As sporting apparel social enterprise PARK chases half a million dollars through equity crowdfunding this year, co-founder Sam Davy has to give Steve Jobs some credit for planting an idea that helped the venture grow.
As Apple’s former creative director, Davy regularly sat down with Jobs and even worked on developing a “global giving platform” through iTunes. It was a project that never fully eventuated due to Jobs’ health difficulties, but in the following years, Davy kept coming back to the idea of business models that make a solid impact.
“My genesis for my social enterprise interest came from Steve,” Davy tells SmartCompany.
“He had quite a large interest in impact, and I don’t think all of that was always realised through the [Apple] business.”
As global creative director for Apple, Davy was overseeing the technology giant’s iconic branding. After transitioning out of the role, he and former Crumpler US general manager Tara Montoneri transferred their skills to a much smaller enterprise, launching PARK — a for-profit soccer ball and sporting apparel brand that aims to supply sporting goods to kids in need.
This week the business, which has so far given away 5000 soccer balls to kids around the world, has this week launched expressions on equity crowdfunding platform Birchal, looking for investors who want a slice of the action and who are keen to support a growing social enterprise.
“There’s such a growing appetite for social enterprise — entrepreneurs are becoming smarter about baking social impact into their businesses,” Davy says.
The aim is to raise $500,000 to take the business to the next level, including upping marketing efforts and increasing overseas sales, he says.
As part of the “Pass-A-Ball” aspect of the business, each soccer ball sale sees another ball delivered to a child who needs it, and Davy, who has been based in Australia since the early 2000s, says customers have been incredibly responsive to the message of the business.
The entrepreneur has now had experience as both a senior staff member at a global tech giant and a jack-of-all-trades out on his own, and he says there are a couple of home truths for building a company that excites customers.
Have a “clarity of message”
Davy says the biggest lesson about entrepreneurship he learned from working alongside Steve Jobs was “around clarity of message and focus for whatever you’re putting out there”, he says.
“If you don’t hone it down to a fine point, once you do then push it out into the world, the message can start to get diluted. That’s what Apple was so good at,” he says.
In the same vein, PARK has been able to take a simple message and conversation starter to connect with customers — even if they’re not interested in sport.
“Our customers are right across the gamut — there are people that love soccer and sport, and people who really don’t care,” he says.
One clear turning point that showed the company was moving in the right direction was when PARK exhibited at the Big Design Market in Melbourne and Sydney, Davy says. Customers started talking to the founders about the brand and saying they were buying the sports products for friends, even though they had no interest at all in soccer.
“What they do care about is that they have a conscience, and they understand how sport and soccer can help,” Davy says.
The concept of the business is straightforward, and Davy says some customers say buying PARK products has made it easier for them to speak with their own children about how lucky they are to have access to things like sports goods.
“They say, ‘I’ve never been able to have that conversation before, but putting that ball on the table helps’,” he says.
“Do what you’re good at”
Having experienced the inner workings of a tech giant and the compulsory DIY nature of small businesses, Davy says one thing he’s observed is that wherever you work, success comes from doing what you genuinely enjoy.
“I think it’s not always achievable, but I think [it’s] being honest and truthful to yourself about what it is that you want and are good at. Once you can identify that, you can achieve all sorts of things,” he says.
The challenge comes when an entrepreneur is chasing something that might not be such a natural fit.
“I know I would struggle if I was going to do something that I wasn’t good at,” he says.
While life as a small business owner requires you to work on everything from design to packing products, Davy says it’s also important to remember no business founder is truly alone.
“I think I’ve drawn really heavily on the support of friends and family, my wife and kids, friends, and friends I didn’t even know the true makeup of. It’s really important, that you can’t do it on your own, even if you’re there [in the business], doing everything,” he says.