For the third consecutive year, Apple tops the list of most innovative companies.
Giving As a Win-Win
In a post-recession economy, luxury vacation club Inspirato LLC invests in the future by integrating philanthropy into its business model.
At a time when consumers are more cost-conscious, the startup offers "luxury for less" by leasing and exclusively managing luxury vacation properties instead of purchasing them. Members pay $15,000 to join, and a $2,500 annual renewal fee.
However, Inspirato's Inspired Giving program lets customers who purchase vacations at sponsored charity events skip those fees to enjoy a luxury 7-day vacation at member prices. Alternatively, consumers can donate $2,000 to a selected charity on Inspirato's Web site to receive the same deal.
As a seasoned entrepreneur, Inspirato CEO and co-founder Brent Handler said he's learned the value of social commerce: "Everything you're doing is about your business and shareholders, but at the same time there's no reason that you can't be doing good for the community," he said.
Since launching in 2011, Denver-based Inspirato received funding from venture capitalists like Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and was named one of Forbes' "Most Promising New Companies" in 2011. It has over 200 vacation options in 58 destinations.
Charities are sharing in Inspirato's fast-growing success: In under two years, the company has raised more than $2 million for over 150 nonprofit organizations, including March of Dimes and National Children's Cancer Society, Handler said.
Charities typically receive one donated vacation to resell at an auction or fundraiser, and split the profits on any additional trips they sell. At the Global Down Syndrome Foundation's recent October fundraiser, for example, the organization raised $57,000 by auctioning off 18 vacations.
Casey Perry, a mother of a son with Down syndrome and an Inspirato member, said the fundraiser was a win-win situation. "Everyone was lifting bidding card after bidding card. It was amazing on both sides," she said.
Consumers benefit from Inspired Giving as well, by gaining the chance to try the exclusive vacation club without membership fees. In turn, Inspirato gains the opportunity to attract potential new members. "It's really a marketing program for us," said Handler.
In fact, Handler said top bidders at charity auctions are a "perfect overlap" with the target market his company desires most: Luxury vacation travelers reluctant to switch from hotels to private vacation homes.
For Inspirato, what comes around is going around. Integrating philanthropy into its business model lets this startup make a difference -- and a profit too.