As successful businesses began springing out of Silicon Valley like a garden first introduced to fertilizer, entrepreneurs started to wonder how they could profit from filling the holes in market demands.

According to Business Dictionary, a startup is the “early stage in the life cycle of an enterprise where the entrepreneur moves from the idea stage to securing financing, laying down the basic structure of the business, and initiating operations or trading.”

But what do startups have to do with global poverty? While many businesses, including most startups, are looking to meet the demand of customers who will shell out enough cash to generate their owners and employees increasing incomes, some ventures are looking to fulfill a different demand.

Below are three for-profit startups that are using their business plans in one way or another to help alleviate poverty. These companies differ from nonprofits because they function as a business instead of an organization. While both work towards bettering the lives of others, they do so in distinctly different ways.


Nuru provides training-based poverty solutions for local leaders in poor communities. Their leadership programs are intended to create profitable businesses owned and run by local entrepreneurs.

Nuru staff train and equip their counterpart local teams and in return part of that business’s profit is returned to Nuru where it is distributed to shareholders and reinvested in other development projects.

Instead of reaching into markets with foreign goods or services, Nuru allows locals to provide their own communities with desired and necessary products in a self-sustaining manner. Once Nuru implements their programs they withdraw their staff and allow local leaders to become self-reliant and continue making their own difference.


BioLite was created by two camping enthusiasts and sells portable, clean energy stoves, kettles and LED lights. The profits made from their western markets help offset the costs required to make their other product. In addition to camping equipment, BioLite produces a cheaper stove to sell in developing nations.

Since most people living in poverty use open fires for cooking and heating purposes, the demand for inexpensive and safe stoves is high.

This company offers a desired product to untapped markets in developing countries for an affordable price due to their other successful profit earning products. Their business plan is sustainable because they do not rely on donations to continue their work.

Good Cloth

An online clothing store that sells exclusively ethically crafted goods. They’ve divided their products into several categories including recycled, sustainable, organic, made in the U.S. and one titled “Trade Not Aid.”

Good Cloth helps companies who design and create goods without exploiting workers, sell their products. Good Cloth and the brands they sell work to eradicate poverty by pushing against the norm of cheap labor.

They want to help companies who treat their employees fairly and pay them a just wage be successful.

Nuru, BioLite and Good Cloth are only three examples of for-profit business models that are working towards alleviating poverty. While nonprofits play an undeniably imperative role in the fight on global poverty, there is also a place for solutions that include profits.

Businesses have a high interest and investment in their success; in order to eradicate global poverty there needs to be a high interest and investment in finding successful solutions. If incorporating business models and profit as a motivation will lead to poverty reduction, why would we not use it?

Brittney Dimond

Sources: Business Dictionary, The Good Trade, MIC, Nuru International

Photo: Pixabay