Roozt Founder Brent Freeman on Building a Social Good Startup

April 4, 2012

9:00 am

Brent Freeman, Founder and CEO of Roozt, the world’s marketplace for cause-related brands, knew in elementary school that he wanted to make a difference in the world.

“My dad is cinematographer here in LA, and he always said, ‘Follow your heart and do what you love.’  When my mom passed away from cancer when I was 6 years old, it changed how I viewed the world and what was important to me.  My dad helped me realize that in life, people have a choice to be a victim or take advantage of life’s challenges to do something.  I knew early on that I wanted to make a difference.”

Despite his desire to make the world a better place, Freeman’s path to social good was a crooked one.  He went to college at USC, where he got wrapped up in the gotta-make-a-million-dollars mentality.  During his senior year, he launched a commodities trading company, working long hours and chasing money.

His life-changing, a-ha moment came in October 2008 when he closed a multi-million-dollar deal at the same time the world’s economy collapsed.  “The deal that I thought would fulfill my wildest dreams left me with a crazy empty feeling.  I looked around and saw all these people with all their material things, and they were miserable.  I asked myself, ‘How did I get here?’”

Freeman shut down the business, and asked himself what was next.  “I was very inspired by TOMS’s social business model that does good and makes a profit.  They were the fastest growing shoe company in the country when the economy was truly awful.  Then it hit me – the bad economy was the perfect storm to make social good the new business model, because people were willing to spend money if they could make a difference.  I started looking for other companies with social business models, and I actually spent several months making a list of companies that are making the world a better place with great products.”

Roozt was built over the course of a year and a half.  “We took the ‘ready shoot aim’ approach and just did it, launching in October 2010 with flash deals and 300 members.  In 6 months, 100,000 people signed up, and we got written up by Forbes and other major publications.”

Because all these small- to medium-sized companies Roozt was working with needed help with online sales – specifically a simple-to-use ecommerce platform – Freeman made the decision to shut down the deal site and focus the team’s time, energy, and limited capital to create the ecommerce platform.

During this time, they also found a great group of angel investors, built up the team, and focused on creating a platform that brought sexy back to giving back.  So, for instance, they built in game mechanics to reward users for buying these social good brands.  “We knew if we could create a slick, fun, mainstream site that wasn’t granola and that took the pain out of discovering these brands, we knew we had a winning combo.”

The new Roozt launched last week, making it easy to make a difference with every dollar by shopping favorites and discovering new must-haves through their highly curated selection of the best cause-related products.

Check out Roozt today and let us know what you think – will it help change the way you shop?

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Monika Jansen is a writer and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, newsletters, website content, and other materials. Follow her at: @monikacjansen

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