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This Saves Lives Founder Ryan Devlin’s Top 6 Tips For Creating A Mission-Driven Company

World Food Day is celebrated worldwide every year on October 16 to bring attention to the issue of global food security. Every 11 seconds, a child dies due to severe acute malnutrition, and this number has more than doubled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Ending childhood malnutrition has been the mission of This Saves Lives since day one, as malnutrition is the #1 cause of death in children under five. So far, the company has donated over 29 million packets of food across the globe.

This Saves Lives creates healthier snack bars for adults and kids, crispy treats, instant oatmeal, and granola in flavors that are delicious and appealing to children. With only real ingredients and a full serving of fruits in veggies in each kids’ product, they also make parents happy. Every purchase sends a packet of life-saving food called Plumpy’Nut to a child in need. Cofounders Kristen Bell, Ryan Devlin, Todd Grinnell, and Ravi Patel launched This Saves Lives with a simple motto: “Buy A Bar. Feed A Child. We Eat Together.” Products are available in retail stores nationwide, including Starbucks, Target, Whole Foods and Amazon.

To expand their mission and inspire people to make giving back a part of their daily life, This Saves Lives also launched The Table in 2021. The subscription-based program and online community gives members greater transparency through the ability to track their impact, receive direct reports and stories from the field, and build connection with NGOs working on the ground to end child hunger.   

Cofounders and actors Ryan Devlin and Todd Grinnell felt inspired to create This Saves Lives after encountering severe acute malnutrition in 2007 while visiting a refugee camp in Liberia. “It was heartbreaking,” says Devlin. “When we came back to our beautiful homes, clean water, and abundant food supply wanting to do something. When hanging with Kristen Bell one night, I shared this crazy idea: What if we could create a social impact business model to help end severe acute malnutrition?”

Next, the three actors found Ravi Patel, who had the business savvy to make the business work. In 2013, they started making bars in their kitchens until they developed This Saves Lives’ first nutritional bars.

While This Saves Lives’ mission and focus has been on helping children globally, the cofounders recognized the increased need for support at home during the pandemic. In spring 2020, they matched every purchase on the website with donations of bars to families experiencing food insecurity in the U.S. as a result of Covid-19. They then partnered with another giving brand to launch a #BeTheOne Essentials Kit, which helped save children’s lives worldwide and also provided virtual tutoring to children in underfunded neighborhoods across the United States.

“Mission-driven companies are the future of all business—because they work,” says Devlin. “Listen to your heart, identify how you want to make the world a better place, and then get after it. It feels good to do good, and doing good is good for business! A deep connection to a mission fuels everyone through the grueling startup life, and the business wins become that much sweeter when they go hand-in-hand with social impact.” 

Here, Devlin offers his top 6 tips for starting a mission-driven company:

·     Start for the right reason. There are a lot of brands out there that have added a mission to their existing business model. We started with a mission and then built a world-class brand around it. Clarity of focus and passion are incredibly important because they help to fuel you through the tough days of startup life, and they resonate authentically with the public.

·     Choose a mission people can join. You not only have to find a way to be profitable, but also create a vehicle for which people can join you in your mission. That’s where the magic happens and you start seeing significant impact.

·     Keep it simple. People are constantly inundated with brands and advertisers trying to get them to sign-up here and give back there. If your message is not easily understood, it will be 10 times harder to capture their attention. The simplicity of our mission starts with our brand name: This Saves Lives. It’s a loud, in-your-face, crystal clear name that all but demands someone’s attention.

·     Don’t forget about your product. A genuine mission will drive trial and build loyalty, but if your actual product or service doesn’t deliver then you’ll never get past the early-adopter stage. Early on we knew that if our snack bars (and now our new products, such as krispies, granola, and oatmeal) weren’t amazing, then we wouldn’t be able to scale. Our bars are ridiculously delicious, non-GMO verified, gluten-free, and packed with premium ingredients. Our kids’ products level up even further, with a full serving of fruits and vegetables in every product.

·     Give your community new ways to generate impact. No matter the demographic, everyone has the desire to be of service to others and do good in the world. But for many people, the question is, “Now what?” For example, severe acute malnutrition is difficult for a child to understand. We made it fun with kid-friendly options for breakfast and snack time that open up opportunities for parents to talk to their kids about the importance of giving back. We also recently launched a new platform called The Table, which is a community of changemakers committed to making giving a part of their everyday life.

·     Take time for yourself. As entrepreneurs, we’re deeply involved in the day-to-day of our brands. But for me, I also need to know when to turn the phone off and be fully present with my family and friends. I still make time to get involved in other causes and be in nature. Quality is far more important than quantity. Recharging your batteries will sharpen your focus and allow you to bring 100% to your mission and brand.

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