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This is part two of a transcript of Career Buzz interview with Martina Ernst, President & CEO, Wo-Built Inc. (Click here for part one.)
Martina Ernst interview on Career Buzz Canada with Mark Swartz
What are the challenges of running a business that also has a social mission?
How to get media exposure for your startup?
How to support your social mission?
Mark: Great. You say some of your people you have mentored have gone on to larger different experiences; do you think that you have infused into them the spirit of mission that they may carry on as well?
Martina: I think to a certain extent, maybe. I cannot talk for them but I am hoping that we have, because we think that social entrepreneurship, if you are talking to a smaller company like ours, is that our influence maybe like a pebble in the water when you throw it in, and maybe the ripple effect will actually bring a wider and wider and wider influence sphere.
Mark: It’s nice analogy. Now, you are running a business that also has a social mission that must be somewhat complicated because from time to time there, I am assuming, could have been some inconsistencies or challenges: you want to do right; you want to do the best thing for your people but at the same time you gotta make a buck. So, tell me a little bit about that.
Martina: We actually had many challenges over the last five years. One of them was that the economy was not very good so, what happen also was, because we actually had a training mission which was coupled with a construction company which is a building company, so we had two different messages. We had our training and mentoring message and we also had our building message. And to push both of them forward to the same extend was quite challenging because the two messages are not that much inline. We found that over time because our social mission of women in construction took off, it actually got a lot of PR and we had a lot of success with it in terms of that. Now we feel that it just runs on its own and we are getting more and more involved in green building. So now we have a new product which is an integrated green building mission in many ways, you can say.
Mark: OK, great. Let’s come back to the green portion of it in just a moment because it’s very topical and it is mission oriented. But you mentioned something earlier I think our listeners might want to hear especially if they are thinking about starting a business, social mission. You talked about getting PR, public relations, media exposure for the training of women in construction, and you said that got some traction. So, how that came about?
Martina: Well, actually, sometimes we approached people and told them about what we were doing and they got excited about it and they started writing about us or we, actually, got approach by them because they have heard of us and wanted to interview us. That is how we got the PR.
Mark: Tell me what kind of media exposure did you get at this point?
Martina: We were written up by The Toronto Star, at one stage; and we were mentioned in a couple of other articles, as well.
Mark: OK, great. At that point, did you push on it or really it was what’s coming in, and this is nice, but you were satisfied with the level of exposure?
Martina: That is an interesting question because hindsight is always 20/20, and I think we probably should have pushed a lot more then that what we did. We were just very, very pleased that people were writing about us and they wanted hear about us but, I think we did not actually push it enough.
Mark: OK, but for businesses that just starting out there are so many different aspects that you need to focus on, so, it’s understandable that once momentum begins in one area, likely, you are getting some publicity, you are taking your eye for a bit, you move on to the next thing, like you know, make me a few bucks.
Martina: Well, it was also coupled with the fact that the two messages were intertwined, so we also had to get our building message out because that’s really what makes us money and that is what actually supports our social mission. So we had to push on that a lot more than the social mission and somehow it got turn around.
Mark: As these things sometimes do.
Please click here for part three: Career Buzz interview with Martina Ernst, President & CEO, Wo-Built Inc.