GOOD RETURNS: Ending poverty on a global scale, one bar of soap at a time

Dallas is known as the kind of city where, on any given day, a single interaction could change your life.

A new job, a big business deal, an opportunity of a lifetime… it’s not an understatement to state that BIG things happen here in Dallas. But every once in a while, you’ll also meet certain individuals who have a lasting, internal impact on the lives of others. A fresh perspective, an expanded mindset, or a challenged thought; these are the individuals that I crave to be around. The person that possesses all of these remarkable traits for me is Mr. Salah Boukadoum. 

Salah Boukadoum

If you’ve never had a Salah encounter, it is truly a treat. He exudes an aura of both class and dignity fused with empathy and tenacity. What the heck does all that mean? Salah is a man who self proclaims to have lived three different lives; one as a classically trained pianist, another successfully exiting a profitable software company, and now as a world changer who has dedicated his next life’s work to empathetically addressing systemic challenges that plague women across the globe. Through his experiences, both domestic and abroad, Salah has grounded his work in a theory that women are the key to overcoming many of the world’s global challenges.

So where did this all begin you might be asking yourself? While touring internationally as a classically trained pianist, Salah received his first look at real poverty in Africa. He realized that by helping women he could also help children, families, and communities out of extreme poverty. After all, women are our society’s greatest creators and multipliers of life. Living in a world where women are marginalized keeps communities stagnant and deprived of the thriving vitality that all people deserve.

Upon a successful exit of a software company he founded (and was eventually acquired by Alliance Data), Salah’s mission began to shift from solely creating profits to creating shared value. Like Beethoven sitting at his piano crafting his next famous symphony score, Salah began meticulously studying ways to multiply that value and shared impact through actualizing what would become the Good Returns Model. 

Salah, what exactly is the Good Returns Model?

SB:// Good Returns is a new form of philanthropy that allows businesses to do more good and promotes sustainable solutions to our world’s greatest problems. Our model drives capital from businesses and corporations into problem-solving, sustainable organizations – called Impact Organizations – in order to serve humanity. Participating companies provide capital to Good Returns as an interest-free loan. Good Returns constructs a financial guarantee for every dollar and distributes it as interest-free loans to top vetted impact organizations.  We also create channels for the company to tell powerful stories of impact. After one year, the capital is returned through Good Returns to the participating businesses. This cycle enables businesses to commit more resources and drive more impact – unlocking new value for companies, impact organizations, and the world.

We decided to start a company that would use 100% of the profits – the entire economic output of the company – to serve humanity.

This sounds really cool, but for Launch DFW readers, what does that actually look like?

SB:// Well, while sitting at the kitchen table with Co-founder Craig Tiritilli, fresh off a company exit, we decided to start a company that would use 100% of the profits – the entire economic output of the company – to serve humanity.

Drawing from my experiences touring the globe as a pianist seeing the causes and effects of poverty and Craig’s natural inkling for realistic problem solving, we wanted to create a business that would allow us to demonstrate that even the simplest business like selling a bar of soap, could change the world. The company was started on a mission to end poverty for women, which became today’s Soap Hope. Also, at the time each of our families were striving to live non-toxic and sustainable lifestyles, so we were able to translate both ending poverty and healthy living into one laser focused effort.

good returns, soap hope

The Good Returns Model

So, Soap Hope is the actualization of the Good Returns Model?

Yes, on a smaller scale. This is how it works:

  1. When you choose to purchase your natural, healthy products at Soap Hope, you start the cycle. In your cart, before checkout, you’ll see how many Days of Hope your purchase is going to create for women. The average purchase creates dozens of days of hope and our next goal is to create 1 million days of Hope for women across the globe.
  2. 100% of the profits from your purchase are sent to vetted and accredited women’s empowerment partner organizations as a one-year interest-free loan. The loan capital is used to assist women to start or grow their businesses.
  3. Loan recipients create income for themselves and their families. They also improve their children’s health, provide education, and save, which are key steps in breaking the cycle of poverty. We share their stories throughout the year with you.
  4. At the end of the year, the capital is returned to us. We use the returned capital to grow our own business, offer more selection to you as a customer, expand our mission partners, and repeat the impact cycle all over again.
Got it. So would you say the Soap Hope/Good Returns Model has been successful?

Soap Hope has been growing, and in 2014 we had enough experience that we were able to raise some growth capital. Soap Hope now has dozens of brands and thousands of all natural products that we carry and we are expanding to more each month. We’ve grown our team to now to a dozen employees and have made several announcements including a $1million dollar investment from asset management firm Inverdale Capital Management, and just announced our latest impact cycle in partnership with Esperanza International – a micro-lending organization in the Dominican Republic focused on women and individuals in underserved communities along with additional support services including preventative healthcare, micro-insurance, and training in the core areas of business and financial literacy. Very importantly, the Good Returns model now stands in its own separate institution helping companies to participate in the process of cycling impact capital – in a wide variety of areas as diverse as women, poverty, clean water, and veterans.  

As a final question, what impact would you like to see this have on Dallas and how can others join you in this mission to eradicate poverty for women?

I always remind people in Dallas that if we want a thriving local impact community, we have to choose to buy the products and services that our social enterprises are offering.

As you can imagine, I want every person in the city to participate with me in ending poverty for women by always buying their home and body products at Soap Hope, or even better to make a commitment by becoming a Soap Hope member.

But I also want our city to get strongly committed to grow all our other local social enterprises, by supporting their businesses. Give Akola jewelry for your next gift, take your clients to Café Momentum for your next meal, choose Miles of Freedom for your next lawn care provider, or order your next bottle of honey from Bonton Farms. Sustainable impact is on the move in Dallas, and impact organizations are all around you if you are paying attention.

Benjamin Vann