The deadline is fast approaching for BusinessWeek's competition to determine America's top social entrepreneurs. To root for your favorite socially responsible enterprise -- among 25 total finalists -- vote here by day's end tomorrow, April 26, 2009.
Social entrepreneurs -- enterprising individuals who apply business practices to solving societal problems such as poverty, pollution and poor nutrition — are now 30,000 strong and growing, according to B Lab, a nonprofit organization that certifies these purpose-driven companies. Together, they represent some $40 billion in revenue.
Not surprising, then, that they've caught the attention of venture capitalists such as those at Acumen Fund, a nonprofit that invests in companies that try to alleviate poverty, and Bay Area Equity Fund, which backs businesses aiming to make social or environmental improvements to San Francisco's needier neighborhoods.
President Barack Obama -- whose campaign pledge to "help small businesses by cutting health-care costs, improving access to capital and investing in innovation and development," and post-election Recovery Act delivers significant funding for small businesses -- has even suggested starting a new government agency to help socially conscious startups gain more access to venture capital.
In January, BusinessWeek asked readers and a few members of the social enterprise community to nominate candidates whose trailblazing companies, in operation for at least a year, aimed to turn a profit while tackling social ills.
After the call for nominations ended on Feb. 20, BusinessWeek staff sifted through more than 200, and narrowed the impressive group down to a final 25:
* Academic Earth
* BigBelly Solar
* D.light Design
* Fair Trade Sports
* Green Coast Enterprises
* Ground Report
* HeatSpring Learning Institute
* Impact Makers
* Innova Materials
* Interrupcion Fair Trade
* Microfinance International Corporation
* Peaceworks Holdings
* Restore Products
* Revolution Foods
* Social Venture Technology Group
* Stonyfield Farm
* TOMS Shoes
You can view a slide show that features all 25 finalists, and then vote for your favorite company through tomorrow, April 26. BusinessWeek will announce the top five vote-getters on May 2.
GoodBiz113's take: This is truly an amazing endeavor by BusinessWeek to recognize innovative small businesses leading the entrepreneurial way toward social justice on such a far-reaching scale -- locally, nationally and globally. We're especially pleased that Stonyfield Farm, whom we originally featured in October 2006 ["Recycline-Stonyfield Partnership Milks Resources to Benefit the Environment, Consumers and Each Other"], is among this year's 25 finalists.
SOURCES: Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Plan for Small Business, BusinessWeek, U.S. Small Business Administration
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