I work on B Corp Row.
That's what we affectionately call a five-block stretch of North Ravenswood Avenue in Chicago.
The street was once home to factories and there are still several small industrial companies. But these days, these large gorgeous buildings have been repurposed for small businesses of every stripe.
StoryStudio Chicago is in one of these rehabbed loft buildings (ours fittingly was once a printing company) that connects to almost every other building on the block. In fact, if you walk north on Ravenswood, the blocks are reminiscent of streets of row houses--each one is connected to the next.
When I walk to work and pass by these buildings and these businesses, I can't help but imagine I'm on a new version of Sesame Street, one filled with businesses using business as a force for good.
B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
We may not be quite as cute as the Muppets, but we do have a lot in common:
1. Sesame Street is a great educator, opening minds and teaching the basics.
B Corps think of themselves first as businesses, but second as educators. We can't help ourselves; at networking events we talk about greening our supply chains, we write blog posts describing our experiments in building great company cultures, and at cocktail parties we talk about the weather....and how it affects wind turbines.
When I introduce StoryStudio as a B Corp I am often met with blank faces. I grab this chance to explain that StoryStudio is part of the solution, that we are using the power of business to solve environmental and social issues. That you should hire us because we are amazing at what we do, but also because we are a part of something bigger.
2. If you make a mistake on Sesame Street, no one gets mad at you and everyone wants to help.
Mistakes? Oh, where do I begin.
It's not uncommon for me to burst in on my B Corp neighbors for an impromptu venting session. I know I'll get great advice, or sometimes, just the reassurance that they have been in similar positions too.
Like many entrepreneurs, I started StoryStudio because I knew a lot about writing and stories, not because I knew how to read a balance sheet. Let's just say, I had a bit of a learning curve.
Every entrepreneur makes mistakes. It's what we learn from those mistakes that matters. Using the B Corp framework makes this process faster and provides what I call, "a lens of opportunity."
3. Sesame Street has some great quirky characters.
Okay, I stuck this one in just because I wanted you to know I really identify with Oscar the Grouch.
4. Bert and Ernie are the best BFFs ever.
Stop me if I get too emotional here but I have to admit that my very favorite part of being a B Corp in Chicago, is my group of BFF's on B Corp Row. These are the people I call when something goes right at work, or when something goes wrong.
Owning a business can sometimes feel lonely, but as a B Corp, I am part of a local, national, and international community to learn from, collaborate with, or just hang out together.
5. Sesame Street never shies away from addressing difficult topics.
Our neighborhood has changed a great deal in the decade that StoryStudio Chicago has been located on this street. We have benefited from economic development spurred by this small business growth.
But in other parts of Chicago, this kind of growth isn't happening.
Each B Corp views their social impact in a different way. For StoryStudio, our focus is on helping our students find and tell their stories, and to reach a deeper understanding of those stories.
But for me personally, being a B has given me the network and the tools to work toward true change in Chicago. Several of us on B Corp Row have been working to bring a B Lab-created, citywide program to Chicago encouraging businesses in every corner of the city to measure their impact, grow their businesses, and celebrate their achievements. This growth means more local jobs and opportunity for the communities in which they are located.
6. Sesame Street is more than a place; it's a state of mind.
Being a B Corp is more than a credential for me. It's a joyful reminder that I am a part of something much bigger than StoryStudio or even our Ravenswood neighborhood. I am part of new way of conducting business. One focused on growing my own business while helping to build a world in which we all benefit from a shared prosperity.
So, the next time you hear someone talking about The Street, think of B Corp Row and the impact you can have on your own street.
The B Corp Life is a new blog series geared towards exploring what it's like to work at a benefit corporation. Why do b corps matter, and what does the future hold for them? Let us know at PurposePlusProfit@huffingtonpost.com or by tweeting with #TheBCorpLife.