Better World Weekly (#30)  
Lessons from Cotopaxi’s CEO, The Best World Leader,
and a Twice-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

Sign up below to get the newsletter sent straight to your inbox a day early…

Happy Monday y’all

How’s everyone holding up? 

Annie told me it seemed like quarantine was getting to me a little bit this last week. Almost every day after lunch, I was asking her, “Wouldn’t it be great to take a road trip?” 

It looks like Milou is feeling a bit of the cabin fever & groundhog day blues as well…

(This is one of her most comfortable spots, believe it or not)

Anyways—staying as positive as possible and pushing through! Hope you are staying as sane as you can too.

Enjoy the week and this edition of the Better World Weekly. 


Better World Business Growth 📈

🤓 Lessons Learned from Cotopaxi’s Founder & CEO, Davis Smith

Via NPR.Org—these graphics are great right?!?

This last week, I listened to a How I Built This episode with Cotopaxi’s Davis Smith. As many of you may already know: 

  • Cotopaxi is an outdoor apparel company, committed to creating ‘Gear for Good.’ 
  • Cotopaxi is a Certified B Corporation
  • They host adventure races called Questival, to encourage people to ‘live out the Cotopaxi values’ in fun, quirky ways. 
  • If you’ve seen any of our podcast promo videos, or have worked with me, you know I wear a Cotopaxi hat. A lot.

Cotopaxi Caps—When your hair isn’t ready for a podcast interview…

I’ve been a fan of Cotopaxi for some time now, so it was great to hear the origin story of this company I’ve been tracking so closely. 

While well worth the full listen yourself, here are a few takeaways for the impact-driven entrepreneur from Cotopaxi’s ascension: 

1 — To be an impact-driven entrepreneur, you must truly learn to be an entrepreneur.

Obvious, right? Well, maybe not entirely. Davis said it took him roughly 10 years to figure out how to blend business with impact because he had to ‘figure out’ how to be an entrepreneur first. 

We might look at Cotopaxi and think that the Founder (Davis) was someone out to make an impact-business from the beginning of their career. But to get to Cotopaxi, Davis: 

  • Started & sold a business that entailed selling pool tables on the Internet. 
  • Got his MBA from the Wharton School of Business
  • Started & unsuccessfully exited a baby products business he tried to build with his cousin in Brazil. 

Obviously, Davis’ journey was his journey, and while I agree with the sentiment that to run a successful impact-business, you need to run a good business, I would note that that doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to take you 10 years to figure out how to pursue a business idea that does good. 😉

We can all glean important lessons from experiences like Davis’ that will allow more do-gooders to get out into the world, working as effectively as possible as quickly as possible.

2 — Start with Your TEAM

When conceiving the idea for Cotopaxi, the first thing Davis mentioned doing was looking up and directly messaging tons of product designers on LinkedIn. This is a wildly resourceful reaction. 

I don’t know about you, but sometimes the first reaction I have when confronted with a new idea is to learn everything about how to execute on it myself

An impossible, futile, and exceptionally slow effort. 😅

If you want to move a big idea fast, reach out to others who you think could maybe help as quickly as possible. Save yourself from yourself…like I often have to do. 

Fortunately for Grow Ensemble, Annie and I are different in this way. I might look to books, courses, and articles as an impulse to solve a problem or advance an idea. She thinks of the friends she knows who might already have those skills or know someone who does. 

3 — Stick to Your Visions & Values (even when it’s not convenient)

When starting Cotopaxi, Davis was committed to incorporating as a public benefit corporation. This, being a business formation that would *maybe* mean more meager returns for potential investors, would hinder their chances for raising necessary seed money. 

But he stayed firm, continued on looking for values-aligned investors, and succeeded. With $3M in seed money, they kicked everything off.  

Again, I highly recommend listening to the full interview yourself. These are the 3 lessons that really stood out to me, but if you have different highlights or takeaways, let me know— it’s an info-packed interview, and I’d love to hear what stuck with you!

🛠️ The #1 Tool for Social Businesses to Maximize Impact

Speaking of “Successful Impact-Driven Entrepreneurs…” 

You may have already seen, but last week we released a quick 5-min video diving into what allows purpose-driven entrepreneurs to make the greatest impact with their businesses. 

