Combining Business and Social Purpose – Part I | USTaxAid

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Combining Business and Social Purpose – Part I

Written by Diane Kennedy, CPA on June 5, 2007

The sub-title of Part I of this blog series might very well be “How We Started Out By Doing Good and Made the Best Business Decisions Ever.” Isn’t it interesting how often you can start out doing one thing, with high integrity and intent, and accidentally get results you never intended? This is the story of how we started a business started from a complaint at a mastermind session, morphed when a community made a heartfelt plea for help and somehow along the way we made a lot of money and helped a lot of people.

I started my first business, a CPA practice (DKA), in 1991. My motivation at that time was simply that I wanted to have my own business providing legal tax strategies where I could be my own boss. I didn’t want someone to tell me what to do. Maybe some of you can relate to that motivation.

I contrast that to starting Maui Mastermind in 2003. In that 12-year period from beginning DKA, I had built a series of successful, money-making businesses and learned how to invest in real estate to create streams of passive and passive residual income. (For a quick refresher on these terms, make sure you sign up for Maui Mastermind Online to receive your free online workshops that teach these and other important wealth-building concepts.)

That meant that although making money is an important component of any for-profit business, it wasn’t the sole purpose. Maui Mastermind started with a mastermind group I was in. I was complaining about being tired of giving seminars where I was inundated with questions from people many of whom I knew would never do anything with the information. They were almost looking for reasons to not succeed, or even try. It was exhausting and demoralizing. In fact, I’d made the decision that I was going to stop doing seminars. My mastermind challenged me on this idea. That’s one of the traits of a good mastermind group. They push you and hold you accountable to moving beyond where you are.

In the end, I finally just blurted out, “I want to do a seminar that’s in a beautiful location, that lasts for more than just a few days and that people have to qualify to be part of.” David Finkel, who became my partner, said, “Hey, I want that too.” And, so the partnership was begun for Maui Mastermind.

One of the things we decided early on was that we would give 20% of the gross profits to charities. This was an important point to me for a couple of reasons. First, we both wanted to do something that had social purpose attached to it. Secondly, we wanted to be really clear HOW much we were giving – both for ourselves and for anyone who would question us. This is a personal prejudice. I’m happy that people are aware of social needs and responsibility, but it always annoys me when companies proudly say “a portion will be contributed to charity.” A portion? How much? $1.29? Or something that really makes a difference? I get annoyed at the lack of responsible accounting and reporting. There seems to be something slightly shady in saying “a portion will be contributed to charity.” It’s the trendy thing to be charitable, they have decided, and so they’ll get on board for the least possible cost. Of course, I’d love to be wrong about that.

That’s how the 2003 Maui Mastermind was begun.

We gave 20% of the gross proceeds for charity and let the participants in the room decide what charities should receive the money. Later, in 2004, we heard the story of what $10,000 did for an orphanage in Juarez called Casa de La Nueva Vida (House of the New Life). The orphanage had just lost their property in a property dispute. There were 15 children ages 2 – 16 who had nowhere to go. Chances are they would be living on the street when they had to move in the next few months. The director, Sergio Palafox, decided to let the kids have Christmas first and then would tell them the next day what was going on. The check from Maui Mastermind came on 12/26. The director’s wife was so excited that she couldn’t really even speak when she called Sergio after pick ing the check up at the post office box in El Paso. He thought she’d been in an accident! So, once he knew she was okay, he told her to just come home and they’d sort it out. The check was really the answer to their prayers. It was enough for them to start construction on their very own orphanage.

The story was so compelling that we decided we had to go down and film it. Our little group grew and my husband, Richard, said he wanted to go along as well. That’s when we met David, the boy we decided to adopt that first night we met him. Six months later, he came to the US as our son.

It took a little while longer to get all the paperwork sorted out so he could easily cross the border, but once we did, we made a return visit to the orphanage. Meanwhile, the Maui Masterminder had not been idle. A group had formed specifically to support the children of the orphanages in Juarez, providing funds for school and food and safe shelter. The people of Estrellas Para Ninos (Stars for Children) became the extended family for the children who had no family. The kids called them their tios y tias (uncles and aunts) as they come back to visit 3-4 times per year with presents and food and, most importantly, themselves. The kids at the orphanages now brag about their tios y tias to their classmates, who used to tease them because they had no family. Now, the kids have countdowns at the orphanages for the next visit of their extended family.

Here’s a picture from a visit our new family made back to the old orphanage:

Down in Mexico: Diane, husband Richard, son David, and Sergio, the director of Casa Le Nueva Vida

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