Sarah McLachlan and the founders of Lilith and the i4c Campaign want you to know that attendees will be in for music and participation in a global effort to support eco-conscious entrepreneurs at the 2010 Lilith Festival kicking off this month. Not only will part of the ticket proceeds go to support local charities, but the “Village” at each of the festival’s 36 venues will showcase the winning recipients of a capital infusion made by Lilith through the i4c Campaign.
“Supporting social causes has always been a top priority for Lilith Fair, so partnering with the i4c Campaign was a perfect fit,” McLachlan tells FastCompany.com. In fact, Lilith’s last run (between 1997-99) generated over $10 million for worthy causes. This year, the i4c Campaign will act as the steering arm to distribute much-needed growth capital from the Lilith Impact Fund to socially conscious enterprises. The move, says Casey Verbeck, founder of i4c, comes in response to the lack of resources available to businesses in the triple bottom line sector–those that focus on people, planet, and profit.
Though summer music festivals are hardly the place you’d think to find anything more entrepreneurial than those enterprising T-shirt and hemp necklace peddlers, Lilith the concert, as well as the village, are getting a makeover.
Starting with the name (they dropped the Fair to reflect the shift in artistic focus away from folk) the festival’s founders, most notably that queen of feminista groove McLachlan, decided it was time to take a more aggressive stand on education–both musical and environmental. By showcasing acts that range from such time-honored artists as Emmylou Harris and Carly Simon to up-and-comer pop stars Ke$ha and Selena Gomez, concertgoers will get exposure to talent they might not seek out on their own. Adds Verbeck, “By bringing moms and their teenage daughters together, we’ll be able to get two generations with completely different perspectives.”
That motley collection of Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials is exactly the pool of people ripe for leveraging the message of the winning companies which include Better World Books, ToGo Ware, and Alter-Eco. A nonprofit, Grameen America, was selected as well.
Just as music has evolved, says Verbeck, the spirit of Lilith has too. “It is all about an open arms experience,” he declares, and one which he hopes will inspire the audience, “to take away and grow from.” And of course, to buy from. Each company will have their products available for sale in the i4c Village at each venue.
“The whole point and mission of how to reshape the future,” continues Verbeck earnestly, “is to focus on entrepreneurship and collaboration. These companies are tackling serious issues and doing it in a sustainable way. A paradigm shift in big companies is not easy to achieve, but with [these winners] that emphasis is equal out of the gate.”
Before he veers off completely into warm and fuzzy territory, Verbeck admits the vetting process was tough because there is no shortage of companies that offered products or services that appealed to women. But eventually 128 hopefuls got whittled down to three that hit all the marks. Says Verbeck, “We lifted up the covers to see who was following best practices, had positive cash flow, and had a sustainable business model. If they are using this (funding) as a launching pad, we want them to be around in a few years.”
So whether you’ll be meeting them in person at the festival, or if you’re just playing along at home, here’s an introduction to, “the change-making entrepreneurs that will help create a better future and have a significant positive impact on global challenges.” McLachlan adds, “It’s inspiring to be working with people who are truly making a difference in the world with their businesses.”
What They Do: The company imports, markets and sells sturdy, reusable utensils and storage containers that replace single-use plastics. The bamboo cutlery and stainless steel tiffins (nifty stacked lunchboxes that hail from India) are sustainable and BPA-Free alternatives.
How They Plan to Leverage Lilith: Founder and CEO Stephanie Bernstein says the investment capital will help the company to grow by adding more staff but the Village will allow To-Go Ware to stretch its audience. “The largest part of our customer base is natural markets from Whole Foods to independent co-ops. We want to go beyond and do for utensils what Nalgene did for the water bottle,” says Bernstein.
To do this, she plans to highlight how the company keeps close tabs across its supply chain. “We are as transparent as we are green,” she says, “And we make decisions on the whole life cycle of the product.” That said, Bernstein hopes she’ll appeal to the more mainstream consumer that Lilith will draw this year. Rather than preaching to the (hippie) choir, Bernstein admits, “We’d like to preach to the hipper choir.”
What They Do: Alter-Eco is an importer of a broad range of 100% fair trade, organic and carbon neutral food products that ensure maximum value for small producers and the environment. Working directly with small farming cooperatives around the world, Alter-Eco brings their artisanal line of dark chocolate bars, extra virgin olive oils, ancient whole grains–colored quinoas and jasmine rice varietals–and unrefined sugar to conscious consumers at Whole Foods and many other specialty retailers nationwide.
How They Plan to Leverage Lilith: Alter-Eco started in Europe in 1998 but has only had a presence in the States since 2004. Edouard Rollet and Mathieu Senard joke that they’d like to become the “smallest multi-national company,” because they now have a presence in six countries. But Rollet gets serious immediately, “Hopefully we could redefine the multi-national company and change the world.”
He explains that Lilith will give Alter-Eco a platform in the U.S. to grow and become a household brand, all while educating consumers about responsible farming and sustainable pricing. “We’d like to go from the core [customer] to the more [mainstream shopper],” explain the two. Rollet says he believes it is up to a relatively small company such as Alter-Eco to prove it can raise the bar and demonstrate how, “consumers really have the power to change practices” by demanding sustainable products.
What They Do: Founded in 2003, the company collects and sells books online with each sale generating funds for literacy initiatives in the U.S. and around the world. With more than eight million new and used titles in stock, the Mishawaka, Ind.-based company has raised over $8 million for its non-profit literacy, library, and college partners, and diverted almost 33 million pounds of books from landfills.
How They Plan to Leverage Lilith: It’s not easy to get customers to switch from behemoth online retailers to smaller enterprises, no matter how socially sound. But Founder Xavier Helgesen says Lilith will offer a platform for Better World Books to build its brand, which he asserts is competitive with other online bookstores in price, service, and social impact. The festival will also attract a large number of college students, which Helgesen hopes to engage to run book drives on college campuses. “Many people who would embrace what we’re doing have not heard of us yet. Our aim is to convince them to use Better World Books as their primary online bookstore.”
What They Do: Grameen America is a peer-lending microfinance nonprofit organization that provides low cost loans, savings programs, credit establishment, and other financial services to entrepreneurs living below the poverty line in the United States.
How They Plan To Leverage Lilith: CEO, Stephen Vogel says, “While many people are familiar with Professor Yunus’ work in Bangladesh, we are excited to spread the word of Grameen America throughout this country. This partnership will give us the ability to talk to concertgoers about the success of our 3,000 borrowers, our growth over the past two and a half years, and our expansion efforts.” Vogel says he also hopes the artists themselves will become inspired by Grameen’s work and support it after the tour. For additional, on-the-spot support, i4c set up a text-to-give platform so attendees can give directly to Grameen America through their mobile phones.