Religion in Rome Business
By: Emily Smith
In a world telling everyone that profit is the number one priority, there is a new trend on the horizon. Businesses are focusing on giving back, and consumers love it.
Historically, any basic economics course will tell you that it’s all about making money. Your business decisions are based on the premise that you at least break even, and if you’re successful, you’ll bring in more than you spend. If you consistently bring in less profit than what you spend, your business is likely to fail.
However, there is a growing movement in the business world, and it could be because of a new generation of consumers. Scholars have studied millennials and their characteristics as a demographic since this new age category began in the mid 1990s. Sustainability, for example is one popular value in corporate social responsibility. The 2015 Nielson Global Corporate Sustainability Report indicated that 66% of global consumers are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand.
“Millennials prefer to do business with corporations and brands with prosocial messages, sustainable manufacturing methods and ethical business standards,” Sarah Landrum, writer for Forbes Magazine, said. What has been found is that millennials as a group generally appreciate the act of giving back.
For Allison Watters and Renee Webb, owners of a local retail store in Rome, GA, social responsibility is not just a tactic to bring in more customers, but the ultimate goal for their business.
“Those of us who are blessed bless others.”
Watters and Webb have tapped into the mindset of giving back to the less fortunate, and even named their business after their vision: Do Good Boutique. They view their business as an expression of their religious beliefs and their purpose in the retail world.
“Those of us who are blessed bless others,” Watters said. They want to create a new image for retail, to give the customer a chance to make a difference when they purchase their products, with faith at the forefront of their social actions.
Their products carry stories, specifically chosen so that customers can see the impact they are making when they buy those products. They want to influence the global community and support people who are countries away. Their mantra is to be different, following Ecclesiastes 3:12, “I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live.”
“If you’re going to shop, eat, etc. you might as well ‘do good’ through those purchases,” Watters said.
Social responsibility based in faith is also occuring in business collaborations and partnerships throughout the Rome area. Cabell Sweeney, founder of Cabell’s Designs, attributes her partnerships with seven local retail companies not just to their products, but to the values attached to them.
“There is more to business than the product itself, whether you have a faith attached to that or not.” Sweeney said, “Believers should lead the way, but it is not exclusive to those who follow Christ.”
Sweeney follows the mindset that efforts of moral obligation and social responsibility are the core calling for the Christian life. However, no matter one’s belief system, Sweeney and many other Christian entrepreneurs agree that business owners should be at the forefront of valuing people over profit. Sweeney understands that this new generation of consumers values experiences over material things. This business mindset is fulfilling the main desire of modern day costumers- investing in a cause and looking past the dollar signs.
“We want the work of our hands to speak for us.”
Her hope is that her handmade home goods including plates, coffee mugs, decorations, and more portray values of family, memories, and genuine experiences for those who buy them. Sweeney envisions that her products carry out a specific purpose. She uses a table setting as an example.
“I do want it to be aesthetically pleasing, but really what I want to do is create an atmosphere for what will happen at that table,” Sweeney said, “It is inviting, welcoming, and makes people feel known,” Sweeney said.
Social responsibility is manifested not just in company image or global connection, but in local outreach as well. The owner of Jamwich of Rome, Shadae Warren, reaches out to the homeless community, accounting most of that action to her faith. She has plans to start a non-profit called “Give a Jam” to supply food to less fortunate children in Floyd County. She attributes her efforts to the legacy her grandmother left as a missionary. She always brought people in and fed them, using food as a way to reach people and impact their lives.
“Through food, I felt like I could have the most confidence about making somebody’s day better,” Warren said. “Food is a comfort. Food is what brings you to a table for conversations that become timeless to be made.”
Whether based in faith or following a trend of industry, social action by entrepreneurs is rapidly gaining popularity. As baby boomers are gradually replaced by millennial consumers in the marketplace, so are the traditional values they carried.
According to these local entrepreneurs, profit matters, but investing in more than just products- in human lives- matters much more to the ones consuming those products. Buyers want change, and contrary to what basic economics courses say, businesses catalyzing social change are receiving more profit because of what they give back, whether on a global level or in local communities like Rome, GA.