Although they come from different backgrounds – Nicole Koedyker, a Drexel University senior, grew up on a cattle ranch in Arizona while recent Drexel alumna Maria Allison grew up traveling between her mother’s home in Washington D.C. and her father’s in Seattle – they both agree that small businesses grow from being socially responsible and environmentally friendly. That is why they co-founded Forsei Consulting, a benefit corporation that helps small businesses be just that.
“Companies are struggling to come up with a model that integrates green initiatives and social causes into the value chain,” said Daniel Korschun, PhD, an assistant professor of marketing at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business. “Maria and Nicole are approaching this like a team from McKinsey Consulting [a global management consulting firm]. They could really be on to something.”
Koedyker and Allison both began at Drexel as freshmen at the same time but never had a class together. They met while hanging out with friends in the engineering and business learning communities. And, they were both active in green and community initiatives on campus. Koedyker served as president of Drexel’s Sierra Club—a student-led environmental awareness group—for four years and convinced the University’s dining halls to offer more meatless options on Mondays. She also did her six-month co-op working for Drexel’s Office of Community Partnerships. Allison took a year off to tutor seventh graders through City Year, an AmeriCorps program that partners with public schools to provide full-time targeted student interventions. She held co-op jobs at SEI Investments and at a sustainability consulting company.
This isn’t the first business venture for Koedyker, who has already created Limelight Shirts, LLC. That initiative started when a fellow student took a Kanye West lyric and turned into an Internet sensation. Koedyker managed his t-shirt line that used the proceeds for charitable causes. She also promoted gay marriage by selling “Love is Love” t-shirts. To-date Limelight Shirts, LLC has donated $4,000 to charities and non-profits.
Koedyker and Allison first worked together on Focus the Nation, a national series of campus-based clean-energy conferences, and they quickly learned that not only can environmental and social causes work together, so could they. That’s how the idea of Forsei, pronounced “foresee,” was born.
From what they had learned from research, their own experiences, in their coursework and while on co-op, they know that consumers increasingly want to do business with companies that promote the environment and social justice. An increasing number of states also allow businesses to incorporate as a “benefit corporation” or become “B Corp” certified, making responsibility part of their operations and fiduciary obligations. However, most small businesses don’t have the knowledge or capacity to pursue B Corp standing, a designation that could give them tremendous competitive advantageous.
While most consulting firms go through a standard checklist looking for recycling efforts and diversity amongst employees, Forsei takes a more strategic approach by incorporating social responsibility into all facets of a company’s operations.
The reviews from their clients thus far rave about their professional approach to business. Forsei helped PurpleTye, a social media marketing company that created the Tye Gives Back Fund through which 100 percent of the agency’s after-tax profits help subsidize the marketing costs for their non-profit clients. Thanks to Koedyker and Allison, PurpleTye also hosts free social media workshops for local businesses and hopes to attain B Corp certification by the fall.
“They have a welcoming aura about them,” said Montez Smith, PurpleTye founder and CEO. “They just have a look that says: ‘We got you. You can do this.’”
Read more about Forsei in the spring/summer edition of Market Street magazine, a publication by Drexel’s LeBow College of Business.