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Socially Responsible Micro-Entrepreneurs

Business Words of Wisdom

Socially Responsible Micro-Entrepreneurs

By Mark Swartz
Monster Contributing Writer

Can you still be called a small business with just two full-time employees? The answer is definitely yes. According to Statistics Canada, an employer with fewer than five workers is a Micro-Enterprise.
 
A great example is Orenda Connections, a consultancy specializing in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Peggie Pelosi is its founder and CEO. She works alongside one of her five sons. Together their firm is consistently in demand.
 
What is it Orenda does? "Our real niche is weaving CSR into a company's corporate culture," says Peggie. "We boost employee engagement by creating inspiring workplaces, where we connect a relevant social cause to the company's core brand."
 
Show How A Company Cares
 
One of Orenda's recent clients is Corel, an international software company headquartered in Ottawa. They're known for their design and graphics programs such as CorelDRAW and PaintShop Pro.
 
Orenda was called in shortly after a major restructuring at Corel. Morale there was down. Management hoped to rekindle staff spirits and also be viewed as a good corporate citizen.
 
"We began by surveying Corel's employees on their knowledge of, and engagement in, the company's existing philanthropy measures," says Peggie. She wanted to know if staff was aware that Corel regularly donated money to charities, if there were employee fund-raising drives for certain causes, and the like.
 
Then Orenda worked with a cross-functional committee within Corel. That group included members from Corel's U.S, U.K., Germany, Taiwan, China and Japan offices. "Our goal was to identify social causes that meshed well with the company's brand and authentic corporate culture." It was determined that since Corel's software is mainly for creativity and publishing, it made sense to focus on issues of literacy and reading.
 
"At that point our job was to identify and vet potential not-for-profits that Corel could align itself with," adds Peggie. Thus was born Corel's partnership with Room to Read, an initiative that brings books and literacy to underserved communities worldwide.
 
Eat, Breathe and Live Your Passion
 
Clearly Peggie is committed to helping better the world. She's an active humanitarian, having spent time working in Central America, Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and here at home. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters, Toronto.
 
"Social responsibility is in my DNA," says Peggie. She simply wouldn't feel comfortable doing work that did not contribute to society. "It really is my passion that drives me to continue, and to put my heart and soul into my company."
 
Listen To Your Inner Entrepreneur
 
Not everyone is cut out for self-employment, notes Peggie. You need a stomach for risk and fierce independence. She knew early on, though, that she wasn't destined to spend her life in a tangle of corporate red tape.
 
Her first effort as an entrepreneur began years ago, when her children were younger. Peggie went out searching for toys that would be fun and educational. Pickings were slim at the time. So she followed her instincts and started up an educational toy company – to fill a void in the market.
 
"We ended up with a direct sales force of 20, a warehouse, import arrangements with manufacturers, distributor contracts…it was a full-on thriving business," says Peggie.
 
This venture taught her all about the realities of running a company. So much so that she was hired afterward by a large U.S. health firm as VP of Network Development (Sales). It was there that she worked on a project blending revenue enhancement with CSR. Not long thereafter Orenda Connections was birthed.
 
Choose The Size Of Your Business Based On Your Stage Of Life
 
"Back when I was in my thirties, I had the energy to run a medium-sized business and manage a lot of employees. Nowadays I'm content to pick and choose my assignments. The thought of creating a larger company no longer appeals to me," says Peggie.
 
Being a Micro-Enterprise gives her more control over the types of clients she serves. She is also freed up from too much administrative trivia. "Now I am a practitioner. I consult, I am an author, I speak to groups and have clients who respect me for who I am. It's all that I want," says Peggie.
 
Have A Group Of Specialists You Can Bring In When Needed
 
On the Orenda Connections website, there's a section about "Our People." Peggie and her son, Michael Pelosi, are prominently featured. There is also a smaller section called "Our Partners and Collaborators."
 
This is where Peggie lists experts in Strategy, Research, plus Design and Communications. They aren't employees of Orenda Connections. But she can summon them on a moment's notice to help out when needed.
 
"We offer our customers a social branding experience that requires expertise we don't necessarily have in house," observes Peggie. She describes how a client might need graphic design, or quantitative research, as part of Orenda's offering. The ability to quickly draw on talented specialists lets Peggie stay small yet ramp up for bigger projects.
 
Try Not To Shatter Your Balance
 
As a mother, Peggie has been all too familiar with the multiple demands an entrepreneur faces. She cites the analogy of a juggler trying to balance a whole bunch of balls all at once.
 
"Someone told me that you have to pay attention to the balls that are made of glass," says Peggie. "They're the ones that are most precious. If you drop them, they will shatter." It isn't possible to be in balance at every moment, as a small business owner. "Time has to be put aside consciously to recharge, and to nurture the things you love."