The world's smallest multinational: The 'One for one' business model

The business idea: 'One for one' for a better world

There's nothing like arriving in a city of 8.2 million people to remind you that you're a very small fish in a global pool of movers and shakers. That's why, as an entrepreneur trying to get noticed in New York, it's important to have a strong support network - either business or personal - that can help open doors.

But don't be fooled by the warm welcome at the door. If you don't have a mighty powerful business proposition, the door won't open twice.

Fortunately, the 'one for one' model has already been proven by a handful of entrepreneurs around the world - another key to getting serious airtime in New York, and critical for me when I had only a matter of weeks to put together a business plan and take it around the world.

So what does a 'one-for-one' business do?

The idea is simple but powerful: Every time you buy something, a one-for-one business donates the same item to someone in need.

It's charity as part of everyday life and it empowers you to make a difference, one transaction at a time.

The revenue model is that of a 'for profit' business, proving you can have a charitable aspect and still be profitable. Where it makes money is through selling one-for-one branded products - from FMCG to financial services products. The criteria is that they have either a very low cost-per-sale, so a donation with every purchase does not significantly affect the bottom line, or, the commercial platform is a scalable online service that requires minimal resources to operate.

Currently, the model is providing shoes, spectacles and condoms to the underprivileged in African and Asia, and it's no surprise that the philosophy has been embraced in New York - a place where generosity is as much a sign of success as profitability. But it will take significant interest from the global business community before 'one for one' marketed products become synonymous with supporting third world communities.

Until then, the one for one business platform will remain the domain of that handful of dedicated entrepreneurs. Without wishing myself out of a job, I sincerely hope the landscape changes soon.


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