18 REAL-LEADERS.COM / WINTER 2020 raise all boats. Companies can contribute to the greater good and still succeed. As Earle put it in a 2019 interview with Start Up Here Toronto : “The journey in social change and social ventures can be lonely because you have a whole different set of criteria. You’re still working with business principles, but your mission is above and beyond what people can see. There’s intrinsic motivation — and I don’t say that arrogantly — but that’s just the only way I’m ever going to be happy — by doing this.” Earle started the company with just $250. That first year, she sold $220,000 worth of shoes and accessories on a made-to-order basis. Based on this early success, she launched her own sole production facility and switched the business model to a more diverse supply chain, which attracted investors that further helped growth. “Luckily, we had already adopted e-commerce for half our sales,” says Earle. “When the pandemic struck, we were able to pivot quickly and have done 25 percent better than the same time last year.” Brave Soles now supports seven people in vulnerable communities with permanent employment, at wages 2.5 times the local minimum wage. Earle has built her supply chain from the ground up, from people pulling tires from garbage dumps and ditches to the craftspeople creating the shoes. “Supply chain efficiencies are good for the environment and for keeping costs down,” she adds. “Beyond our efforts at recycling discarded tires, we also use up-cycled leather sourced from the remnants of furniture makers, airplane seats, and other industries with usable leather.” According to the 2019 Porter Novelli/Cone Gen Z Purpose Study, nearly 87 percent of Millennials and 94 percent of Gen-Zers believe businesses should address issues ranging from poverty to hunger to human rights. While growing up, both generations learned the value of standing up for what’s right, and now firmly believe that companies should do the same. And they can. They have the capital. They have the resources. All they need is the will and the direction. While the bottom line must always be kept in mind, it need not be achieved at the expense of a higher purpose. Christal Earle has shown that a simple idea, grown from small means, can capture consumers’ imagination, make money, and change lives for the better. n Robert Henderson Jr. is founder and CEO of the Henderson Financial Group. He is the author of several books, including The New Underground Railroad Breaking the Chains of Economic Bondage, and Spiritual Principles for a Prosperous Life. CHANGEMAKERS Eradicating water poverty in Africa became YPO member Sunil Lalvani’s life calling after a ride on Ghana’s dirt roads brought him to a shocking but all too common scene. When Lalvani’s idea struck, he’d already been running his family’s consumer electronics business for 20 years, frequently traveling in sub-Saharan Africa. While journeying between cities, his driver suddenly stopped the SUV to avoid a group of children collecting water from a dirty puddle in the middle of the road. For his Ghanaian driver, he says, this seemed perfectly normal. “I was brought up in the UK, and for me, water comes out of a tap,” Lalvani says. “I was fascinated CEO TACKLES WATER POVERTY IN AFRICA WITH SOLAR INNOVATION By Karen Burkum GETTY IMAGES / BARTOSZ HADYNIAK