Impact and growth: mission impossible?

Impact and growth: mission impossible?

by Startup Montréal
24 March 2023

Impact is still a source of prejudice: “Often people think that everyone [in an impact startup] is a hippie in the company, [that it] doesn’t generate money, that it doesn’t think about money…” points out Marie-Hélène David, president and CEO of zero-waste personal care and cleaning products company, Myni.

This sentence, which speaks volumes about the road we have to travel around this topic, was shared during a recent exchange between her and Frédéric Bastien, co-founder and partner at Amiral Ventures, a venture capital firm specializing in development and growth.

We wanted to explore with these two guests the question of growth in an impact startup in order to know if it comes with different challenges. This reflection is obviously part of the activities of our Startup, the impact reflex campaign. 

The challenges of growing an impact startup 

The decision-making process deployed in an impact startup depends on organizational values, which requires flexibility in order to ensure that they are respected at all times.

Longer-term thinking

At Myni, growth and impact go hand in hand, but this may have generated a lot of analysis and questioning. Marie-Hélène says, “Generally, she feels that it slows down some decisions without [however] preventing long-term growth.”

As a concrete example, Marie-Hélène’s team asked themselves several questions when choosing some of the raw materials they wanted to use in their products and packaging. As an organization that aims to have a significant ecological impact, it was out of the question for her to let new plastic enter its production.  She therefore had to scour the market for possibilities in order to make a coherent and intelligent choice for her company.

A rigorous approach from the start

As you know, the startup of any business is difficult. However, when a startup chooses an impact-driven journey, it adds, in terms of its indicators, additional objectives. An impact startup must be careful to generate and optimize results on two fronts at the same time, financial on one side and social and environmental on the other (see our previous article Impact and money, an impossible marriage?). Establishing and monitoring these measures can be intense at first, but it provides a good work ethic from the start. This approach is therefore very profitable in the medium term.

Moreover, this vision, which must be coherent from an environmental, social and economic point of view, sometimes suggests a few backtracks on the paths taken by the entrepreneurs. A decision that at first glance appears to be ecologically beneficial may not be financially beneficial. Additional effort is required to maintain a balance between priorities. 

Why choose impact?

For many entrepreneurs, impact means the future of their children. They want to leave a healthy planet to the generations that will take over. This is the case for Frédéric and Marie-Hélène who have used this orientation for their business projects with the idea of “doing a little bit” or “doing more” for the planet. This vision acts as a powerful driver of commitment. 

Also, while there are many specific challenges at the beginning of the journey, it is a model that has the same potential for growth as any other type of organization over the long term. That’s what sustainable development is all about: sometimes we have to be braver in the choices that define our organization, but once the directions are clear, they can become levers for growth.

That’s why, at Startup Montréal, we are committed to deconstructing the preconceived notions about impact startups.  For those who want to know more, we invite you to consult our impact toolbox.