Is Warby Parker really “Social Entrepreneurship?”

Pozen’s article discusses and defines the so-called four newer categories of entrepreneurship: social, policy, norm, and moral. This Huffington Post article refers to Warby Parker as “social entrepreneurship.” However, Pozen’s piece defines social entrepreneurship as “most basically . . . anyone who starts a nonprofit organization.” Does anyone think companies like Warby Parker or Toms (with admirable “one-for-one” business models) actually fit into Pozen’s definition of social entrepreneurship? Does Warby Parker fit any of the category definitions? Or is Warby Parker in actuality a classic example of capitalistic entrepreneurship? Are these different categories of entrepreneurship even appropriate or necessary?

One thought on “Is Warby Parker really “Social Entrepreneurship?”

  1. These are great questions, and ones that a lot of people are debating – especially educators in social entrepreneurs. I do know that here at ND in our entrepreneurship center, we expressly do NOT state that social entrepreneurship is about “not-for-profits.”

    I’ve found that those interested in using enterprises to help people don’t care about the “labels” – they want change, they want to do it effectively, and some of them think that a venture can also be profitable, so they don’t want to limit themselves to the “non-profit” category.

    Similarly, a lot of company founders (original CEOs) resent the implication that *because* theirs IS a for-profit enterprise, they of necessity *cannot* be concerned with the public good. There’s no reason that that has to be true.

    Pozen strikes me as someone who is more upset about the fact that the 1970s model of do-goodery (government = good; corporations = evil) has gone the way of the dodo. But those designations were always flawed. Government does some things extremely well, but we’ve had enough time to see that the most effective methods of improving people’s lives are rarely implemented at the *federal* government level: too big, too unaccountable, too far removed from the people they are trying to help. (These are the same problems that plague large corporations, btw.)

    Similarly, some corporations ARE run by unscrupulous people. But most aren’t. And the managers and owners of most for-profit enterprises are interested in helping others.

    These are things that we (meaning scholars, educators and the general public) should encourage, in my view, instead of quibbling over definitions and characterizations that don’t fit well, and never really did! 🙂