Social entrepreneurship is on the rise — and it’s no surprise (to us, at least) that women are leading the way.

A recent report by Deloitte, the giant professional services firm, found that 77 percent of all business leaders now rate “citizenship and social impact” a critical or important topic. That’s a sharp change from decades of “greed is good” thinking that previously defined corporate culture.

“Leading a social enterprise is about recognizing that, while businesses must generate a profit and deliver a return to shareholders, they must do so while also improving the lot of workers, customers, and the communities in which we live,” according to Deloitte.

From a startup perspective, a growing number of entrepreneurs are taking up causes they care about and turning them into mission-driven organizations. Anecdotal evidence shows that women in particular are drawn to mission-based initiatives and firms. “Women’s pursuit of social entrepreneurship can be an important engine for the economy, particularly in the United States,” according to a 2017 report by the National Women’s Business Council.

With social entrepreneurship on the rise, we asked three women business leaders to tell us what inspired them to start their mission-driven enterprises.

1. A need to protect life in the country

“Small farms can’t make it without another income these days,” says Leslie Bradford Scott, who began selling homemade bath-and-beauty products from her farmhouse kitchen in Bailieboro, Ontario, to support her farm and restore the property’s barns. Her business, Walton Wood Farms, which now makes $2 million in annual revenue, employs members of the local community. “Our team here, most of them are rural and were underemployed with no opportunities to learn new skills, and learn modern skills,” she says. “They’re learning everything, from marketing to sales to operations.”

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