Merging Business and Philanthropy through Trackable Giving, with Bryan Pape, MiiR

MiiR is the first ever Product to Project company, using revenue from the sales of their quality drinkware, journals, and bags to fund trackable philanthropic projects.

Bryan Pape, MiiR

Bryan Pape, MiiR

“I realized at that moment, sitting against this tree with my leg snapped in half, that nobody would have gotten up at my funeral and said, ‘…Bryan cared about his community. He cared about the people around him.’ It just wouldn’t have happened, and I wasn’t proud of that. I knew I wanted to live a life beyond just serving myself.”

On April 14, 2006, Bryan Pape was filming ski footage for Steven’s Pass when took a bad turn. His right ski hit a stump, and he got into some trees. Bryan knew that his femur was broken, and he knew that if the bone shards hit his femoral artery, he would bleed to death in under 15 minutes. In that clarifying moment, he realized that he wanted to use his life to help improve the world.

Fortunately, Bryan didn’t hit his artery, and he recovered quickly—though surgeons did have to install a stainless-steel rod in his leg. That summer, he started working at Little Hotties Warmers, running supply chain and marketing for the startup. He became the first employee and earned sweat equity, all the while learning the small business ropes from founder Rick Wood. When the opportunity to sell the business for premium came in 2009, they took advantage—and Bryan took that opening to start his own business.

MiiR began with water bottles: Bryan struggled to find one that was simple, functional and fit in a cup holder, so he set out to design one himself. He knew he ultimately wanted the company to be about more than that, but he also knew that the product needed to “stand on its own in the marketplace … and compete at the highest level,” so he set out to create a quality product first.

Then one night at a family friend’s house for dinner, Bryan was introduced to a new online platform called Hulu and invited to be a part of its beta test. It just so happened that Scott Harrison had ad space on the platform, and Bryan and his wife saw a spot for Charity: Water. Struck by the statistic that nearly a billion people lacked access to clean water, Bryan got an idea: “We’re selling water bottles. Let’s give back to clean water.”

With a quality product and a philanthropic mission, MiiR was nearly ready to launch in the summer of 2010. Bryan was working with a friend to photograph an ad campaign for the launch when one of the contributors mentioned that her brother-in-law runs a nonprofit—building wells in Liberia. The two met and developed a partnership, and Bryan was invited to travel overseas and see the experience firsthand the following February.

Bryan’s next lightbulb moment came in sharing the photos from his Liberia trip with a friend who said, “Wait, so the bottle that I bought from you went to this giving project? I have never heard of anything like that!” In that instant, Bryan knew he wanted to find a way to connect his customers to the philanthropic projects they were funding. Today, every MiiR product includes a Give Code that allows shoppers to become a part of the Product to Project movement and see the impact of their purchase.

MiiR has also expanded beyond drinkware to develop a first-class journal and bag line, and their list of giving partnerships has grown to include Seattle Bike Works, One Day’s Wages, and America SCORES Seattle, among others. In addition to the online retail business, the company also has a MiiR Flagship store in Seattle.

Grateful for the moments of synchronicity that led to the success of MiiR, Bryan challenges every individual to ask the transformative question: How can I help? “If everybody did that, the world would be a very different place.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Bryan Pape

[spp-tweet tweet=”“How do we merge business and philanthropy into something we’re doing day in and day out?” @bryanpape @MiiR”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Can this individual product stand on its own two feet in the marketplace?” @bryanpape @MiiR”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We’re price competitive; we’re better product quality, and then also we’re choosing to be generous… That’s a winning combination.” @bryanpape @MiiR”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It’s those days that are hard that makes it worth doing when you know you’re doing more than just making money.” @bryanpape @MiiR”]

“I was always entrepreneurial. I was the kid who was making origami paper cranes in 5th grade and hustling kids’ lunch money to buy them.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Close to a billion people lack access to clean water.” @bryanpape @MiiR”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We’re selling water bottles. Let’s give back to clean water.” @bryanpape @MiiR”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Let’s start a company and do good, and that’s about the extent of the plan.” @bryanpape @MiiR”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Let’s connect all of our giving projects to the customers and invite them into this.” @bryanpape @MiiR”]

“[Success in business is] a balance of making sure you’re on the right track, and then absolutely just persisting.”

“If you’re stuck in life … if you want to see change … bring it down to a micro level and ask one person every day, ‘How can I help you?’” @bryanpape @MiiR

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Go ask somebody today how you can help them, and then actually do it.” @bryanpape @MiiR”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

 

About the Author
Tony Loyd is a TEDx speaker, podcast host and the author of Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs. He is a former Fortune 500 executive with extensive experience in strategic planning, talent management, and leadership development. Tony is the host of the podcast Social Entrepreneur where you can hear the stories of changemakers who are making an impact on the world.

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