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How to Build a Philanthropic Business


Founder & Owner of Bellden Cafe

I believe strongly in building purpose-driven or philanthropic businesses that literally and figuratively feed our communities. Integrating my passions for coffee, community, and charity, I founded a cafe on Main Street in Bellevue, WA that seeks to serve the customers who walk in the door, as well as our neighbors.

Monthly, Bellden Cafe donates a percentage of our proceeds to local nonprofits and encourages customer and team participation in volunteer projects and charity drives. In doing so, we have supported a number of local organizations to ensure that all community members have access to nourishing food, warm beverages, and other life essentials.

Today, I’m passionate about teaching other purpose-driven entrepreneurs how to create and sustain philanthropic businesses that support their communities through commitment, collaboration, compassion, and communication.

Commit to Your Dream

All entrepreneurs are going to confront a number of obstacles while making their dream enterprises into a reality. It’s so important that purpose-driven entrepreneurs remain committed to their ideas, themselves, and their communities to overcome these challenges.

I knew I wanted to create a cafe to be the den of Bellevue — a hub for community support that offered healthy food and nourishing drinks to everyone. As a first-time hospitality business owner, landlords and loaners hesitated to offer me a space and lending. Often I wasn’t taken seriously by suppliers as a female seeking to secure myself as a leader in the male-centric coffee market. Eventually, I found the right people willing to invest in me and my dream to build a cafe that supported my community.

Instead of internalizing these obstacles, I allowed them to amplify my success. I stayed committed to who I am, what I wanted to do, and found others to support me in the fulfillment of my dreams.

Collaboration with Your Community

Building a successful business requires support. If an entrepreneur wants to create a community-centered enterprise, they need to have the community creating with them. Great businesses are built through the collaboration of the team, the customers, and the community.

Before I launched Bellden, I began volunteering at local nonprofits to see which ones I wanted to partner with. I got to know the people served, as well as the team. It was important to me that I partnered with organizations with sustainable and equitable operational models. So, I reviewed their procedures and financial statements to ensure that we would be a good fit.

Once partnerships with local nonprofits were established, I designed specialty drinks that aligned with the missions of the organizations. A percentage of the proceeds for every drink sold is donated to a nonprofit. Then, I developed a model where my team could be paid a number of hours per month to volunteer at one of these organizations or another of their choosing. Lastly, the customers could add items to their order or their virtual cart like: “Support Frontline Workers” or “Donate to the Diaper Drive;” to encourage customer engagement. We all work together — my team, customers, and community — to ensure that we are thriving.

Compassion with Everyone

Foster a culture of compassion with everyone in your entrepreneurial ecosystem. We all experience difficult times individually and collectively and have a lot to learn. Creating a community centered in compassion enables safe spaces for all to learn and grow.

When COVID-19 arrived in Kirkland, I knew that a response rooted in compassion would contribute to how my team, my customers, and I were able to manage this challenging time. I wanted to keep the cafe open while following pandemic protocols by transitioning the business to a take-out only model that offered new service options like no-touch curbside pick-up. But as a Chinese-American, I feared for my safety.

One day, an angry man sent me a derogatory racist and sexist email. I turned to friends, family, customers, and my team for support. They all cheered me on and encouraged me not to internalize the hate speech. Quickly, I was able to turn the experience around and support others in disregarding oppressive bias and hatred to find success. My community’s compassion for me has helped me to be compassionate of others’ challenges so that we can be stronger together.


The foundation of good leadership is clear communication. Learn to communicate directly and kindly to everyone in your community so that they can help you to achieve common goals.

A culture that benefits everyone through the strength of communication will be able to better absorb and overcome the challenges of building purpose-driven enterprises. From family to team members, customers to business and nonprofit partners, authentically communicating your needs, desires, challenges, and skill sets can contribute to a safe environment where everyone desires to succeed together.

In modeling positive communication, entrepreneurs are also teaching those around them how to do the same. This allows for quicker conflict resolution and establishes trust so that communities can grow faster together.

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