Hello, I’m David. My company, SEA, is a part of CUBE, the Campus Y’s incubator for social ventures.
SEA (www.simplysea.com) is a couch company. (It will be when we unveil the SEA Sits product this coming summer.)
I see business as a tool. It’s one way to get things done. I care about certain things, and I am motivated to address them, and my agenda is a social one. Especially because I’m impatient, business is my tool of choice, my form of advocacy.
When there’s a problem with consumer habits and their consequences, or entire socio-economic structures, traditional social initiatives exist to clean up the mess. That’s reactive. And we have the opportunity to be proactive. (But please don’t confuse my approach with me not understanding and respecting the value of traditional social initiatives, which are and will continue to be immensely important).
I’m less interested in convincing people to care about or participate in something, going against the grain. Simply, it’s harder. I’m more interested in building a Trojan horse, sneaking the social mission indistinguishably into the product, or more importantly, into processes of production, distribution, and disposal. Instead of asking people to sacrifice something or go out of their way or pay more to “do good,” give them something they want that also does good (or at the very least, and even more importantly, doesn’t do bad), whether they know it or not. This allows for scaling impact.
The ultimate responsibility of business is this: benefit someone, without doing it at the expense of someone else, directly or indirectly, now or in the future. Business that truly respects everyone is “social.”
With SEA, I first identified a problem: furniture gets thrown away outside of dorms at the end of every year. Landfills fill up (often with toxic elements that affect neighboring communities) and resources are wasted. I wasn’t going to ask consumers to not buy couches. I wasn’t going to ask students to pay extra or sacrifice quality in the name of sustainability. Imagine how far I’d get doing those. Instead, I designed a better couch. Students will want it in their dorm rooms based on its comfort, versatility, portability, durability, style, and ease of assembly. This makes them happy. It’s also recyclable, non-toxic, and easily separable (necessary for proper disposal). This makes me happy.
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