Gamechangers: Meet BOAS, the Online Marketplace that Donates all its Profits to Save Kids' Lives
As you already read in the first edition of our Gamechangers series, to follow our core purpose and do more for our community, we pledged to amplify and give more visibility to projects, organizations, and companies that are trying to do things differently, in a better way, innovating to break the cycle and making the world more sustainable and equitable.
For our second issue of Gamechangers, we'd love to introduce you to BOAS, the "Profit for Good" sustainable marketplace that donates all its profits to save kids' lives.
Their vision is powerful. In their own words: "The world has 10 trillion dollars in profit each year, all of it going to investors and founders. If it went to good causes instead of investors, we could use 1.7 trillion dollars to avert climate disaster, and use the change to double the income of the 740 million people living below the poverty line (2 dollars a day), costing you about 5 trillion dollars. You could use the tip to save most of the 5 million children dying of preventable diseases every year. Our vision is to move the world’s 10 trillion dollars in profits to those who need it most, by showing companies to do what’s right: donating all their profits."
We sat down with Vincent, the founder of BOAS. If you're as excited as we are, keep reading to learn more about the project.
Zillennial Mag: Thanks for giving us the opportunity to discuss a project as interesting as BOAS, Vin. We are really impressed by your mission and vision. Why did you decide to focus on saving children's lives, instead of any other way of helping the world?
Vin: There are 5 million kids dying each year from preventable diseases. This is a distressing sentence. Helping children in need is often seen as more effective in doing the "most good" because children are the future of our society. By investing in children, we are investing in the future of our world. We think that helping children in need gives the most long-term rewards, as providing them with the resources they need to succeed in life can benefit them and their communities for many years. Investing in children's education and health, for example, can improve their quality of life and their future potential, which in turn can help create a better society.
ZMag: We couldn't agree more! How did you come up with the idea of a sustainable kid's products marketplace, and what made you believe it could succeed against similar competitors or more traditional marketplaces?
Vin: We launched BOAS on January 2022 with a simple idea: we would be a company that would build something that people want, we would pay our employees normal wages, and whatever profits would be left, we would give to charities that save lives instead of shareholders. The idea first came when we thought about demand. From our immediate surroundings, we noticed that a lot of people in Amsterdam felt the need to buy sustainable products, but there wasn’t really a common place where you can buy them all. BOAS was created to serve the purpose of being a platform that links together sustainable products. Our idea was that a person, for example a parent looking to buy sustainable baby and kids products, can go to one place and compare different brands to find the perfect product they are looking for without having to waste time doing research and ordering their products on a dozen different websites. The thing that sets us apart is our sustainable business model. We are not only providing a service that brings everything together in one place, but also by shopping from us you are having a more positive effect on the world because we donate all of our profits.
ZMag: You guys definitely are a 360º, innovative solution for conscious parents. We can imagine it must not have been easy to bring the project to life. What kind of barriers have you faced until now? What have your biggest challenges been?
Vin: Firstly, as a startup, we have faced the same kind of barriers that other companies have, such as working remotely, getting funding, or finding people who are willing to invest in a non-traditional business model. Since we don't operate as a traditional startup (neither our founders nor our investors can become yacht-owning billionaires) a lot of investors who care only about their return are skeptical. Our way to combat this is to leverage debt and offer lower and capped returns to philanthropic investors. But this non-traditional approach makes it harder to get funding because most investors want large returns.
The second barrier is with the baby and kids products. We want to offer them at reasonable prices, but we're realizing that our demographic of people that want to buy sustainable baby and kids products often don't have the funds to do that regularly. Children outgrow their clothes. This is why we want to supplement our existing offer with secondhand products. So for example, when the child outgrows the product, the parent can resell it easily through BOAS. This can also go the other way. If a parent doesn't have the funds to get brand-new products, they have the option to buy them pre-owned.
ZMag: It sounds like you guys have a really good understanding of where you want to go, and of your target consumer. Speaking about consumers...as marketers, we’ve all heard that they really care about supporting brands with a powerful mission (centred around sustainability, equality, children’s wellbeing, etc), however, we also see that brands and companies who offer extremely low prices and just focus on profit maximization (regardless of the means) are also quite popular amongst consumers. How do you perceive these 2 opposing tendencies, and do you feel consumer pressure from either side?
Vin: This is an interesting question. Obviously, there is huge price pressure, especially right now. We're in a situation where the purchasing power for a lot of Western countries is decreasing significantly because of factors such as the war in Ukraine and global inflation. This means that a lot of the people who previously may have been inclined to buy at sustainable brands are now switching to either non-sustainable brands or used products, which is why we want to offer pre-owned products as well.
