Several Arizona businesses are finding their purpose in charitable giving

Corporate social responsibility is a popular trend — the Dove Self-Esteem Project helps women achieve body positivity, the CVS Health and Truth Initiative encourages people to quit smoking — but what if companies made altruism a core part of their business models? Several businesses in Arizona are doing just that.

Because (pronounced bee-koz) is a Phoenix event space that financially supports seven local charity partners using revenue from hosting events. Each time a client rents a space at Because they designate one of those charities to receive 10 percent of the proceeds.

“What you’re going to be doing anyway is going to go a little farther, because what you’re spending goes to support our local community,” said Kathy Sweet, owner of Because and CEO of Automätik, an automotive experiential events and training organization.

Sweet said Automätik bought the building for company events, but she recognized the building’s potential the first time she went there. Sweet was inspired by businesses like the shoe retailer TOMS, which donates a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair sold, to make supporting the community an inherent part of her event business.

“It has been since day one, that is what we do is give back,” Sweet said. From the start, Sweet only wanted to partner with local-to-Phoenix charities. “We wanted the home-grown, the people here that really care about the local community and have raised up from the local community.”

Because is partnered with Children’s Cancer Network, Arizona Humane Society, Phoenix Rescue Mission, Vet Tix, Hustle PHX, Chrysalis and Owl Love You Forever. Sweet said she and her family chose each charity both for personal reasons and to give clients a variety of causes to support.

“That’s something that’s not necessarily on everyone’s radar, it’s not cancer, but we have unfortunately known quite a few families who have gone through that,” Sweet said about OLYF, a charity that provides homemade blankets and a soft stuffed owl to families who lose their baby before, during or shortly after giving birth. “I guess we also really liked the fact that no one really knows about it.”

Sweet estimated that Because has raised up to $120,000 for its partner charities since its formation in late 2015.

Redemption Market, a Chandler-based fair trade boutique founded by Rhonda LaBatt in 2013, has a related goal: create an ethical supply chain that treats everyone involved fairly, from the people who create and sell the artisanal goods to the customers who buy them. LaBatt calls the practice “conscious capitalism.”

“Who is affected by this?” LaBatt said. “Not only the makers, but the customers, that they receive something well-made and meaningful, and then also the community.”

Redemption Market supports organizations that work to bring freedom to women worldwide, and much of the proceeds support people affected by human trafficking. Customers are extremely receptive, she said.

“It’s been overwhelmingly positive,” LaBatt said. “From a customer standpoint, I think a lot of people are aware of some of these really big issues, but they really don’t know how to get involved or what to do to help, and this is a tangible way. Here’s a product, and if you purchase this a woman is helped.”

The market has been “extremely successful” at local farmers markets, in boutiques and online, and the revenue speaks for itself, LaBatt said. Redemption Market has given up to $30,000 per year to the organizations it supports, she said, and opening her own brick-and-mortar location is “the next step.”

Firehouse Subs, a national sandwich restaurant chain founded by Chris and Robin Sorensen and based in Jacksonville, Florida, uses proceeds to give first responders better equipment, training and support through the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation.

“Inspired by their family’s decades of firefighting heritage, the entire concept was built on their father’s return home from the fire station, family dinners (at the station and home) and a firefighter’s need for delicious grub,” said Scott Friedman, area representative and franchisee for Firehouse Subs in Arizona.

The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation was established in 2005 in response to the Sorensens’ experiences with Hurricane Katrina. To-date, the foundation has donated more than $35 million in lifesaving equipment to public safety organizations nationwide.

According to a breakdown from Firehouse Subs, the restaurant chain donated almost $1 million in equipment and supplies to fire and police departments, EMT and ambulance services and other public safety organizations in Arizona in 2017.

“Grants are awarded directly to first responder organizations, as well as municipalities and nonprofit organizations, such as the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), that provide financial support in public safety,” Friedman said

All three businesses cited Arizona’s enthusiastically expanding workforce, temperate weather and business-friendly community as strong draws for starting a business in Arizona.

“It’s a beautiful place; it’s pretty easy for business,” Sweet said. “The climate’s pretty good, there are lots of young people here, moving here. They make great employees.”

Graham Bosch

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