Upper body headshot of Evolve host Brandon Stover


How to Create Startup Foundations for Social Impact

Featuring EXPERT -

Eli Libby & Kyle Nelson

Headshot of podcast host.
hosted by: Brandon Stover
February 2, 2021

Today's experts are Eli Libby & Kyle Nelson, Founders of Results Imagery & the Biz Bros podcast. These are two startup veterans who have had both success and failure in several ventures. They pride themselves on having actually done the work of building a business and not just telling others how to do it. Essentially they practice what they preach as we will hear today how to create foundations for a startup to have social impact.

Eli's started a direct to consumer brand called Winterial. Growing the brand from $0 to over $2 million in 5 years with over 300 SKU's. He was also the marketing director of Soul id, a fast growing social networks for action and adventure sports. Soul id was ranked as one of the fastest growing social networks in 2015 by NBC sports.

Kyle is a serial entrepreneur who has started multiple businesses, starting with a staffing agency that was grown and sold. As a professional photographer, his background is dedicated to the world of content creation. He is a world renowned photographer and was the media director for Soul id and assisted in the exponential growth of the social network.

Today's Lessons

  1. Follow your passion and don't let anything get in the way of that (especially for social enterprises)
  2. Find a foundational co-founder and instill your vision and passion in them.
  3. Be transparent (especially when building a social enterprise).
  4. Develop a good founding story that consumers can get behind and support.

Action Step to take today!

Set your vision for what you want to do. So  if you want to give back to the forest by planting trees, like set that mission in stone and backtrack into that. And now what do you need to do in order to make that come true?

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This article is sourced from the Evolve Podcast, a top social entrepreneur startup podcast. Listen or subscribe below.

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Scroll below for important resource links & transcripts mentioned in this episode.

Want hear about a founder who practices full transparency with his startup? - Listen to Episode 033 with Brett Hagler, Co-Founder & CEO of New Story. Since launching in 2014 they have raised over $25 million dollars creating 25 communities filled with over 2,300 homes in 4 countries and changing over 11,000 people’s lives forever. They have innovated the world’s first 3D printed home which only takes 24 hours to build and costs $4,000, a fraction of traditional construction costs.



Biz Bros - Startup Foundations

Brandon Stover: [00:00:00] Welcome to evolve a podcast about social entrepreneurs, changing the world. I'm your host, Brandon Stover. And today I'm here with experts, Eli Libby and Kyle Nelson who are going to share how to create foundations for a startup to have social impact. I will let Eli and Kyle introduce themselves in just a moment. But these are two startup veterans who have,

had both success and failure in several ventures. They pride themselves on having actually done the work of building a business and not just telling others how to do it. So essentially these guys practice what they preach as we will hear today, how they are using their company results, imagery to plant a tree for every photo taken.

Now the four steps that we're going to cover today, or how to create foundations for a start-up to have social impact are the following first follow your passion to find a co-founder three, be transparent and four develop a good founding story. Now these may seem very simple, but far too many people make their business complicated and forget to do the basics really well.

So Kyle Eli, go ahead and introduce yourself and why you guys are such experts on these topics.

Kyle Nelson: [00:01:03] So my name is Kyle Nelson, co-founder of a company called results imagery here in bend Oregon. I have been pretty much bootstrap in my life since right out of high school. I've never worked for another person. I've always kind of thought myself as self-made I, I like to make my own decisions in life.

And so I've always been an entrepreneur. We're always figuring out the new business, the new shiny object to kind of. Run after and that's been part of some funded startups. Some kind of individual solo startups are just typical businesses over, over the past 12 years. So. It's been quite the journey so far right now, Eli and I, we co founded a company called results imagery, which we focus on media development for e-commerce companies.

But on top of that, we have a really cool corporate responsibility kind of program that we're putting together that we're about to launch that will die  

Eli Libby: [00:01:48] My name is Eli origan co-founder of results. Imagery worked in the startup world. For the last seven years worked in a passion-based action sport company called soul ID.

And that's where Kyle and I met the social network for action, adventure sports. And my background really is in the love for adventure and action sports being in the outdoors and really thriving in that kind of environment. that's kinda where my background is. A lot of my background is in e-commerce and marketing.

And spinning that into a really propelling a startup forward and being able to distribute a CSR program. And we'll, we're going to jump into that a little bit later.

