Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

Products for Good : A Social Entrepreneur Story

Lane Ostrow

Lane Ostrow

In the spring of 2003, coalition forces were called to secure the banks in Basra, Iraq. Upon doing so, they found a collection of brilliant un-circulated Iraqi coins that were decommissioned by Saddam Hussein at the end of the first Gulf War. Although the coins could not be used for monetary purposes, what they symbolized was invaluable. Because the coins represent freedom and the sacrifices made to preserve it, the coalition forces wanted them to be a part of doing something good. So they decided to auction off the coins and use the proceeds to rebuild the orphanage in Basra that had been destroyed during Saddam’s reign.

In keeping with the intent to do something positive with the Iraqi coins, in 2004, we founded Products for Good and purchased the entire coin collection to create good works for as many people as possible.

Our goal was to develop a line of products that showed the reverence due to those who have served to protect our freedoms and our country. We believe we have designed a product line that allows people to give a gift like no other. Not only does each item provide an opportunity for our customers to honor and express their gratitude to our men and women in uniform but our products are perfect for those who are often the most difficult to buy gifts for. The products range in price from $20 for a single coin to a $150 for the customizable four coin shadowbox. Each PFG gift comes with a copy of the history of the coins and a certificate of authenticity.

In an effort to do as much good as possible we chose Cleveland Vocational Industries (CVI), a facility in North Carolina that provides work opportunities for mentally and physically challenged individuals, to assemble our products. And last but certainly not least, we created a plan to donate over $20 million to charities that help our men and women in uniform and their families. A percentage of every dollar generated from the sale of our products (before any expenses are paid) is sent immediately to charities that include USA Cares, the Folds of Honor Foundation, The Aleethia Foundation, Tragedy Assistance Project for Survivors (TAPS), Helping a Hero and The Gerald T. Parks Memorial Foundation.

It is extremely motivating to see the impact of our donations. There are many functions and support roles that our government is simply unable to provide for our wounded and their families and we have worked to find charities that provide services and support in those funding gaps.

While PFG was created to make a positive impact on the causes and charities it supports, we could never have anticipated the response we receive on a regular basis from our customers. Hundreds and hundreds of customers have taken the time to write us and share their experiences with us. What an honor for us to produce products that generate that type of emotional response from our supporters and their gift recipients. The inspirational stories are now featured on our website, demonstrating that each gift has its own story.

The customer testimonials add context and clarity to our mission. If you are considering running your business and doing good at the same time, realize that people may question your motives, so make sure you are as transparent as possible. We recognize that our customers are continuing the story of the coins and are just as much of the PFG story as we are so we keep them updated on the company and its outreach efforts via our web site, www.productsforgood.com.

Creating this business and continuing to operate has been a great learning experience in many ways. It has required an on-going tenacity as the challenge has constantly been to achieve enough success to reach our goals and that is probably the greatest lesson. One of the quotes we have coined (pardon the pun) has been that “We know we are on the five yard line – we just don’t know which way we are facing.” That said, it is our intent to continue to push to maximize this opportunity for all involved.

Currently it’s an exciting time for the brand. We have entered into a marketing partnership with a national agency who will be working with us to communicate the PFG story to many different target audiences through multiple channels. We look forward to growing our business and in turn donating more money to the charities and causes we support. As more troops come home it is important the organizations that support them and their families have the appropriate funds to give back to those who have given so much.

Lane Ostrow, Co-Founder, Products for Good, LLC
[email protected], (704) 900-3618
www.productsforgood.com
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