How PupJoy supports social entrepreneurship (one dog toy at a time)

There’s nothing like the love of a good dog to help get you through life’s trials and tribulations.

After watching his sister’s battle with breast cancer and witnessing firsthand the difference her faithful canine companion made in her recovery, Dustin McAdams decided to do something.

Because dogs give us their best, McAdams wanted a way for owners to give their dogs the best in return, and so PupJoy was born. The company is a concierge service offering dog owners a selection of premium toys and treats delivered right to their doors. Each purchase of PupJoy supports a variety of causes close to McAdams’ heart.

Recently, I sat down with McAdams and discussed his business philosophy, how PupJoy is making a difference and how other businesses can do the same.

Scott Petinga: How important is it for business leaders and entrepreneurs to do their own thing, buck the system and follow their own lead?

Dustin McAdams: Independent thinking is very important; leaders have to lead. The challenging part, in my opinion, is addressing the question of “how.” And that’s where things diverge for two key groups: corporate business leaders and entrepreneurial leaders.

The effective corporate leader needs to be structured and bullish, set the right strategy, vet a plan of attack and then diligently pursue its achievement.

Entrepreneurs need to constantly, and rapidly, size up situations, innovate and redefine their targets, versus keeping a fixed focus on attaining concrete goals. They have the advantage, and onerous necessity, of speed and agility. They need to rely on their experience and creativity to anticipate or quickly respond, with a healthy dose of impatience and tenacity thrown into the mix.

Petinga: What are the best practices and strategies for investing money and doing business in ways that favorably impact society, while still achieving market-rate returns?

McAdams: We believe that the greatest impact that we can make right now is immediate impact. Instead of waiting for year-end to provide charitable donations, we allocate them real-time as business happens.

On an order-by-order basis, we contribute a portion of our revenue to fund our Care Box program, which provides free gift boxes to dog parents who are undergoing treatments for adolescent and young adult breast cancer. Also on an order-by-order basis, we contribute incremental donations back to our partner animal rescue and adoption organizations.

With this model, the level of our contributions greatly exceeds that of many others in our industry, but we are able to manage the contributions as variable costs and to ensure that as we grow, we do it profitably. It also enables us to provide visible and measurable value to our charitable causes and it allows our customers to have a more transparent, concrete understanding of what their dollars help support.

Petinga: How do you encourage and foster a “think different” company culture?

McAdams: Our culture, as a supplier-enabled business-to-consumer company, ultimately encompasses our customers, our partners, our supporters and our social connections. We view culture well beyond just employees, the walls of an office or the notion of stakeholders. All of these facets of our cultural community influence us, and conversely, we have the opportunity to provide influence, in doing better business, treating people better, and in making the world a little happier.

I believe that we must be aspirational in our desires, genuinely receptive to the reflections of others, committed in our targets and transparent in our pursuit of them. People gravitate toward a shared vision, and they trust in a history of action.

I have no doubt that we will need to continually innovate, and not follow, to thrive. And it will only be done with the support of our broad community. I see fostering a ‘”think different” culture as a must for us, led from the heart and with the footsteps of each daily decision.

Petinga: What advice do you have for other new business leaders regarding how to get started in a “think different” approach, and a socialpreneur mindset?

McAdams: Jump. Do something that matters. Find the intersection of your passion and the betterment of others.

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Petinga: What are your biggest takeaways with being an entrepreneur and a socially conscious leader?

McAdams: First, as an entrepreneur, you will be terrified at times — if you aren’t, you should pack it up and do something else. I believe the key is to embrace fear, to use it to propel you and not to let it debilitate you.

Second, it is worth it. The feeling is unparalleled. It’s brilliantly liberating to use your ideals and passions to build something that you believe in, something that elevates both your personal success and a broader change for the better. While the lighting on the path may be dim at times, the compass is crystal clear.

Originally published in The Business Journal on March 31st, 2015.

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