Brandon Stover: [00:02:22] Awesome. Well, you guys have quite a bit of expertise on, you know, starting a startup building that from the ground up. So we're going to dive into a little bit of the foundations of when you're getting a startup going. Tell me a little bit though why, the topics that we're going to go over today or important to the listener and you know how they're gonna apply immediately right now.

Eli Libby: [00:02:39] Yeah, absolutely. The steps that we're going to go into. really set the stage for your business. It lays the foundation out and really that allows scale. It allows scale and it allows, allows you to fundamentally think about the business in a couple different aspects.

And again, I keep saying building the foundation, but that really is what the steps are gonna. Allow you to do after listening to this podcast and hopefully you have some actionable steps step forward.

Kyle Nelson: [00:03:05] And I think to add to that too most, you know, early stage founders and entrepreneurs that haven't quite got their feet wet with starting a business, you're walking into a completely blind, you don't know what to expect.

So even a short form podcast like this, just to kind of discover some easy to take. You know, steps getting started could really make the difference with your journey. So, you know, these are just kind of some steps that  we felt like we wish someone seven, 10 years ago kind of just

Eli Libby: [00:03:32] exactly. And though they might seem a little bit broad they're they, they have actionable steps within that, and we're happy to carry on conversations after, and we can get contact information at the end of the show.

Brandon Stover: [00:03:42] Perfect. Well, let's go ahead and dive into the first one about, you know, following your passion and not letting anything get in the way that.

Eli Libby: [00:03:49] absolutely. So especially in the stage of, of early stage social impact businesses, there can not be anything that stands in the way of that passion and the passion needs to be followed because every day you go to work loving what you do. And you're going to be, you're going to spend 40 to 50 hours a week in an office or behind a computer, or, you know, planting trees, whatever that might be.

So having a passion-based decision behind that in order to pursue that makes that journey much, much easier. And we say that and we preach it and we preach it to our employees. We are in the in the media production business and we. Really instill in our employees that every day they get to come to work and they get to take pictures for very cool brands, negative, they get it, shoot video production for really exciting brands that is their passion.

And we really try to instill that in them more, we're talking about social impact, really letting that passion guide the way that you're taking and taking on that impact. So I will relate it back to me and Kyle, we love the outdoors. The outdoors is something that has been in my blood since I was born.

Giving back to the forest and kind of what the mountains do spiritually for me really are where my passion goes. And that is the impact that I want to give back to future generations. So anything I can do then to support that passion by providing for in our case, we're going to be planting trees with results, imagery.

And that was a big part of that passion was guided that CSR program.

Kyle Nelson: [00:05:15] When you become an entrepreneur or you're trying to kind of do your own side hustle, whatever it may be. You're really changing your life from outwork being nine to five to five to nine.

So if, if it's something that you're having to chase and like move towards and have a common goal, make sure that five to nine is something you can live and breathe and sweat and bleed after like something that you're so passionate about that. You're excited to go to work on Monday and work towards this common goal rather than like dreading Monday, you know, look forward to Sunday night.

Cause you know, you're going to be getting up and go into work. So I think that's one thing. A lot of people are like, yeah, I'm going to grind. I'm going to hustle. Yada, yada, yada. And then after like a few months, they're like, wow, this is not what I wanted. It was called business idea, but it's not what I love.

You know, they like the idea of. Being able to make their own hours or make their own money or just be cool. Cause entrepreneurship is the cool, new, sexy thing to do. But at the end of the day, when you're working that many hours, you gotta make sure it's something you love and that's how it's going to be something that's long-term and, and really make a big difference in this world.

Brandon Stover: [00:06:16] I think with as many challenges and whatnot that comes up in entrepreneurship having something that you're so passionate about that will overcome those challenges. Like you won't see them as challenges. You'd be like, this is just one more hurdle I got to do to be able to have the impact that I want.

Kyle Nelson: [00:06:30] Absolutely.

Brandon Stover: [00:06:31] so let's move on to number two and finding a foundational co-founder to help spread that vision and get the passion with them.

Kyle Nelson: [00:06:39] A lot of people, when they become an entrepreneur there it's typically they're solopreneurs. They get started, they have their own vision and their own in their own stock process on how things need to be done. And a lot of times you go with your gut, you go with your gut feeling as an entrepreneurial, you just know this is right, but more than, more than likely, you really need to fact check yourself and take a double take.

