Can you build a business from values?

Many companies try to incorporate certain values into how they conduct business, but some businesses base their entire plan on values

Melanie Stetson Freeman / Staff / File
Andy Kramb, left, and Greg Levine plant a spruce pine as part of the Trees Atlanta program in Decatur, Ga., in this Feb. 2003 file photo. A new moving company in Nashville, Tenn., pledges to plant two trees every time it helps a customer move.

Many entrepreneurs talk about integrating their values into the vision for a new business. But some take it one step further and actually build a business model based on their values.

Green Truck Moving Co. is a Nashville-based startup that is integrating the founders' commitment to the environment and the community into the mission of their company.

The founders have implemented environmental practices that include using more eco-friendly fuel in their trucks, recycling and reusing moving materials, operating a virtually paperless business and using recycled materials. "While not all consumers are typically inclined to buy solely off a company's values -- say eco-friendliness -- it is important to make consumers understand the potential impact it could have in their own community," said co-founder and Belmont University MBA student Emmanuel Reed.

"We feel our values will help us grow our business, because it is not just a selling point. We have to walk the talk and have our values drive and inspire the people within our organization."

They also commit to plant two trees after each move they perform for their customers.

As the business expands, they have plans to go even further in pursuit of environmental values. Green Truck Moving is developing rentable, reusable containers made of recycled material to replace traditional moving boxes.

Another example of integrating values and vision is a new business called Mattress Works.

This startup, founded by a group of Belmont students, exists to provide employment opportunities for the homeless and to divert waste from landfills through deconstructing and recycling used mattresses.

"We developed Mattress Works out of our passion to encourage environmental sustainability and create social change in the community," said co-founder Emily Hollingsworth.

Mattress Works has secured used mattress suppliers and scrap buyers for two trial runs. It has processed about 160 mattresses between the two pilot operations. This served as proof of concept, which allowed it to test the viability of the business model and identify any weak spots.
After working out some kinks, the founders are moving forward with Mattresses Unlimited as their first supplier, and they are negotiating a contract with a second supplier.

"Our end goal is to transfer the ownership of the venture to a homeless man who has been trained as part of the Mattress Works team, embodying our belief in the power of entrepreneurship to facilitate change in the lives of others," Hollingsworth said.

Hollingsworth is leading a team of students presenting Mattress Works at the Texas Christian University Values and Vision competition this week.
For a growing number of entrepreneurs, starting a business is more than just a vehicle to making money. Entrepreneurship is a path to pursue their values through the vision they create for a business.

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