As an investor, I always love finding companies that positively shape the way we do things.
More important, I admire businesses that can do so with every intention of not only inflating their own bank accounts, but also genuinely striving to improve their customers' lives.
The building blocks of success
Last month, the folks at AdWeek astutely described "How Lego Became the Most Valuable Toy Company in the World."
Of course, one stroll down the toy aisle can tell you that Lego has made the most of its licensing deals with megabrands like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Winnie the Pooh, and a variety of Marvel and DC Comics properties, to name only a few.
However, Lego can also largely thank its decades-long dominance to its focus on bolstering kids' creativity. In fact, Lego's stated mission is "to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow by engaging children across the world in positive play and hands-on, minds-on creativity."
According to Lego brand relations director Michael McNally:
It's really about getting as many kids as possible to build. Every time a child engages in that, she's learning really important life skills -- she just doesn't know it. It's about patience and persistence, and trial and error, and at the end, she's really proud of what she built.
Unfortunately for us, Lego is currently a privately held company, so everyday investors can't simply buy its shares through their favorite discount broker.
That said, here are four other companies who really do want to make your life better -- and whose stocks you can buy:
Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM ) -- "America's healthiest grocery store"
The team at Whole Foods has long made clear their mission, which includes holding to a central list of core values they describe as the steady "underpinning of our company culture." Among the items on that list are "selling the highest quality natural and organic products available," "satisfying and delighting our customers," "supporting team member excellence and happiness," "caring about our communities and our environment," and "creating wealth through profits and growth."
Anyone who has kids knows how effective LeapFrog's products can be. In fact, my own children frequently request LeapFrog's educational programs on Netflix. Even better, our 2-year-old surprised us earlier this year by recognizing and saying the name of every letter in the alphabet as I randomly pointed them out -- something we had worked on a little, but with which I'm sure LeapFrog lent its helping hand.
If that weren't enough, the company also managed to beat first-quarter earnings estimates earlier this month, is generating tons of cash, and looks cheap, as it currently trades for just 13 times next year's estimated earnings.
Google (NASDAQ: GOOG ) -- "To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."
The world's largest search engine needs little introduction, and, like Whole Foods, maintains its own philosophy with 10 beliefs to guide its actions. Perhaps most pertinent to this conversation, however, are "Focus on the user and all else will follow" and "You can make money without doing evil."
In the end, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone whose life hasn't been affected for the better by Google, and I don't think it's any coincidence that Google stock is currently trading near all-time highs.
SodaStream (NASDAQ: SODA ) : "To revolutionize the beverage industry by providing a better alternative and environmentally friendly way for consumers to prepare their own refreshing carbonated beverages."
Finally, at-home carbonation specialist SodaStream certainly hasn't been shy in calling out beverage titans like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, all while pitching its own product as a more affordable, convenient, and environmentally friendly option for consumers.
Luckily for SodaStream investors, those consumers are catching on, as the company managed to boost first-quarter revenue 34% from last year while adjusted earnings grew 24%. Better yet, last week SodaStream outlined plans to nearly double annual revenue to $1 billion by 2016, helping push the stock to a new 52-week high.
SodaStream's carbonation technology sounds simple, but I think this razor-and-blade company offers an intriguing opportunity for growth that could very well disrupt the soda industry. If you'd like to learn more, The Motley Fool's premium report on SodaStream explains the opportunities as well as the risks in the company. The report comes with a year's worth of updates, so just click here to get started.