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Tangible Ways Entrepreneurs Can Respond to Natural Disasters

Culture

With all the natural disasters and community tragedies we see in the news, it can be hard to know how to respond or help. Eight entrepreneurs share examples of how they support their communities and how that involvement impacted their business. At the end, they give their tips to help you take action too.


Adopt a Classroom

“When Harvey hit, my company (located in Houston) adopted classrooms in low-income areas that were affected by the storm," says Bonnie Treece, founder of The Brain Domain, which offers tutoring, test prep, and college counseling.

“We bought school supplies for classrooms in an elementary school in the 5th ward where about 70% of the students were displaced. It felt good and we ended up getting tons of new clients the next week, but we didn't advertise what we did at all. I think it's about good karma."

Give, Train, and Listen
Brad Shaw, president and CEO of Dallas Web Design Inc., an online marketing firm, says, “As an entrepreneur and businessman, I helped others by doing the following: Donate money and goods to at least 25 families that are affected; train for first-aid and emergency response; [and] take time to talk with the victims. Sometimes, all they need is an ear to listen."
Sharing Time and Spreading Awareness

“I support my community by volunteering locally, and I use social media to spread awareness when it comes to national or global disasters. I also donate to relief efforts," says Ian Young, virtual assistant, and co-organizer of RVA Social Entrepreneurs, a group of entrepreneurs committed to positive social change.

“For local disasters, it's a way to not only do my part in the community but it's also a good way to network with the organization that you're volunteering in."

30 Day Love Challenge

Nachi Salasini, a social impactor's personal development coach and speaker at Live Like YOU, Now!, wanted to create something that “would bring more love to the people hurting over all the pain that's been going around."

“I decided to run a free 30 Day Love Challenge," she says, “to bring more love into people's worlds. Bring a little more hope and a lot more light during the dark times."

“The community appreciated and engaged with the Love Challenge because the need was there and it was a way to start their day on a more positive note. Also, through the challenge, many reconnected with old friends, felt happier, and more hopeful for better days - I know I did."

Mindfulness Meditation Albums

Jaime Pfeffer, a meditation teacher, entrepreneur, and success coach, says, “I responded to both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma by offering my mindfulness albums free to people who were struggling with the emotional impacts these natural disasters can cause." Pfeffer, who was personally affected by Irma, says she knows “how the build-up to a natural disaster and the aftermath can cause huge amounts of stress, anxiety, doubt, and panic."

“I don't know if I've had direct sales as a result of these efforts but that isn't why I did it in the first place - it's really about helping out where I can."

Helping the Helpers

“This has been such an emotional roller coaster," says Jenny Moore, founder and president of BlingGuard LLC. Despite feeling overwhelmed, when Moore saw a group of rescue vehicles, she spent time “giving hugs and talking to first responders [to thank them...] My spirits lifted, my kids' spirits lifted. I'd like to think we lifted the spirits of all the guys we met, hugged, and spoke with."

That led to supporting first responders with meals and organizing a laundry drive (where volunteers washed first responders' clothes). Later, she helped others affected by the storm by sourcing bedding, organizing delivery of supplies, and coordinating an event to support teachers in the affected area.

“I did all these things to truly help out. I saw myself as a vessel who was simply able to use my network, my ability to solve problems, and my drive to help people. It was so good to do good. That said, my business has exploded! I met so many people, [...] and my exposure in the community as a “do-er" brought me to a different level. I have been contacted for several speaking engagements and business opportunities, and doors continue to open."

Entertaining Fundraisers

Noelle Rose Andressen, artistic director and dancer of Rubans Rouges Dance, a dance company with an emphasis on community outreach programs, says, “We perform dance concerts through our company's outreach to fundraise for national disasters. If it's a local disaster, we provide hands-on assistance with blankets, food, [...] fundraising, and volunteering."

Andressen has seen multiple benefits. “Our employees, administrative and [...] dancers, get a sense of purpose and are pleased and proud to help their fellow humans. It creates the positive brand perception to the community as well. Sometimes, generally speaking, entertainers can be seen as selfish or out of touch; we wanted to change that preconceived notion. We become part of their extended family and not only seen as entertainers, but entertainers who care and give charitably in times of trouble."