And. You know, we're, we're big proponents on having a co-founder. We wouldn't be able to do the things we've done without each other. We really have this in and yang to each other. And you know, we're both level headed when it comes to talking about things. We don't argue, we don't do any of that. We, we, we just make sure that the conversation is on the table and that's a really big thing with having a co-founder, but.

When you have someone that you can align your vision and your passion with, which was, it was really cool with us because he had this e-commerce background and the beautiful outdoors I had this photography and video background and growing up kind of doing stuff in the outdoors as well. We knew that there was this collision of a vision that we could build something together that's, you know, greater than both of us, you know, one plus one does equal three.

It it's insane. You know, but the power of two minds is, and a lot of times it's nice, you know, we have so much stuck touch on that personality trait before I, you kind of go over that.

Eli Libby: [00:07:51] Yeah. Well, yin and yang is what we, what we were said, but really being able to trust that co-founder and they have certain skills that you don't have and you have skills that they don't have.

And being able to align, and we've done personality tests and different management courses that we've gone through together as a co-founder to really identify where he's better and where I'm better. And then being able to respect that. So when you're going out to find that co-founder and seeking that co-founder.

It's almost like you're, you're hiring somebody. If you are, if you have as vision and you're going out to find, find somebody, you almost go through this kind of data analysis with them and maybe then put them through, you know, put them through some type of personality test and understand if you can work with them and you can collab with them.

And there's no clash. Fortunately we, we pair very well together. He leads off of his off of intuition and I lead a little bit more on analytics. So that is a great, a great pairing. And we're fortunate to have that, but when you're seeking a co-founder understanding that looking at the personality traits and almost looking at it from an analytical standpoint, cause I'm going to touch into analytical standpoint.

Did, does that match what you would say? Yeah. Yeah.

Kyle Nelson: [00:08:58] Where I'm just like, yeah, whatever the dark kind of goes. Yeah.

Brandon Stover: [00:09:03] I think that's great, especially if you're able to do like a small project or something beforehand where you can kind of like test out those personality traits and see where everyone's strengths and weaknesses are. I think is an excellent way to go about it. Okay.

Kyle Nelson: [00:09:16] Yeah. I mean, a co-founder is your third half, you know, if you have another significant other, they really are. They're you see them more than you see your own family and your wife, husband, and kids, like you're with them all day long on the weekends, late nights, early mornings, literally texting, slacking each other late at night.

Like it's just, you're more communicating with them than anyone. So you got to make sure that that's, it's like a, it's really like a bond in a marriage in a sense. You gotta make sure there's someone you're very compatible with. I think a lot of people just kind of see someone's resume and. Ma, maybe they see the money or something and they're like, Oh, that person's perfect.

But as they say, not too many businesses can make it past three years. And I think it's all, it's typically leadership is what it is. And if that leadership isn't bonded together, it's just a setup for fun.

Eli Libby: [00:10:01] And being a solopreneur is a very lonely spot. Really being a leader of a company is a very lonely area to be in.

You don't really have anybody that is on that same level to communicate your issues or communicate some things that you're going through with. So. We feel that, that, you know, having a co-founder is just a fundamental piece of starting a business early stage. Co-founder all the way.

Brandon Stover: [00:10:23] Go ahead and go to number three and talking about transparency and especially in these types of social impact businesses.

Eli Libby: [00:10:31] There's a lot of companies out there that It almost sounds like it's too good to be true. They say that. And I, and I know that there's some great examples out there, so I don't want to hash on them, but there are a lot of companies that say, they're going to do this just as a PR move as a sales move, and then they never really give back.

So they're leveraging and they're kind of doing it out of, you know, dishonesty. I think the biggest thing in starting a social impact movement and around the business is to be transparent and. The ways and the Asheville steps to be transparent are to show people you know, showing photos, showing videos of actually doing what, what they've said that they're set out to do.

If you're gonna plant trees, take photos of you planting a tree, take your team, take do videos, show interviews of, what you've done to the clients you've worked with or interacted with and how that impact is affected them. And do you, and be very transparent about that. I think that is, that was the one piece that we really instilled when we launched a new program. at The end of the day, it does work as a PR and a sales move, but that's not the whole goal of it. It is really to create an impact bigger than ourselves.

