Ask yourself what sustains you and your business – beyond its bottom line. When you do, you’ll be surprised to find deep meaning in your business and the impact it has on the world.
My name is Emily O’Brien. I’m the founder of Comeback Snacks — a popcorn company I started while inside a Canadian federal prison.
My entrepreneurial journey began because I made mistakes, and I believed that I could do more — in my life, and for the world — than what my prison sentence did for me. My business began in a prison kitchen with popcorn kernels, creativity, and a relentless drive to create a new lease on life for myself and others.
Today, our popcorn is in 700+ stores across Canada and helping others make their comeback by leading efforts to reduce the stigma against incarcerated persons. We’re helping shape policy at various levels of government to help give people a second chance at life and the opportunity to grasp it.
Since starting Comeback Snacks, I have what feels like limitless energy: I’ll drive to multiple cities in a day, engage customers, and clients, speak publicly about my experience and keep my foot on the gas pedal.
Why? Because as Comeback Snacks grew and developed, so did its impact: financially, socially, and personally. An unanticipated byproduct of this business was how much the constructive, empowering component of entrepreneurship materialized. I didn’t know that was going to happen until I felt it. I realized it was the core essence of my business, my mission, and my journey. This is why I do what I do, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
This awareness — or the heart of my business journey — is what I call emotional profit. For me, it’s the sense of satisfaction and meaning that my business contributes to the world and helps my employees and others grow and succeed. Emotional profit is achieved when, as we build our business, its positive impact on the world then shapes and builds us in return.
What does emotional profit look like? It takes many shapes.
An email from a stranger saying how my story helped them make positive changes in their own life. A social media post ‘share’ or comment. A text message or a simple phone call describing my own path has helped others to find and navigate their own.
You never know how your own life story will be discovered, when, or by whom. It’s the positive interactions with unexpected audiences that remind you of your efforts in making a difference — that’s where you’ll find emotional profit. It’s not financial gain, per se. But studies have shown that once we have enough money for food and shelter, human beings crave more than money. We crave meaning.
For Comeback Snacks to function, I need to make more money than I spend. That’s the bottom line for business owners. When I started, my goal was to make money and break down stigmas and help others. I share these accomplishments with the amazing people I’ve hired that respect my organization, work hard, and share its purpose and vision.
My real ‘profit’ doesn’t come from the bank, but from how I’ve reconciled my difficult past with my positive visions for the future. In doing so, now I can help others in need of a ‘comeback’ and have a second chance at life — like me.
Sure, you need financial profit to keep your business afloat, but you need an emotional connection, too — an emotional profit — to sustain yourself along the way. The financial profit from my business comes from a product that I love; the emotional profit comes from the fact that the business behind this product changes the world in ways that I always wanted to.
The truest sign of entrepreneurial success is not simply making money, but making meaning — and this can be far more impactful and sustaining for yourself, and for your business. It takes growth, reflection, and time. If you embrace these qualities, emotional profit is what your business can achieve for you if you are willing to grow as a human being and find meaning outside of yourself that your business helps to sustain.
I hope you discover your own pathway to emotional profit, whatever you find your own wellspring to be.
Four ways to find emotional profit:
- We can never escape our past. Stop running from mistakes, own them, and use the lessons derived from them — even if they’re painful — to build a better future for yourself and others around you.
- We never know where or when our best ideas will emerge, so adopt an attitude of openness to embrace the new and unexpected in life. The idea of a lifetime might emerge when and where you least expect it.
- Hindsight is always 20/20. Forgive yourself and others for mistakes in the past. The energy you previously spent on your memories can be re-directed and harnessed toward your future, and your business!
- Strive to help others connected to your life and business, and believe in the power of giving people in need a second chance.
Emily O’Brien is the founder of Comeback Snacks — a popcorn company that changes the status quo. A formerly incarcerated individual, Emily made it her mission to create a platform to fight for fair chances of those that have been impacted by the justice system. The recognition of her efforts led her to being awarded with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Community Service Award from the House of Commons and the Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2022, as well as the Woman of Distinction Award in 2020 from the YWCA.