“Tax-wise, it is listed as an 'in-kind' service or donation and has always been beneficial for us as well. We have never experienced any drawbacks or negativity from being charitable. A positive karmic deed always returns ten-fold."

Elevate the Issue

“As leaders, we have the responsibility to lead the way by example and first thing is to elevate the issue inside of our companies," says Ximena Hartsock, co-founder, and president of Phone2Action, which helps businesses and citizens take a stand on the issues that matter to them.

After natural disasters and other tragedies, Hartsock uses Slack to communicate with her team to raise awareness and collect ideas. “Our employees immediately began brainstorming ways we could help, including posting information on our personal and corporate social media accounts regarding how people could locate loved ones and donate blood."

Her company also partners with other organizations and offers their technology to schools for free. She says, “Helping others is part of our culture. In fact, one of our employee benefits is three additional days of paid time off (PTO) for people to help on natural disasters or recovery issues of the person's choice. [...] Employee satisfaction and brand alignment increases when you show your employees that the bottom line is not the money."
[Your story here]

The interviewees recommend serving in ways that make sense given your experience, talents, and interests. “Whatever it is that you do best," says Andressen, “give graciously. We all have something to give. Find what you're passionate about and be real when helping others."

Salasini suggests that “entrepreneurs reconnect with their 'why,'" or their motivation, because “the best way they can serve their community will come from [that]."

“If it makes sense for your business or product," Hartsock says, “start with your product and offer it for free to help the efforts already in motion."

She also reminds us that we don't need to come up with ideas by ourselves. “Crowdsource ideas for how you can help from within your [company]. An employee may already be helping via their own community organization which you could partner with, or they may have a great idea of how your company could help."

And every local area has a place you can help, says Young. “Look for organizations who are nearby. The biggest one is HandsOn; there is a chapter in almost every major city in the country."

“Remember," says Salasini, “'It's not about you, but it starts with you.'" When talking about her Love Challenge, she says, “I made it as easy, fun, and valuable [as I could] for the people I serve. I made it about adding more light and love to their world."

As these entrepreneurs have said, there are many benefits to supporting your community. Whether you do it for the tax write-offs, team unity, brand exposure, or the knowledge that you did a good deed, let these examples and tips inspire you to help your community in a way that feels the most natural to you.

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Choosing the Right Corporate Structure: Which Business Entity Should You Go With?

Business entities can be defined as the corporate, tax and legal structures which an organization chooses to officially follow at the time of its official registration with the state authorities. In total, there are fifteen different types of business entities, which would be the following.


  • Sole Proprietorship
  • General Partnership
  • Limited Partnership or LP
  • Limited Liability Partnership or LLP
  • Limited Liability Limited Partnership or LLLP
  • Limited Liability Company or LLC
  • Professional LLC
  • Professional Corporation
  • B-Corporation
  • C-Corporation
  • S-Corporation
  • Nonprofit Organization
  • Estate
  • Cooperative Organization
  • Municipality

As estates, municipalities and nonprofits do not concern the main topic here, the following discussions will exclude the three.

Importance of the State: The Same Corporate Structure Will Vary from State to State

All organizations must register themselves as entities at the state level in United States, so the rules and regulations governing them differ quite a bit, based on the state in question.

What this means is that a Texas LLC for example will not operate under the same rules and regulations as an LLC registered in New York. Also, an LLC in Texas can have the same name as another company that is registered in a different state, but it's not advisable given how difficult it could become in the future while filing for patents.

To know more about such quirks and step-by-step instructions on how to start an LLC in Texas, visit howtostartanllc.com, and you could get started with the online process immediately. The information and services on the website are not just limited to Texas LLC organizations either, but they have a dedicated page for guiding fresh entrepreneurs through the corporate tax structures in every state.

Sole Proprietorship: Default for Freelancers and Consultants

There is only one owner or head in a sole proprietorship, and that's what makes it ideal for one-man businesses that deal with freelance work and consulting services. Single man sole proprietorships are automatic in nature, therefore, registration with the state is unnecessary.

Sole proprietorships are also suited to a degree for singular teams such as a small construction crew, a group of handymen, or even miniature establishments in retail. Also, this puts the owner's personal financial status at jeopardy.

