Create Social Impact With Your Business (SaveUp, World of Good)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

By Priya Haji (Co-Founder & CEO, SaveUp)

Editor’s note: Priya Haji is co-hosting Founder Friday San Francisco on November 4, 2011. RSVP for Founder Friday here.

My entrepreneurial imagination gets inspired by seeing how I can help people through an innovative use of business or technology. My dad and my grandmother are my role models. My grandmother was part of Gandhi’s movement in India, and she showed me the importance of a commitment to improving the world.

The first social venture I started was in high school with my dad. We created a free health clinic in my hometown of Bryan, Texas, and it is still there serving thousands of people. My own twist is that I like using business and technology to create good.

My previous company, World of Good, a branded marketplace for fair trade and sustainable goods made by women in 55 countries (became part of eBay in 2010) and now my newest endeavor, SaveUp, are both financial rewards programs.

The principles behind them are the same, to help others. I strengthened my skills to build these kinds of ventures during my MBA at Berkeley, which has a very strong entrepreneurship program.

In the current economic environment, pretty much every American is trying to increase their savings and reduce their debts. My friend (and SaveUp co-founder) Sammy Shreibati and I started wondering how we could make that easier in a different way. After much research, the idea of SaveUp was born.

SaveUp aims to make saving money and reducing debt easier and fun. You earn rewards on any account where you are saving money or any debt you are paying down by adding it to SaveUp’s rewards program — with every dollar of savings or payments, you earn credits to play for all kinds of rewards. The largest reward is $2,000,000.00. There are other rewards like cars, vacations, and smaller rewards like gift cards and electronics. We also provide financial tips, educational videos, and other ways to improve yourself.

The best part is seeing SaveUp users accomplish their financial goals and stay motivated to succeed financially. But, a close second is when someone wins a big prize like an iPad or a trip for their family -– so much excitement and they can’t believe they got it just for doing what’s right for themselves!

Our hope is that SaveUp will help Americans to stay motivated to contribute to their 401k accounts or build up their emergency savings during these tough financial times.

We are launching SaveUp today and I am excited to share it with the other women striving to succeed on Women 2.0.

Maybe SaveUp can be a tool for some of you in your own financial success.

For other women interested in building businesses that solve social problems, I would share a few things that have been important lessons in my own development:

  • Even in a business with a social purpose you must focus on the fundamentals of the business itself.
  • Build a team of advisors and investors with expertise in your industry to help you grow.
  • Look at all the ways you can use new technologies and innovations like cell phones and the internet to reach more people and reduce the costs.

I think the best ideas to solve the biggest problems are still out there to be done. Someone reading this article might have one of the. If that is you — trust yourself, and go for it! The worst thing that can happen is that it will not work, and who knows you might create something even better than you imagined.

As a thank you, Women 2.0 readers can earn 100 bonus credits when they sign up for SaveUp here.

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.

Priya HajiAbout the guest blogger: Priya Haji is Co-Founder and CEO of SaveUp. After graduating Stanford University, she co-founded and led Free at Last, which became a national model for substance abuse treatment and HIV/AIDS intervention. After receiving her MBA from UC Berkeley, she co-founded and led World of Good, a branded marketplace for fair trade and sustainable goods made by women in 55 countries. World of Good was acquired by eBay in 2010. Follow her on Twitter at @priyahaji.