The students are all part of the Stuart M. Williams Impact Scholars Program, which gives them the opportunity to work on projects that aim to make a profit while making a difference. The students wanted to find a way to help local businesses compete with the surge in online shopping during the pandemic. While the idea for the company came from Stuart Williams, a local businessman and associate professor at the college, four other business students were tasked with making it a reality.
“All of these local businesses that really make a living from the touristy neighborhood of Charleston not only had these tourists, but people were at home buying things digitally,” said Jody Bell, one of the students involved in the project . “These local companies really had problems.” Williams said the theory he teaches is called “Impact Economics” and aims to make capitalism more ethical. In addition to teaching theories in class, Williams’ company In Place Impact works with companies to apply Impact Economics in their work.
The platform not only benefits the economy, but is also aimed at people who benefit from it. “There has been talk for years about how we work on capitalism in order to make it more inclusive,” he said. “(Impact Economics) makes communities economically, ecologically and socially sustainable for every inhabitant.”
While it looks like an Amazon from the outside to locals, ImpactHub is much more than an online shopping destination. The platform is limited to companies in the Charleston area. These companies are then ranked based on where a product is made and where it is sold. Companies with products made and sold in Charleston are ranked highest. This is to educate consumers about which companies are most likely to help the Charleston economy.
Williams said the evangelists are often people who do not have the opportunity to find work elsewhere. ImpactHub CHS has partnered with Unbound Life, a Charleston company that helps connect people back home with job opportunities. Vishal Patel, owner of Unbound Life, said the ultimate goal is to create a closed loop where business can benefit people and people can benefit the community. In order to orient themselves towards the goals of Impact Economics, the students created an “Evangelist” program together with ImpactHub CHS. The program offers people the opportunity to work as ambassadors for ImpactHub by promoting the platform in the community.
When a product is sold on the platform, 90 percent of the profit goes to the company and 10 percent to ImpactHub CHS. Of that 10 percent, 5 percent go to the evangelist who introduced the program to the consumer.
“The more we empower these marginalized communities, the more they can contribute to society and the better our society in general becomes,” said Patel.
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