Readers! Writers! Book lovers! It’s time for another small-press shoutout! These are the posts that remind us all that even in a faceless, sterile, bottom-line industry like publishing, there are people out there doing some great work envisioning their dreams and making sure good books get to good people.
We ran a ton of these last year around the holidays, and my hope was to do that again. Unfortunately I’ve haven’t gotten to as many as I’d like. But I did want to check in on one small press…
That’s right. Little Pickle Press!
Little Pickle had a special position among the shoutouts. Why? Because they’re pioneers. As some of you may remember, Little Pickle is a “B-Corp” (aka “Benefit Corporation”), which is a fairly new type of corporation for people who took a look at the choices available to entrepreneurs and said, “No thanks!” I explained more about this in some previous posts, but the nutshell version is that in America, for-profit corporations by law are required to maximize profits. That’s their obligation to their shareholders. They can dance at the margins of this (giving some money to charity, for example) but even doing that can risk shareholder suits. Their choices are in many ways restricted. Want to do something good for the community, which maybe was the reason you started your company in the first place? Maybe you even think that it has long-term benefits for your company that outweigh the short-term profit maximization? A court might find that you can’t. (Hello, Craigslist founders!)
You could also organize your company as a nonprofit, of course. But that legal structure has limitations too. You can’t raise capital in the same way (i.e., for the most part you’re set up to make your money from grants and donations, which is not the same thing as someone who wants to build a for-profit business that, say, bring new products to the market).
Shouldn’t there be a middle ground?
I’m not saying that nonprofits should all raise capital and I’m not saying that for-profit companies should be community minded. Not at all. There are good reasons for both.
But don’t we love choice in America? Shouldn’t you be able to start up a company and run it the way you want? If you want to have a company that, say, makes money within some well-defined parameters or even broad-based mission-driven principles (like, say, hmmm, don’t be evil?) shouldn’t the law allow you to do it? Shouldn’t there be some kind of corporate form that would enable you have a for-profit company that nevertheless includes in its charter some community-minded goals?
Well…there is! That’s what the B-Corp is. And they’re spreading across the states. That is, states are increasingly adopting laws that allow them to exist. I’m not sure how widely used they are. If you know of a recent study or report giving us some numbers, please let me know.
Well, all this is somewhat prefatory to my real point, which is that Little Pickle Press is organized as a B Corporation [editor’s note: See update below.], which I think is awesome, and they appear to be thriving, which is even awesomer. Go Little Pickle! You can check out their catalog here.
UPDATE: Hmmm. I see there are a couple ways the term “B Corp,” gets used, and I’m not sure whether both of them apply to Little Pickle. First, there is what I described above, which is to set up your corporation as a benefit corporation (a legal entity). There’s also B Corp certification, which means a third-party independent source verifies that your for-profit company does good things for the community and meets certain standards. They appear to be at least the latter, which is certainly a good thing and worthy of praise. I’m not trying to diminish being a certified B-Corp: it’s a great thing and I’m sure helps do a lot of good. But I’m also interested in the B Corp as a legal entity, because it’s a fledgling corporate form and I’m wondering if it’s been able to get off the ground. Does it work? Can it? Does it make a difference?
Does anyone know if Little Pickle is organized as a benefit corporation? Or if there are any small presses that are? If so, let me know!
And for the rest of you, who hopefully skipped over those last couple of paragraphs, let’s just get to a good onward and upward. My kids went crazy for this the other day: