Spotlight on Startups - Filanthropists.comAt Sprout Insights, we comb the web to bring you the most up-to-date and actionable resources on how to use social media to grow your business.

To that end, we’re pleased to present the Sprout Insights series Spotlight on Startups. We’ll find the most innovative, useful startup companies out there, get the inside track on what they’re doing, and tell you how you can leverage their products and services for your own business.

This week we’re pleased to cast the spotlight on — an online shopping website based in Oakland, NJ, that unites shoppers with cause-marketing products.

What Is

What Is is a play on its founders name — Filomena Laforgia — who became acquainted with the concept of cause marketing after her own son was diagnosed with autism back in 2003 (see image of Filomena and her son, above). According to Mrs. Laforgia, the help and support she received from autism-related organizations profoundly “changed the landscape” of her life. As Filomena puts it, “suddenly I had a passion for a cause.”

Given her background in marketing and promotion, she wanted to find a creative way to give back and provide support to these nonprofit organizations. She was aware that some products were already affiliated with philanthropic causes. However, it was often unclear the extent to which the causes were related to the products, and vice versa. In her desire to make these connections more transparent — and provide both the causes and the products with more visible and tangible co-branding — she created the startup venture known as It launched to coincide with National Autism Awareness Month in April, 2011.

The e-commerce based website now unites nonprofit organizations, advocacy causes, and product vendors who’d like to donate some of the proceeds of the sales of their products to those causes. takes a small percentage of the transactions — but only after sales are made. “Accomplish something first, then you can be rewarded for it,” Laforgia says.

What Needs Does it Address?

What Needs Does It Address? provides an online marketplace that benefits all parties concerned. Causes and nonprofits can gain greater exposure and financial support, brands can sell more products and help support social causes at the same time, and consumers can feel better knowing that at least some of the products they’re purchasing are contributing to a greater good.

“These days, people are spending less, but they’re spending smarter,” says Mrs. Laforgia. In other words, consumers tend to be much more conscious as to where their disposable incoming is going. “But people still have to buy things,” says Laforgia, “so why not offer them products that have some residual value.”

On the website, socially conscious consumers can search for products by physical category (apparel , books, jewelry), by nonprofit organization (Autism Speaks, CODEPINK), or by cause (AIDS, Animal Rights, Environment). The website also “seeks to celebrate individuals who have chosen to make a difference.” Consumers can upload their photos and include brief explanations about why they chose to support their particular causes.

Each charity, nonprofit and cause listed on the site also gets its own detailed bio page with links to company websites, blogs, and so on. provides a complete e-commerce solution for all of its charities. This means the nonprofit groups can focus on their core missions without having to worry about creating e-commerce infrastructures of their own.

In some cases, even creates products to sell on behalf of its nonprofits. For example, Laforgia and her team have partnered with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to provide advocacy T-shirts for sale on the website.

How You Can Leverage

How to Leverage
If you’re a nonprofit, a cause, or a socially conscious brand or consumer, the ways to leverage are obvious — get listed on the site, find a cause to align with, and make a purchase, respectively. It’s now easier than ever to make these serendipitous connections through the “Unite” feature on the site.

Founder and CEO Laforgia is happy to report that she’s now even getting solicitations from investors. She says that there’s lots of potential investors out there looking not only for a profit but to make a positive impact in the world too. “What better way to invest in making the world a better place than by becoming a filanthropist?” she muses.

If you’d like to avail or inquire about any of services, reach out through its website, its Facebook Page, or on Twitter.

What do you think about socially-conscious consumerism? Is it an oxymoron, or a glimpse into the future of e-commerce? Share your thoughts below.

[Image credits: Filanthropists(FB)]