First published on The Huffington Post here.
On March 29th of 2013, an affable, well-liked, and kind young man succumbed to depression and took his own life. His passing was a significant event in the lives of many who knew him, and a poignant reminder of a national epidemic. For one of his closest childhood friends, the event was a catalyst for change. To combat the national scourge of depression that had taken one of his closest friends, Bryan Derrickson did what he knew how to do. He started a company.
The entrepreneur is somewhat of an enigma to the layperson. They are often seen as energetic, dynamic, creative leaders. Think Steve Jobs (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), or any of a variety of individuals whose capitalist ventures have changed the lives of countless millions. On the most inclusive of levels, the entrepreneur is an individual who employs an innovative variety of inputs (materials, people, software, etc.) in order to produce a desired output. Key to the process is an innovative vision, and access to the inputs needed to implement that vision.
The classical definition of the genus includes those who harness their talents to “charge hard for profit.” Those who build organizations to make money are the easiest entrepreneurs to spot, and among the most visible business people in pop culture today. This being said, these titans of innovation are not the whole story. In fact, it’s not even the local entrepreneur who will likely affect your life in the most profound of ways. It is rather a new breed of socially conscious, young, talented individuals who are changing the world, and the way we view our places in it.
The concept of the social entrepreneur is relatively new in the public consciousness, although the individual has been studied by academics for quite some time. They are an oddity in that they don’t employ their passion and talent to primarily drive a bottom line. They are, instead, more concerned with making good than making money. The Social Entrepreneur focuses on a more distributed bottom line, one that improves their community, their country, or even their world. Whether they start a capital-seeking or nonprofit company is far less important to identifying their breed than their motivation. The Social Entrepreneur is in it to make the lives of people in your community better, and chances are, they have.
In the wake of his friend’s suicide, Derrickson struggled to find meaning. He focused his energy and business experience on the launch and growth of a company designed to bring awareness to what he saw as a national depression epidemic, and to do what he could to curb suicides, the number two killer of youths between the ages of 15 and 24. He isn’t a psychologist or a social worker, but rather a member of the new breed of social entrepreneurs. BDVibez was developed as a method of spreading good vibes and bringing awareness to the depression epidemic… through hats. The company sells retro-fashion hats that come with a strong message (BD stands for Beat Depression, not the founder’s initials). For each hat sold, two dollars is donated to the Department of Counseling at the College of Charleston in an effort to support the next generation of mental healthcare providers. Referring to his motivation for the launch of the Charleston, South Carolina based company, Derrickson has said, “The company will never make anybody rich, but it will help make us better.”
The founder of BDVibez is not alone. Derrickson is one of thousands of those in our communities who have harnessed their entrepreneurial talents to pursue the distributed bottom line that helps us all. The true ingenuity of the social entrepreneur is that they give us methods of affecting change that don’t involve donations. Want to make a difference? Buy a hat.
If you — or someone you know — need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for theNational Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.
Written by Eric Korn.