This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Ricardo Jose Bueso has a brother named Ricardo Juan Bueso. Really. His parents did that. To some, they are known as the two Ricardos.
Perhaps it was this unusual situation that inspired Bueso to look for ways to stand out and apart, to chart a unique course. He’s traveled the world, studying business administration in Texas, completing a degree as “Chef de Cuisine” in Guatemala, teaching English in Yemen, and then studying in both Miami, Florida and Shanghai.
Two years ago, Bueso and his brother Ricardo Juan, assembled a team and began developing a unique concept in social entrepreneurship. Their model is to sell responsibly-sourced, crafted products like soaps and candles via the web (nothing unique so far–wait for it) and let consumers set the price and then give the profits above a cost threshold to charity.
John Chung, an advisor to the startup called THX, says, “THX is offering a unique product. It offers the opportunity for the consumer to donate part or all of the margin that would normally go to the retailer. The beneficiaries are the nonprofits and the consumers. THX can potentially make a big impact as each purchase gives the consumer the opportunity to direct the largest part of the cost of any product to a cause.”
Bueso explains the model this way. “The pricing structure for our products works differently than typical gross margin percentages. We purposely price our products excluding traditional markups and allow the customer to donate the margin matching the traditional retail value, or whatever amount they want.”
More simply, he says, THX sets a base price that is equivalent to a wholesale price. The consumer sets a price above that and the difference goes to charity. The markup THX charges to cover its costs and profits varies from 30 to 50 percent of the landed price.
The philosophy, he says, is not focused on profit. “Our company is driven by the idea that the brand and e-commerce platform is not a business seeking to maximize shareholder value in the form of profits, but rather a self-sustaining and practical giving mechanism.”
The inspiration for THX came from seeing the wide array of nonprofits serving South Florida and feeling a desire to help them all, especially the smaller ones that struggle for funding, Bueso says. “In our city of Miami alone, we have animal shelters, children’s hospitals, at-risk youth programs, as well as services for veterans, victims of human trafficking and the sad reality of homelessness.”
Bueso recognized that corporate social responsibility and cause marketing initiatives by larger companies often partnered with larger nonprofits, so he was looking for a way to sustainably help smaller ones.
He boasts, “Thx is the first brand to let shoppers transparently customize their impact by donating any amount to any registered nonprofit in America.”
“We have created collections of responsibly sourced, quality products that customers use every day like fragrances, soaps, candles, coffee, teas, etc., he says. “Through our platform, the customer can easily access our products and customize their impact by selecting the cause they care about the most.”
Charles Lee, the Founder and CEO of Ideation, has advised Bueso on business strategy and brand marketing. He says, “THX has strong value propositions for consumers, non-profits, and corporations that make it a win-win for everyone involved. In addition, as the company continues to grow as a new kind of social enterprise, its social impact will exponentially increase.”
Bueso understands, perhaps better than anyone, the need to stand out. He grew up as one of three Ricardos in the family–he and his brother were named after their father.
“One of our greatest challenges is being able to get our customers to fully understand the process of shopping on our marketplace,” he says. “More than ever we have to get the visitor’s attention fast and ensure their full understanding of our three-step model.”
Bueso acknowledges that there are some limitations to the model. THX can bring attention and money to small nonprofits, but, he notes, “we are not a nonprofit accountability platform.”
Chung offered some counsel for the new company to achieve success. “Like other internet dependent ideas, the critical challenge is getting the message out and for the message to stick. Operationally, THX has to offer a desired set of products (which is not easy), fulfill and deliver them smoothly.”
Lee suggests two keys will be critical to their success. “First, open collaboration with varied industries that help to shape a new paradigm for consumption and gifting, and second, unwavering commitment to stay focused on their social mission as the core ‘why’ behind their business.”
Bueso exhibits the optimism that seems to be an inherent feature among successful entrepreneurs. “Our success will undoubtedly impact the world for good. We’re on a mission to help every cause, in every city in America.”
He sees the customers as playing a key role in the new economy. “We love social enterprise and the impact that conscious consumerism is having today and we hope that our model will inspire a generation of companies to follow suit.”
Bueso is currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to help accelerate adoption by more socially conscious consumers.
“We seek to be the first product brand that generates significant funds with a minimal amount of units sold. We believe this is possible because of how much we empower our consumers to support the cause that’s closest to their heart,” he concludes.
On Thursday, January 12, 2017 at 2:00 Eastern, Bueso will join me here for a live discussion about THX and its plans. Tune in here (at the top of this article) then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.