Kyle Nelson: [00:11:37] That's the nice part too, about, you know, we have our own program that we've created with an awesome company called we hero that is helping companies around the world, create these programs, which is really cool, but.

We also decided to become partners and 1% of the planet and our members and 1% of the planet, which it's cool because even though our small donation might not make a difference, but when you have thousands of other companies coming together for the common good, and everyone puts their portion into it, it's a huge difference that we're all making.

So, you know, that's a great way to get started. Just there. If you don't know what kind of program you want Just go with 1% for the planet and they can help you get started.

Eli Libby: [00:12:13] But yeah, and that is a, that is a good point too, is we do want give I think a shout out to, we hear, I think for your listeners specifically, we think we hear it could be a great way to, to at least get the process rolling.

And that could be an actionable step as well that we didn't talk about. But reaching out to we hero, I think really is a great step to just being able to. Great. The ideology behind your program, where that passion fits with that. And then actually creating the business plan behind that. I think they could really help us tremendously.

Kyle Nelson: [00:12:38] That's why we shout them out because we couldn't deal with what we were doing without them. So, yep. Really cool.

Brandon Stover: [00:12:44] Yeah, that's awesome. I will definitely put that in the show notes, in the resources for everybody to find out. I also wanted to touch on, you know, being a hundred percent fully transparent and, you know, taking pictures of you planting the tree or whatever. One of the people that we interviewed last year, Brett Haigler of new story.

He's episode 33. he runs a company that basically builds homes in third world countries, but he takes donations and he'll track your donation through every single step to show you where the money's going, and then show you pictures of the exact family that your money helped to build their home.

So it's basically showing the person, this is exactly what's going on with your money and full transparency of the situation.

Kyle Nelson: [00:13:23] That's amazing. Something. What we're doing is every photo that we take a tree is planted and at the end of every quarter, every client that we work with, I'm just going to have a certificate, not a certification, physical, physical service certificate sent to them saying, you know, such and such company, we planted 57 trees and the central Oregon forest has that, that probably on their wall and be excited about something that more than just ordering some photos and video from a company.

You're making an impact working with us and through your dollars, we're able to pack some exactly the cool it's pretty cool.

Brandon Stover: [00:13:57] Yeah. And everybody gets a chance to celebrate that way.

Eli Libby: [00:14:00] Yep. That's really cool. How it attracts every dollar. I love that that's at the end that you kind of see the very last piece, which is the house.

Brandon Stover: [00:14:07] All right. Well, let's go on to developing a good founding story so that consumers can get behind it and support it.

Kyle Nelson: [00:14:13] Yeah. I think every company like Eli was saying earlier you can kind of think about, you know, what can I do, like sustainable or something responsible towards social impact in the world. But when you align something that's true to your heart and something, whether it's been you've been affected by, or a passion of, of outdoors, whatever it may be, it's a story behind why you can get people to support that.

You know, mission, for example, like with Snap-on plant, when Eli grew up in the forest, like you said, it's a spiritual experience for him. It's where his calm is and where he loves. For me I lost my home in the campfire in 2018. And so, and it was in the mountains. Millions of trees were burnt down. So us together found us.

This, we founded this program where we could make a difference, but it personally impacts us. I'm able to give back and plant some trees that were burnt down and he can make sure that the forests are something that, you know, generations below us can experience just like he's experiencing. So it's really, I think it's really important.

And a lot of companies just kind of like, Hey, let's do this, they have this program. It's like a little thing in their footer. Like, that's cool that you're actually making an effort, but like, Because if it's passion driven and something that you can really get behind, it's going to go a lot further than just doing a PR move.

Eli Libby: [00:15:26] Exactly. From, from an audience standpoint people like to connect with a brand. They like to connect with a mission or a values behind it in central Oregon. There, there was large, large fires that happened last year there's huge fires. It just basically barked down the state of Oregon and. Our our mission.

And some of the founding story is we just moved our company to Oregon's. We're trying to give back to Oregon and show that we are part and a fundamental part of the community. And we want to be heard. That is part of the story. And that is, that would attract a local Oregon company to work with us because they want to give back to the forest.

