main;

There is not a lot of deep meaning to it. Its meaning is transparent: we’re all connected! Simple, but important.
Here is Kona Impact’s take on our role in our community:

  1. We need to maintain financial viability to exist. Making money is rule #1, as, without it, we’re, as they say, toast.
  2. Providing good, stable work conditions and pay for our employees is a very important part of our mission. Providing jobs, good jobs, is one way we serve our community.
  3. Avoiding evil. We recycle. We don’t dump toxic chemicals on the street. We pay our fair share of taxes. We do things as safely as possible. In other words, we try to do no harm to our community as we run our business.
  4. We help other businesses achieve financial viability through our goods and services. We love to see an entrepreneur take an idea and eventually make a living from it. Even better is when we can make them successful enough to where they need to hire people and provide good jobs to our community.
  5. We buy locally whenever we can. Supporting our community is best done by helping the other businesses survive, and even thrive.
  6. We give a lot of our time to our community. This includes serving on Boards of Directors, volunteers on community projects and sharing what we know to help non-profits do things better, more efficiently.
  7. We give a lot of stuff at a greatly reduced cost to community groups that do good and have values aligned with ours. For example, we give big discounts on our services to some communities of faith (i.e., churches) that have active programs for taking care of our homeless population, people with disabilities, recovering addicts and other marginalized people that can use a hand up.
  8. We give away a lot of product to a select group of local non-profits that are near and dear to our hearts. This includes our local community theater, a group that works with teens, a non-profit that works with families with children in need.

What we don’t do:

  1. Support groups that aren’t based in our community. We might do this with our personal funds, but Kona Impact only supports local groups.
  2. Write a bunch of small checks every year to all the groups that request donations. We give several thousand dollars a year to a handful of groups, but long ago, decided that we wanted to avoid getting on the mailing and donation list of many groups. It’s highly inefficient to keep sending out solicitations and processing small donations, so we decided to focus on the most efficient ways we can help our community: going deep with a handful of causes close to our values and saying “no” to the rest.

So, to the question in the title, we at Kona Impact believe that we have a deep and important connection to our community. We live here. We raise our children here. We work here. We play here. We’re not always perfect, but we do try very hard to keep our community-centric values as we go out running our business.

Kona Impact LLC 74-5599 Luhia Street, E-7, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740 808-329-6077