After interviewing countless Founders & CEOs from some of the most prolific social businesses around, the same piece of advice was repeated back to us time and time again when asking how to leave the greatest positive impact on the world as a social entrepreneur…

If you haven’t watched it yet, see what that piece of advice is, here. 

**Pstt! We will ALSO release video #2 tomorrow morning!* Make sure you don’t miss it. 🤩

Buy Ensemble 💵

📓 A Climate-Positive Notebook, from A Good Company

My ol’ moleskin is close to filling up, so this last week Annie surprised me with one of these:

This is a stone paper notebook, made from…stone! Unlike traditional pulp paper notebooks (sadly, like my Moleskine), A Good Company’s notebooks use zero water and trees in their production

Plus, with A Good Company’s climate-positive packaging and climate compensations made for all transportation, these notebooks save 24.7 kg of CO2. Not convinced? A Good Company does a remarkable job providing information about their products and their sustainability. You can read more about A Good Company’s production, packaging, and shipping process for their stone notebooks here! 

🇸🇪A Twice-in-a-Lifetime Podcast Interview, Publishing Tomorrow!

And yes, there’s more!

Don’t miss tomorrow’s new podcast with A Good Company’s Founder & CEO, Anders Ankarlid. 

He was kind enough to join me for a recording post-evening run from his patio in Stockholm, Sweden (the Internet is a crazy place, huh?). 

Anders is not only a very determined change-maker, but an extremely friendly and inspiring guy. We had a great time chatting, and he shared a lot of background and insight into A Good Company’s mission and growth.

In my chat with Anders, we cover the spectrum: 

  • How to focus on the most important things as a CEO 
  • Why “execution is the only thing that matters” in building a successful impact-business. 
  • Why A Good Company is a “Twice-in-a-Lifetime” opportunity for Anders and his team…

Here’s a link to the snippet video we posted on LinkedIn!

To catch this episode out tomorrow, make sure to subscribe to the podcast here: 
👉Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or Others!

Read Ensemble 📚

New Zealand’s Prime Minister May be the Most Effective Leader on the Planet

    NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Photo Via The Atlantic

    39-year old Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, has proven to be one of the most (if not the most!) competent of the world’s leaders during this COVID-19 crisis. 


    She’s been extremely empathetic in her communications with New Zealand and took decisive action early on (as recommended by health officials).

    1—New Zealand has done wonderfully in tackling and limiting the impact of the virus. 

    They have widespread testing, a health system with plenty of capacity, and their cases had already peaked on April 5th. 

    As well, with a population of 5 million, they’ve seen under 25 deaths. 

    2—New Zealanders agree. 

    Ardern and her government are leading the world in public perception of COVID-19 response. 88 percent of New Zealanders trusted the government to make the right decisions about addressing COVID-19. And, 84 percent approved of the government’s response to the pandemic. 

    She’s also the 5th youngest state leader in the world. That’s probably why she’s been so savvy, running brilliantly informal, but informative Facebook lives (highly recommend watch the first few minutes of one, here). 

    Live Ensemble  

    ✅ What Could a ‘Gap Year’ Mean for this Generation of College Students? 

    I was going to read this article from The Wall Street Journal, but I was pay-walled instantly:

    1 — I appreciate supporting journalism, but I just can’t possibly have a subscription to EVERY SINGLE PUBLICATION. 

    So, if you have a subscription to The Wall Street Journal maybe this is worth a read.  

    2 —  Either way, the topic of this article sparked a lot of discussion in our house, so I thought I’d write about it and share with y’all. 

    Personally, I think a “Gap Year” is an insanely risky proposition. And, this is coming from someone who withdrew from undergrad early and has yet to finish my degree. 

    Of course, this COVID-19 world hasn’t provided us with many options. Deferring a degree program seems like a wise idea given the circumstances! The on-campus community, experiences, and relationships are *most* of what you should attend those programs for.

    While I don’t think a relatively “forced” gap year will yield the exact same results as a gap year pursued completely by choice, it’s worth wondering about. 

    Biggest question, will 100% of previously enrolled and admitted students continue on with their degrees after their gap year?

