Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

Roozt connects savvy shoppers with cool & inspiring brands that make the world a better place.

Name of Social Enterprise?

Roozt.com

Who is the person? What is their background?

Brent Freeman, Co-Founder and CEO of Roozt.com. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, definitely a progressive minded environment that encouraged me to think globally from a young age. But it wasn’t until I got to college at USC that I really started to think about social entrepreneurship. I took a few entrepreneur classes that really sparked my interest, and since I had learned growing up the value of helping others, I started to think about how business could be used as a tool to make the world a better place.

Probably one of the most pivotal moments for me was when I met Blake Mycoskie (the founder of TOMS shoes) when he was speaking on campus. At the time, he had just launched TOMS, and people were telling him he was crazy for trying to sell his “one for one” model. But for me, I saw the value TOMS had, especially among my peers (who I think are often more socially aware than previous generations). TOMS Shoes was one of the primary inspirations I had, to make a difference in the world in my own way.

What is your product or service?

Roozt.com is an online e-commerce experience for socially conscious brands. Currently a daily deal model, Roozt.com features one deal per day at 50-80% off retail price, all from companies that have incorporated social responsibility into the forefront of their business model.

We feature everything from apparel and accessories, to footwear and health/beauty supplies, to electronics and home goods. In addition, Roozt.com highlights a particular “cause” each month, and donates a percentage of each purchase to that cause. For example, this month’s cause is Water, and 25 cents of each purchase made during the month of April is donated to provide clean drinking water to children in rural India.

For us, it’s especially important to not only bring other brands to the consumers, but to walk the walk ourselves. We want our buyers to feel good about their dollars going to make a difference, and it’s a great experience for them to have that tangible impact that, “my purchase gave clean water to 3 children for a day.”

Our overall mission is to make socially conscious shopping easy and mainstream for consumers; to be a “one-stop shop” for buyers to be able to purchase everything they need and be confident that they are simultaneously supporting responsible businesses with their dollars.

What initiatives do you have outside the product or service?

Roozt.com is extremely involved within the social entrepreneurship industry, both locally and on a national scale. I’m a frequent guest lecturer at colleges and high schools throughout the Southern California region, speaking on social entrepreneurship and working to inspire the next generation of social entrepreneurs to launch their own businesses.

But the program most near and dear to our hearts is our partnership with the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). NFTE teaches entrepreneur classes at disadvantaged high schools around the country, and Roozt has sponsored the first pilot social entrepreneur class of its kind, within the NFTE network.

Once a week, I go to Downtown Magnet High School in Downtown Los Angeles and teach and mentor an amazing class of 10th graders, guiding them to create their own socially conscious business. Many of them come from disadvantaged families and have seen much more in their neighborhoods than a 15-year-old should ever have to experience; I work to engage them to think of a problem in their community and how they can solve it through business.

We recently wrapped up their business plan competitions, and as a result of Roozt.com’s partnership with myCorporation.com, the winner of the competition received free LLC formation/incorporation, as well as logo and website design, etc. This will help to break down the typical barriers of entry most entrepreneurs face, and get her to actually launch a business in their community. Our winner did an exceptional job, and is now going on to the Los Angeles city-wide competition (and hopefully nationals!)

It is our desire to help these kids make their dreams a reality, and go on to inspire other social entrepreneurs to follow in their footsteps. With the success of the pilot program, we can’t wait to expand Roozt’s social entrepreneurship class to other schools in the region very soon!

Date officially launched?

Late September, 2010.

What came about that made them help in social change? Why was this social venture created?

Roozt.com was created out of the need to make socially conscious shopping easily accessible to the average buyer. A staggering 85% of Gen Y consumers say they would choose a socially conscious brand over one that has not built social responsibility into the core of its business (88% of the general population agrees).

We’re all firmly entrenched in the “conscious consumer” Gen Y demographic ourselves, and realized how many inspiring companies there are that give back with their business. But most of these companies are small vendors who do not have the means necessary to reach a national audience.

Being entrepreneurs, we set out to change this problem ourselves and make a central online hub where these brands could gain the national attention and visibility they so deserve.

How many years and how many people has this person helped? How many people need help?

Only being live for 6 months, Roozt.com has already seen a tremendous impact in global initiatives. A recent deal featured was Project Isuga, an incredible company that retails fashion scarves and for every scarf sold, provides a lunch to a schoolchild in Africa who has been orphaned by AIDS. The Roozt Deal sold out within only a couple hours, and as a result, Roozt customers were able to provide over 100 school lunches as a direct result of their purchase.

Additionally, Roozt.com’s monthly “cause” campaign donates a percentage of each purchase to a specific global issue. April’s cause was Water, with 25 cents of every Roozt purchase donated to provide clean drinking water for children in rural India. In May, we are providing funds to support education for disadvantaged children in Peru.

It’s the tangible facts like this that make everything we do worthwhile – not only for us, but for our consumers, who can see the actual impact their dollars made on the lives of people halfway around the world.

How many people are currently working, including employees (freelancers or independent contractors for specific projects)?

We currently have a team of 5 full-time employees, all dedicated to the cause and mission to make social responsibility cool, mainstream, and trendy for the average consumer.

Do you Tweet, Facebook fan page, or use any other social media to get the word out?

Yes, Roozt.com maintains a strong social media presence to get the word out to our loyal fans. With a large Gen Y demographic, it’s especially important for us to be integrated into mainstream media as much as possible. Roozt.com uses our Facebook page, Twitter page, and company blog to actively engage fans, notify them of each new deal, and keep them abreast of news in the environmental, ethical, & humanitarian industries.

Facebook page: Facebook.com/RooztDeals

Twitter page: Twitter.com/Roozt

Roozt Blog: Rooztblog.wordpress.com

What is the best advice you ever got?

My dad always told me growing up, “follow your heart and the money will come.” Over the years, I’ve come to see just how true that statement is. I’ve seen so many people who have the money, but are absolutely miserable. The flip side of that is social entrepreneurs who are just so fulfilled every day by the work that they do to make change. When you’re passionate about something, it makes all the difference in the world.

What can you tell other potential social entrepreneurs who are deciding to make a difference?

Now is the time. The change you seek in the world can start right with you and your company. Don’t let the nay-sayers tell you any different. No is the status quo, and you are here to challenge that, which can be difficult. But difficult things are often the most rewarding so stay focused, be persistent, and go after your dreams.

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