The Romance of Good Deeds: Meg Cadoux Hirshberg explains why building a business with a strong social mission can also be great for your marriage.

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Meg Cadoux Hirschberg for Inc.: “I write a lot about how entrepreneurship complicates relationships and even drives couples apart. Sometimes, though, it binds them closer. When the venture serves a larger purpose, through either its core business or philanthropy, spouses who may feel ambivalent about company building (isn’t there a less-consuming way to make money?) suddenly get it. Sometimes, they become part of it. And that shared passion — often more powerful than the shared hobbies that marriage counselors recommend — can translate into greater passion for each other.

When I met my husband, in 1984, I was managing an organic farm. Gary and his partner, Samuel Kaymen, had just launched Stonyfield, the organic yogurt company. Our idea of fun was making compost together. I appreciated that Gary saw himself as an educator and each little cup as an opportunity to teach people about the importance of organics. But as we hemorrhaged cash for nine years, our small attempt to change the world began to seem delusional. That we labored on behalf of a mission we both cared about made the sacrifice tolerable; I doubt I would have lasted long had we been cranking out Fritos instead. But eventually, although I still supported the cause, I felt disconnected from the company itself.

In recent years, however, I’ve bonded again with the business. The catalyst has been Stonyfield’s philanthropic outreach. Its charitable arm, Profits for the Planet, has supported several causes about which I care deeply, including posttreatment cancer care and restoration of an agricultural building at a Shaker museum. And several years ago, Gary and I together created a loan fund to help New Hampshire dairy farmers through the high costs of transitioning to organic. I personally brought Gary into these and other projects that dovetailed his business mission with my interests. I now influence the company in ways that fulfill me, as opposed to the any-warm-body-will-do kinds of tasks I performed in the early days. And for the first time, I feel truly connected to Gary’s work and consequently more tolerant of his frequent absences and distractions.

Something similar happened to Jill Kearney, a professional writer. Jill had no affinity for business when she married Stephen McDonnell, founder of the natural meat company Applegate Farms. “I didn’t get the vision and the drive,” she told me. “If you’re already making money selling X, why do you need to sell 2X?” At first, Jill believed she had nothing to contribute. Eventually, she started writing promotional material and “romance copy” for the products, becoming what she calls a “published pot pie poet.” As she worked in the company, Jill began to see the potential for creativity in business and to consider how Steve might apply his abilities to problems outside Applegate.

For the full article by Meg Cadoux Hirschberg, please click here.

Happy Valentine’s Day from The Institute for Sustainable Development / Green Plus

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