They want to rebuild their state as well, a hundred percent. So it really relates back to trying to create some type of a personal connection. But being transparent, being, you know, being open and being honest with yourself, why are you creating this? Why you create this program and tell that story, people want to hear good story.

Kyle Nelson: [00:16:15] People love following something. That's the better good cause for the world. Exactly. Yeah. That's huge.

Brandon Stover: [00:16:20] Yeah, and I don't think it has to be. And you know, in a gimmicky way, like you were stating earlier if you can come at it from the values that you have as a person, just like, as you guys were talking about it's a lot stronger and you're going to speak of it more. It's going to permeate your entire, you know, company culture from your marketing all the way to your products.

So that's the better way about going in.

what's the one action step from these that you've said today that you think listeners should take right now that would, you know, get them.

Eli Libby: [00:16:50] I think it's a combination of a couple of them. I really do. I really feel that it is setting your vision to what you want to do. So you want to, if you want to give back to the forest plant that way, like set that mission in stone and you kind of backtrack into that. And now what do you need to do in order to make that come true?

If you want to give back. And you want to take water bottles out of the ocean, whatever that might be. So our backtracking and make sure that it aligns with your passion to give back and then start building your story. And I think that is the fundamental step to get people to buy in, in the terms of emotionally buy into your, your project and your mission. I think that. This is what I would probably.

Kyle Nelson: [00:17:30] Yeah. And I think kind of deep diving into like, you know, what, what that you're kind of chasing to go after. Like, see if that that area has a support system, like, see if you know, whether it's the trees. the homes, the water, whatever it is, like, see if there's support systems already created there.

Cause there's no reason why to reinvent the wheel with these kinds of things. There's companies out there that want to help further social impact. And that's why like with us 1% for the planet, like they, they will help you, you know, move where wherever you want your money to be moved. If you need to, they can help you with that companies like we hero, that'll help you say, Hey, I have a 10,000 and $50,000 budget.

How can I get something started? It doesn't, I mean, you don't even need a budget. I'm just saying like, you could start with nothing, nothing more than an idea in a, in a move mission to move forward. So I think just finding support systems too, might as well lean on the crutch of it. So.

Brandon Stover: [00:18:19] You don't have to reinvent it if it's already out there. Well, where can people find you guys in case they want more guidance or support and some of the stuff that you've shared today?

Kyle Nelson: [00:18:27] Absolutely. So we have a couple of different areas. We have our own podcast or on brand called . So if you go and check out biz bros.io. You can kind of check out, we talk a lot about these kinds of things as well, talking about business stuff or our company results, imagery.com. And that's just our media company where we do photo and video and a little bit of marketing for e-commerce companies and other, right.

Eli Libby: [00:18:46] Yep. And stay tuned. If you want to sign up for the newsletter at results imagery, that will be where the snap one plant one, which is that program that will be distributed and, and different you know, information about the program and how you can get involved with that. If you wanted to help plant trees with us that is a great spot to go.

Brandon Stover: [00:19:01] Awesome. Well, thank you guys so much for coming on today and sharing all your expertise.

Kyle Nelson: [00:19:06] Absolutely. Thank you so much. Have a good one.

Brandon Stover: [00:19:08] That was Eli Libby and Kyle Nelson, founders of results, imagery showing us how to create foundations for a startup to have social impact. Their steps were one, follow your passion to find a good co-founder. Three three transparent and four develop a good founding story. Now, Kyle and Eli recommend the step that we should take right now today is to start crafting a vision and story around the impact we want to have.

What is your passion? Why does your business even exist? What impact do you really want to have in the world? For me, my passion is education. So my core mission in life has become to evolve individuals, your education, willpower, and skills to solve the world's greatest challenges. Currently I'm working on that in two ways.

The first is I'm currently building an MVP for a student first online university that matches people's passions with educational skills to solve global challenges. The second is through this podcast, which is dedicated to revealing the tools, tactics, and wisdom of all the amazing people we have on the show to you guys.

Now, if you would like to download the playbook, Eli and Kyle shared today with actionable step-by-step advice and resources and head over to evolve the.world/learn and click the Patrion button. Not only will you gain access to exclusive content extended interviews and step-by-step guides from all the startup experts we interview, but you will also be joining a community of founders, just like you are pushing the world to evolve. So go to go to evolve the.world/learn and click the Patrion button now.