In the Frank Capra movie It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey is on the verge of ending it all, thinking his life, and his work, haven't mattered. But with the help of his guardian angel, Jimmy Stewart's Bailey sees how his family and community would have fared had he not remained in his hometown and kept
afloat his family business, the Bailey Building & Loan. George is brought back from the brink by realizing that while some of his own youthful dreams didn't come true, he has turned the hopes of many in his community into reality.
It's a feel-good holiday tale, of course. But what makes it a classic is that most people want the same thing Bailey does: to make sure their time on earth is well spent. For some entrepreneurs in this issue, that means creating companies that reflect their personal values. A cliché it may be, but these business owners truly do want to make a difference.
In our Cover Story, "Mission Possible," we meet some of the growing number of people starting socially responsible companies. Sure, they want their businesses to be profitable. They also want to have a measurable impact on society, be it by reducing carbon emissions or giving jobs to the disadvantaged. There may be a strain of idealism running through these small business owners, but making a go of a double- or triple-bottom-line company takes real skill. Freelance writer Anne Field's report is a guide to balancing the sometimes conflicting goals of doing well and doing good.
The entrepreneurs in our Photo Essay, "Leaps of Faith," are shaping successful businesses around their religions, finding niches in everything from wedding planning to comic books. Other small company owners may prefer keeping their beliefs separate from their businesses. But the great thing about entrepreneurship is that it offers the freedom to make such choices.
Susan Price, Deputy Editor, BusinessWeek SmallBiz
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