    I would say, there are a few things to be keen to, if you/someone you know might be in this situation:

    • We underestimate the importance of structure, especially at a younger age. 

    I’ve had a few friends who had argued against the value or sense in going to college for the fact that they believe themselves to have been too immature to get the real worth out of the degree program they completed. The reason that young people now most likely aren’t much more mature than they were, and so, they shouldn’t attend college. 

    While I don’t disagree with the maturity levels of a typical-college-aged person, that doesn’t necessarily mean to me that a young person would alternatively be mature enough to handle complete independence. That’s in part the beauty of college, it’s our very first dose of (mostly safety-netted) independence! 

    And so, with a gap year in question, I’d recommend people don’t overlook an alternative program of some kind, something still structured. 

    • We underestimate the importance of community, always…

    When I left college early, I completely underestimated the importance of my community at Gonzaga (where I’d attended). I thought leaving college and then working from my computer anywhere in the world would be my dream! 

    That led me to Argentina, where I felt the loneliest I ever had felt in my life. 😅

    Community can obviously be replaced outside college, but we need to be intentional about it and be prepared for that extra effort it’s going to require.

    • We underestimate the importance of momentum.

    Yes, people always say, ‘you can always go back to school.’ And of course, that’s true. But, inertia is hard to stop. Honestly, I’d love to finish my degree at some point, and this is something that comes up a lot (especially living with a lifetime student like Annie). I just don’t possibly have the time or the desire to redirect that much of my current focus—turns out starting a company is a large commitment…🤔

    • We overestimate the gross logic of others… 

    People assume that because MIT posts thousands of courses online, you can DIY a college education. While I’m excited about how the Internet has increased access to educational resources like this, education is only a single aspect of a college/degree experience. 

    Far fewer than 5% of people complete online courses they pay for. Why? 

    1—We don’t have face-to-face interaction with mentors & instructors.

    2—We don’t have a community around us to keep us accountable.

    3—We don’t make the same valuable relationships that keep us energized.      

    Either way—the individual should make the decision that is best for them. But, they shouldn’t do so without understanding what efforts will be needed to replace more subtle attributes/characteristics of the experience they are leaving behind.  

    Hey—I left school early, and it turned out fine. In fact, if given the opportunity, I’d do the same thing all over again.  

    By the way, read that article if you can. Tell me what it said.

    Elsewhere… 🚀 

    👕 50.5% Drop in Sales for Fashion Brands puts the Future of the Industry in Question

    The Census Bureau recently released consumer spending data for March, and, not surprisingly, it wasn’t good for almost any industry. As a whole, retail sales dropped by 8.75%. 

    But, clothing and accessory brands dropped by just over 50.5%! 

    Diving deeper into the industry itself, who is faring better or worse than others? 

    • Brands known for formal/workwear, are being hit harder than brands focusing on clothes that are worn in-home.
    • Brick-and-Mortar dependent retail brands are hemorrhaging as stores are shuttered. 
    • “Digitally native brands,” brands that have relied on accessing customers via the Internet, while still struggling, are faring much better than retail-heavy counterparts. 

    Most clothing and accessories aren’t considered essentials. Consumers are reserving money for what seems to be greater needs, and if they are indulging, it’s with hobby-based spending as they find new things to do at home. 

    Either way, the fashion industry is geared up for a radical shift. Over 15,000 brick-and-mortar retail stores are expected to close permanently as a result of this crisis. “That may force some brands into bankruptcy.” 

    Since this is showing that having relationships with your customers online is important, especially in difficult economic times, this might be creating a universal movement online for brands inside and outside of the fashion industry…

    End Note

    Thanks for reading this edition of the Better World Weekly. I hope you enjoyed it. If you think you might have a friend or colleague who’d enjoy these sorts of updates as well, I’d love it if you shared it with them. You can send them here to sign up.

    If you come across anything compelling in the world of social entrepreneurship and social impact, please send it my way. Love to hear what you are reading and interested in. 

    Lastly, if you are a purpose-driven business or organization who wants help building an audience & community around your brand and mission, let’s schedule a strategy call.



    Co-Founder & CEO, Grow Ensemble

    Sign up below to get the newsletter sent straight to your inbox a day early…