This post is one of a series of posts sponsored by UPS in support of the Inc Growco Conference held April 6-8 in Las Vegas, NV

The category of for profit social enterprise is a rather unique one still. The idea of blending social mission with a business that happens to make money is hard for some people to wrap their heads around, but its a growing trend among entrepreneurs.

The category’s most notable example is probably Tom’s Shoes. Blake Mycoskie’s shoe company is a marketing and financial powerhouse that provides millions of pairs of shoes for children around the world.

This past week I was introduced to another such company that has a great story to tell and is quickly becoming a financial success as well.

Better World Books claims the title of The Online Bookstore with a Soul.

They collect and sell books online to fund literacy initiatives worldwide. With more than 8 million new and used titles in stock, they are a self-sustaining, triple-bottom-line company that creates social, economic and environmental value for all stakeholders.

They were founded in 2002 by three friends from the University of Notre Dame who started selling textbooks online to earn some money, and ended up forming a pioneering social enterprise — a business with a mission to promote literacy.

In addition to selling new titles, Better World Books supports book drives and collects used books and textbooks through a network of over 1,800 college campuses and partnerships with over 2,000 libraries nationwide. So far, the company has converted more than 53 million books into over $8.6 million in funding for literacy and education. In the process, also diverted more than 26,000 tons of books from landfills.

Even as the company grows rapidly, creating a legitimate online alternative to, they continue to explore ways to stay true to their original mission. CEO David Murphy claims this might be the biggest challenge, but it’s also the most important thing they can do.

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • I think it can, you just need to see the bigger picture and be committed to helping people.

    • It take a big commitment too because people will doubt you all along the path

  • You’re a good man for making posts like this John … it gives me great hope! In a world where we glorify the most unique things, we sometimes forget about the people and companies that walk softly, yet make a huge impact on countless lives. Much kindness, Elena

    • Thanks Elena – just really impressed with this company.

  • Thank for sharing. Making money and doing good are a natural fit, but of course we are people and people are complex. Our products services and mission can be invested in serving to make lives better. The beauty of a market based mission is the people you serve have to value your product or service and it has to be priced to there price range. Social Enterprises are making a lasting profound difference for millions. In the west its a little more complicated to see the connection between business products and services and empowerment because we have the basics of food, water, shelter, etc.
    Keep up the good work.

  • Great article, so many people think that doing good means being poor, but thankfully it does not have to be like that.

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    Of course if doing good making money,not only money with all trust from others and respect.