Alumni startup combines social impact, corporate gifting

USC alumni are sparking change by combining social impact with corporate gifting.

The company, started by alumni Laura Hertz and Jerry Eisenberg, provides gifts like the Gourmet Chocolate Tasting Box to benefit social causes. Photo courtesy of Laura Hertz.

After spending years working in both nonprofit and corporate fields, USC alumna Laura Hertz launched Gifts for Good, a full-fledged social enterprise company which has already funded a year of drinking water for nearly 900 people in Central Africa.

“We’re all over the board in the types of impact that we’ve had, but it’s been super exciting to see what we can do, just by redirecting some of the dollars that people already spend for good,” Hertz said.

Founded in November by Hertz and fellow USC alumnus Jerry Eisenberg, the company focuses on providing corporations with gift options that give back to charitable causes.

When Hertz worked with AmeriCorps, a federal national service program that supports people with critical needs, she witnessed firsthand the difficulties nonprofits frequently encountered with raising funding for their causes due to the fact that they rely heavily on donations and grants.

When Hertz attended the Marshall School of Business for her master’s in Social Entrepreneurship, she was determined to maximize the sustainability of nonprofits and social enterprises by connecting them to a corporate gifting marketplace.

Gifts for Good functions by bringing products created by nonprofits and social enterprises to corporate clients through one e-commerce site. Shoppers can filter through gifts by marking which causes they support. The site features six main causes, including children in need, the environment, economic development, women at-risk, homelessness and health.

The concept behind the company became feasible when the pair took a course at Marshall. For the course final project, each team had to present a business concept that fused charitable work and business. Hertz and Eisenberg developed a plan to address the specific problems Hertz observed in her experience with the nonprofit and corporate worlds.

When Marshall professor Christine El-Haddad, who teaches both undergraduate and graduate strategy courses, listened to Hertz and Eisenberg’s presentation, she thought their plan was a good idea, but she never expected the project to turn into a company. 

A few months after the pair took the course, they notified El-Haddad that they had founded the company.

“From the first time I met [Hertz and Eisenberg] in class, I was impressed,” El-Haddad said. “If every business thought along those lines, the world would be a much better place … Now that two of my students have turned a final project into a company, I want every final project to turn into a company.”

Eisenberg said he wondered which charitable cause to support when he first enrolled in the Marshall program. However, his time in El-Haddad’s course made him realize he didn’t have to choose.

“Our concept was: Why support just one cause, when we could set up a business that would allow us to support a whole range of worthwhile causes, just by helping people pivot the way they purchase gifts?” Eisenberg said.

According to Hertz, since their recent launch in November, Gifts for Good has already attracted over a hundred clients and made a significant impact toward several causes.

“Many of our orders have been large-scale bulk orders from some of the world’s most well-known brands,” Hertz said.

During their first four weeks in business, they were able to provide 450 days of job training for women transitioning out of homelessness in downtown Los Angeles, and 188 days of schooling for at-risk children in Honduras.