Where Einstein Meets Edison

Why heart companies win: a conversation with 9-year old founder Vivienne Harr

Why heart companies win: a conversation with 9-year old founder Vivienne Harr

Sep 14, 2013

In a world in which consumption becomes far more mindful it is the social purpose companies that win. It is the businesses from the heart and not only from the mind that win. And overall it is not the more but the better that wins.

Ever since the outbreak of the global financial crisis there has been a 50%-decline in consumer trust in corporations. Consumer trust is a key variable for repeated purchase, and thus a direct measure of brand loyalty. How can consumer trust be reestablished to allow for the competitive edge new ventures need to succeed?

There may be many pathways to consumer trust, however one largely underrated is corporate social responsibility. Corporate social responsibility, the business of a better world, today has a direct impact on purchasing behavior and brand awareness.

Mindful consumption demands social responsibility. With social responsibility a new era of company is arising: a social purpose company. A social purpose company is a profit-based business that stands for something of significant social importance.

Vivienne Harr, 9-year old founder of “Make A Stand Lemon-Aid”, one of the first social purpose companies worldwide, makes a stand against child slavery. She immediately felt the need to free 500 enslaved children after she saw a photograph of two Nepalese boys with giant rocks strapped to their backs. She thought, “They should be playing”, and decided to sell lemonade. She set up her own lemonade stand for 173 days straight. On day 173 in Times Square in the middle of winter she reached her goal and donated more than $100,000 to antislavery campaign Not For Sale.

When she subsequently asked her parents “Is child slavery now done?” and found out about the 18 million enslaved children worldwide she decided, “I’m not done”. She took the world by storm because of her authenticity and strong belief to end child slavery. Only six months after she reached her initial goal she raised enough to launch her own company together with her father Eric Harr. She now distributes bottled lemonade at 70 grocery stores at the West Coast and in cafeterias at Stanford Business School, Oracle, Intel, UCLA and many others. She is spurred by her initial success and asserts – “It makes me happy to see all of this success, because it means we are that much closer to ending child slavery. Did you know that it’s really possible in our lifetime? (Just read “Ending Slavery” by Kevin Bales). It all starts with turning compassion into action. And that can be anything you want: small or big. I just really believe anyone can change the world. You don’t have to be big or powerful. You can be just like me.”

Her business model is a “giveness” model as she describes on her website. It implies a business without a price tag for her bottled lemonade. Thus, consumers at grocery stores can “pay what’s in their hearts”, – she explains. Eric Harr has been astounded at the public’s reception to Vivienne’s “giveness” and highlights during the interview – “As the slightly-jaded grownup, I never imagined it could work at retail, but it is. And, I believe it’s because people need this to work. They need something pure and wonderful in which to believe. Plus, it’s timeless. Over 100 years ago, Emerson said: “Trust people and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” That’s the very basis of Vivienne’s incredible “giveness” model. It’s that beautiful, pure audacity of a 9 year-old who believes in this simple logic: people are good, we’re doing good, they’ll help us do good. The “giveness” model is working. People are paying upwards of $1,000 for a single bottle of lemon-aid. From a business perspective, what does that mean to your margins? From a branding perspective, what does that mean to your company? If you do good business, if you treat people well, if your company is wrapped around values and has a strong social impact, you will win hearts. And if you win hearts–in this word of mouth economy–you will win. Period.”

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She highly emphasizes fairly traded lemons in order to ensure the lemon farmers’ children are able to go to school. “We’re ending child slavery here! We can’t very well use ingredients that aren’t Fair Trade. Fair Trade means treating the people who get our ingredients fairly. That seems fair to me. And that’s the golden rule, you know? Treat others the way you want to be treated! Fairly!”.

She also gives half of the profits from lemonade sale to antislavery organizations such as The International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor or Free the Slaves amongst others.

Harr, an entrepreneur who already raised more than $1,000,000 to end child slavery, proves that it is possible to make a profit with a social purpose and at the same time pay employees well. She started her business from her heart. She wants the world to taste her lemonade in order to end child slavery. From her personal experience, her father suggests, “Find your business from your heart, because heart companies win”.

Stephanie Muth


Stephanie is a global citizen with a passion for interdisciplinary and intercultural communication. She currently works in international medical sales and supports several nonprofits in their sponsor acquisitions. She is fluent in four languages, lived in four countries and worked in many more. With her enthusiasm about identifying, analyzing and developing new business opportunities, she is always eager to learn from the unique talents and skills people possess. She previously participated at the MIT and Stanford business plan competitions with Anjna, a Stanford nonprofit aimed at breaking the cycle of chronic, preventable diseases. Stephanie also encountered the impact of technology on peace during her international business internship at ISCAR, Tefen Industrial Park in Norther Israel. Besides her further internships in channel management and international sales at SolidWorks, Fujitsu and Oberg Industries, she is interested in medical technology, venture creation, international business, commercialization strategies, social media, network analytics and venture capital. She graduated with a BS in Technology Management and Computer Science from the Technical University of Munich and spent one year at the IESE Business School - University of Navarra in Spain.

One comment

  1. Thank you Stephanie for a beautiful, important piece–and for making a stand with us.

    I wanted to make two corrective comments:

    1. While many people have paid over the asking price (well over the asking price in some cases), only one gentleman paid $1,000 for a bottle.
    2. Regarding the $1 million figure. We’ve raised close to $1 million to start the company and get the product to market. We’ve given over $100,000 to causes (listed here: http://makeastand.com/company/trust-and-transparency) and we continue to give 1% of all revenue and will give 50% of profits when we are profitable.

    Just want to be certain all of the facts are clearly-defined. Thank you again. You have been positively lovely to work with! This is an important piece for people to read, because it’s true: heart companies DO win!

    Eric Harr
    (Vivienne’s papa and CEO, Make a Stand, Inc. SPC)