I’ve had the for-profit vs. nonprofit debate both internally and with various mentors, funders, friends, and teammates since the day BLISS was born. It seemed there was no clear answer—while BLISS was born out of an unmet social need, we were, at the same time, creating a product that would have to compete with for-profit labels, necessitating that we pay very close attention to our market and customers.
In the absence of any hybrid structures in Pakistan, where we are based out of, I chose to go the nonprofit route. At conferences and during pitches, I would often get asked to justify this choice; we could easily have been a viable for-profit. My answer was to do with perception and control. I wanted to ensure that our social mission remained our raison d’être and that everyone understood that – our communities, our funders, our customers and our team. Additionally, I believed our model lent itself well to raising grant capital (more on that later).
Often days, I felt like I had multiple personality disorder—achieving real impact required us to think compassionately and consider the needs of a population that was living on less than $2 a day, but the product required us to consider the needs of the high-income consumer market, as well as the whims of the fashion industry. And I had to play the role of decision-maker on both fronts.
After operating as a non-profit for a year and a half, BLISS flipped to a for-profit this January.