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Jun 24, 2015

Advice from the Founder of a $12.5 million social enterprise

Pearl Interactive Network is a $12.5 million social enterprise recently profiled on our Social Enterprise Directory.  Founded by Merry Korn in 2004, the past decade has given her enormous experience in what it takes to excel as a social entrepreneur.  She was recently interviewed by the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.  Here are some excerpts from that interview.  I hope seeing her experiences and investigating more social enterprises in our directory  inspires you.  Click here for ways to get involved in social enterprise.

Merry Korn is the founder and owner of Pearl Interactive Network, Inc. She holds a master’s degree in Social Work, and honed her business skills as senior vice president of marketing for American Health Holding, Inc., a national medical management firm.  Korn founded Pearl Interactive Network in 2004, and has grown the company to more than 400 employees in 23 states. The company is dedicated to providing career opportunities for a skilled and talented niche workforce of disabled veterans, veterans, people with disabilities, military spouses, and people living in geographically challenged areas.

What trends/insights are you finding in your field/market?
We are finding that more companies are driven by social responsibility, and resonate with our mission of placing a hiring priority skilled and talented-disabled veterans, veterans, people with disabilities, and people living in geographically challenged areas.

We provide virtual and client site staffing services to the insurance industry and federal market.  We have experienced a major breakthrough with employers having an interest in hiring home-based employees.  Among the reasons are:

  • Lower facility cost
  • Agility to respond to contractions and expansions in business
  • Stronger retention for contact center workers
  • Geography not a barrier to hiring talented employees
  • In the federal marketplace, there are compliance requirements that federal contractors reach hiring goals consist of a workforce 7% of people with disabilities and 8% veteran.  This hiring goal has created tremendous opportunity for our company.

What advice do you have to give to emerging talent in your field?
Our business is a social enterprise.  We marry a business mission with a social mission.  The concept of social enterprise over the last 10 years has built enough traction to warrant business associations and publications and venture funding specific to social enterprise.

The following is advice I would give to any emerging social entrepreneurs:

  1. You are a business first. Your decisions have to always balance the social mission and the business mission, with the business decisions taking the lead.  If you don’t have your P&Ls, budgets, and plans for expansion and growth, the social mission cannot exist.
  2. Your social mission, if positioned in the market place correctly, could drive more business and higher margins.
  3. Surround yourself by an “A” team before you launch your business. If you cannot afford to hire them, put together an advisory team.
  4. Let your social mission become your branding. We compete against thousands of staffing firms both large and small, and our social mission branding sets us apart.
  5. If business don’t appreciate your social mission and elect to work with you as a commodity, it won’t work.

What are your biggest accomplishments?
Starting the company with no startup funds, and growing to a company with revenues of over $12,500,000, with  no debt, and fulfilling a social mission of having a significant number of our employees as our niche, comprised of disabled veterans, veterans, people with disabilities, military spouses, and people living in geographically challenged areas.

If you want to know more about the dynamic changes in social enterprise in Central Ohio, sign up to get our first annual report on the State of Social Enterprise in Central Ohio, coming out this summer!

Yours in Linking Mission to Money,

Allen Proctor, President & CEO

Center for Social Enterprise Development