America's 25 Most Inspiring Companies have nothing on natural retailers

America's 25 Most Inspiring Companies have nothing on natural retailers

You can’t argue that Apple, particularly its departed leader Steve Jobs, inspires.

But most of a recent list of “America’s 25 Most Inspiring Companies” made me utter “huh?” out loud at my desk.

Apple ranked No. 1 in the annual survey conducted by Atlanta consulting and training firm Performance Inspired. Forbes magazine recently reported the results.

But why Wal-Mart placed second on the list is lost on me. The Forbes article explained that it gained its position because the company keeps its promises and is authentic (huh?) and that customers appreciate its commitment to prices and giving back to the community.

Price commitment is marketing not inspiration. And any nonprofit knows the challenges of getting the support of chains such as Wal-Mart to back community efforts. (Yes, the company is kind enough to allow Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts to set up shop outside their doors, but is that truly commitment to the local community?)

Behemoths Target, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola round out the top 10 list.

The rest of the top 25 doesn’t get a whole lot better. I can buy the Disney of old. Surprisingly TOMS Shoes makes the list as does Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s. But the likes of Ford (although I own one) and Best Buy (where I shopped recently for a new iPad) don’t make my list of inspiring businesses.

Who should have been on the list

Stories of inspired dedication and drive touch me.

And they really aren’t difficult to find. Just look at those I encountered at Natural Products Expo East last month. I’m talking about people such as:

  • Marieke Cormier, who carries on the family business at Roots Natural Foods in Leominster, Mass., with passion for creating a diverse community in a small, creative space.
  • Betsy Billingslea, a registered nurse who found alternative medicine helped her. Now she shares her passion for health in Houston at Betsy’s Health Foods. You can’t help but fall in love with her enthusiasm for the natural health business, her employees and her community.
  • Terry Brett, whose passion for farming runs from the aisles of his several Kimberton Whole Foods locations in Pennsylvania to the halls of government where he fights for the family farm and sustainable agriculture.

The stories, truly, have no end. These represent just some of the retailers. Walk into any independent health food store, and surely you will find an inspiring story, too.

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