We think the solution is in user experience. What our learning has been so far, is that it's entirely true that people care about sustainability, but under the assumption that the things they are actually getting are at least equal to or better than the alternative, non-sustainable options. So from our point of view, if we want to be the “sustainable Amazon”, we have to make sure that we are as good as Amazon while additionally offering a significantly more sustainable business model. If you offer a customer experience that is significantly worse, i.e. you offer only a small variety of products or higher prices, the majority of customers won't switch to your company.
ZMag: It then seems like the holistic user experience is key to getting consumers to shop more in “PFG" companies.
Vin: It seems apparent to me, after running BOAS for over a year, that people prefer working for and buying from Profit for Good companies. This is why I believe in this kind of business model, to grow faster and be able to generate more profits than regular companies. If you have the option to benefit those who need it most rather than shareholders, wouldn’t you take it? And what if you could do that at the same price, for the same product? From our point of view, the most important thing is to generate the highest amount of donations and do the most possible good in the world.
We have two approaches to this. One approach to getting there is by improving user experience. Even if someone is not 100% convinced by our mission, we want to build a user experience that will make them switch. Another approach is to make people understand our mission while delivering equal products and user experience. We believe in transparency. If customers are made aware of the impact they have when they go to us, like the specific charities they are donating to, they can actually feel the impact that they're making with every purchase. Even if they purchase a product for $100 and “only” $3 goes to charities, that's a really tangible impact that you can have in terms of doing good in the world.
ZMag: And since we've talked about making more consumers shift to shopping in PFG companies, how do you think we could get more companies to change their business model towards PFG?
Vin: Unfortunately, we live in a world where everyone assumes that the only model that can work is our current model; the one that's generating increasing inequality in the form of the biggest wealth gap we've ever seen. Our idea is that, if we can get people to start, work for, buy from, and invest in companies that donate profits, we could move more of the excessive wealth in the world toward good causes. We want to set a good example by growing BOAS to an impressive size and showing that this model doesn’t only work, but it works better than what we have now. If we can manage this, I believe we would set a positive trend for founders and investors alike. We can already see these kinds of trends in things like Earning to Give or founders who take The Founders Pledge, where a founder pledges to donate X% of the value of their shares to charities. And this year Patagonia made the brave switch to the PFG model, showing that it is possible, and they seem to be growing faster as a result, so that has been very encouraging.
I have personally taken the Founders Pledge: I agree to donate 100% of the value of the shares of BOAS that I own to those who need it most. It would feel wrong to me to be the sole beneficiary of a company that only exists because we have many, many great people working for, buying from, and helping us. Although I technically own the shares, I don't think I "own" them. So the profits of our company should go to those we "owe" it to, not me.
ZMag: Your point of view is so inspiring Vin, we truly hope this project serves as a model for other founders and investors. What’s next for BOAS in 2023? What are your priorities or dreams for this upcoming year?
Vin: We hope and think 2023 will be the year we'll take off and turn the possibility of saving lives into a reality. We want to say that we are the largest sustainable marketplace firstly in the Netherlands, then in Europe, then the world.
Our main focus right now is on becoming a hybrid marketplace selling both new sustainable products and pre-owned products, so everyone can buy sustainable products and be able to afford them. We’re starting to add more categories to our marketplace, so we’re starting to offer products for adults as well.
Second, we want to show people they can buy the same products, at the same price, but with their profits going to charities rather than wealthy investors. Consumers can have that power when we build companies that donate their profits. That’s why I’m working with the Consumer Power Initiative, which is bringing together a group of companies that donate all their profits with the Charitable Profits Alliance. This group is showing and will show more clearly in the future, we can have an economy that works for the majority rather than the minority. Ultimately, we need to give consumers the power to buy the change they want to see in the world.
ZMag: We like to close our interviews by asking for direct, actionable advice for our readers. If you could request 1 thing that every person should do, what would it be?
Vin: Buy from companies that donate most of their profits, work for them, invest in them and if you’re brave, start one. We might one day move the world’s ten trillion dollars in profits from shareholders to those who need it most and I believe we would have a dramatically better world. You can be a part of that just by buying what you were already buying but at a better company.
As you've just read, getting involved to do your part and change our current economic system and the future of the world has never been easier and more transparent. Head out to the BOAS marketplace to find out their offer on toys, clothing, gifts, and accessories, find out more about the project in their FAQ page, or share with a conscious parent around you.