Due to the fact that a sole proprietorship entity puts all responsibilities for paying taxes and returning loans, it directly jeopardizes the sole proprietor's personal belongings in case of a lawsuit, or even after a failed loan repayment.

This is the main reason why even the most miniature establishments find LLCs to be a better option, but this is not the only reason either. Sole proprietors also find it hard to start their business credit or even get significant business loans.

General Partnership: Equal Responsibilities

The only significant difference between a General Partnership and a Sole Proprietorship is the fact that two or more owners share responsibilities and liabilities equally in a General Partnership, as opposed to there being only one responsible and liable party in the latter. Other than that, they more or less share the same pros and cons.

Registration with the state is not necessary in most cases, and although it still puts the finances of the business owners at risk here, the partnership divides the liability, making it a slightly better option than sole proprietorship for small teams of skilled workers or even small restaurants and such.

Limited Partnership: Active and Investing Partners

A Limited Partnership (LP) has to be registered with a state and whether it has just two or more partners, there are two different types of partners in all LP establishments.

The active partner or the general partner is the one who is responsible and liable for operating the business in its entirety. The silent or investing partner, on the other hand, is the one who invests funds or other resources into the organization. The latter has very limited liability or control over the company's operations.

It's a perfect way for investors to put their money into a sector that they are personally not experienced with, but have access to people who do. From the perspective of the general partners, they have similar responsibilities and liabilities to those in a general partnership.

It's the default strategy for startups to find funding and as long as the idea is sound, it has made way for multiple successful entrepreneurial ventures in the recent past. However, personal liability still looms as a dangerous prospect for the active partners to consider.

Limited Liability Company and Professional LLC

Small businesses have no better entity structure to follow than the LLC, given that it takes multiple good ideas from various corporate structures, virtually eliminating most cons that are inherent to them. Any and all small businesses that are in a position to or are in requirement of signing up with their respective state, usually choose an LLC entity because of the following reasons:

  • It removes the dangerous aspect of personal liability if the business falls in debt or is sued for reparations
  • The state offers the choice of choosing between corporation and partnership tax slabs
  • The limited legalities and paperwork make it suited for small businesses

While more expensive than a general partnership or a sole proprietorship, a professional LLC is going to be a much safer choice for freelancers and consultants, especially if it involves risk of any kind. This makes it ideal for even single man businesses such a physician's practice or the consultancy services of an accountant.

B, C and S-Corporation

By definition, all corporation entities share most of the same attributes and as the term suggests, they're more suited for larger or at least medium sized businesses in any sector. The differences between the three are vast once you delve into the tax structures which govern each entity.

However, the basic differences can be observed by simply taking a look at each of their definitive descriptions, as stated below.

C-Corporation – This is the default corporate entity for large or medium-large businesses, complete with a board of directors, a CEO/CEOs, other executive officers and shareholders.

The shareholders or owners are not liable for debts or legal dispute settlements in a C-Corporation, and they may qualify for lower tax slabs than is possible in any other corporate structure. On becoming big enough, they also have the option to become a publicly traded company, which is ideal for generating growth investments.

B- Corporation – the same rules apply as a C-Corporation, but due to their registered and certified commitment to social and environmental standards maintenance, B-Corporations will have a more lenient tax structure to deal with.

S-Corporation – Almost identical to a C-Corporation, the difference is in scale, as S-Corporations are only meant for small businesses, general partnerships and even sole proprietors. The main difference here is that due to the creation of a pass-through entity, aka a S-Corporation, the owner/owners do not have liability for business debt and legal disputes. They also are not taxed on the corporate slab.

Cooperative: Limited Application

A cooperation structure in most cases is a voluntary partnership of limited responsibilities that binds people in mutual interest - it is an inefficient structure due to the voluntary nature of its legal bindings, which often makes it unsuitable for traditional business operations. Nevertheless, the limited liability clause exempts all members of a cooperative from having personal liability for paying debts and settling claims.

This should clear up most of the confusion surrounding the core concepts and their suitability. In case you are wondering why the Professional Corporation structure wasn't mentioned, then that's because it has very limited applications. Meant for self-employed, skilled professionals or small organizations founded by them, they have less appeal now in comparison to an LLC or an S-Corporation.