Ask Blake Mycoskie, founder and CEO of TOMS, a shoes and accessories maker, why he started giving a pair of shoes to a needy child whenever a pair of TOMS shoes was bought, and he would probably not state charity as the only reason. He would go on to explain that by giving these children a pair of shoes, they can better commute to school, home and the playground.
Social entrepreneurs go a level beyond solving simple problems to tackling societal problems. The create, fund and deploy solutions to alleviate social, cultural or environmental issues, mostly at the community level. These social startups operate both non-profit and for-profit methods, but blend profits with a ‘giving back to society’ programme.
So how can you become the ‘do-gooder’ entrepreneur? Step one – define your social passion. Is it environment-friendly products? Maybe helping a community in Central Africa get unperturbed electricity? Or could it be batting for women empowerment? Surely you have one, don’t you? Step two is identification and analysis of a solution for the selected issue. Entrepreneurs think straight and tangentially – which relates to two solutions for every problem. Find both solutions and thicken the plot by outlining the plan.
Step three is self-reflection about skills and strengths. Talk about these with a friend or mentor. Your friends might laugh for a minute or two obviously. But they will provide a much-needed critique about what your gaps are. Some might even join you in the cause! Roll into step four and construct the business model. Price, go-to-market strategy, potential backlashes in profitability, cash-flow plan, revenue projections, even an exit strategy if need be – it’s time to put the whole shebang on paper.
Social entrepreneurship is capable of very powerful things. It has the power to bridge the work you do to your purpose in life. ‘Making an impact’ is a big item on the modern buyers’ checklist while going out grocery shopping. If that’s your life’s purpose, social entrepreneurship is the way to go. Unless of course your purpose is to wastefully play golf, in which case you could splurge all your earnings on playing it all day. Happiness is subjective, but when you bring happiness to other people, it’s the real thing. Numerous rags-to-riches entrepreneurs are going back to their ‘where it all began’ places, i.e. hometowns to ameliorate drinking water, sanitation and electricity through their own products/services.
People’s perspectives and happiness aside, social entrepreneurship can be a huge motivator. The solutions that social entrepreneurs device are much bigger than just creating apps or social media campaigns. Issues like climate change and deforestations span the whole world, so when these go-getters think about the scope, their motivation skyrockets.
Our business era has given birth to tough competition between companies and social responsibility has become a strong differentiating factor. Whether it’s tech, apps, social media or physical products, social entrepreneurship is here. And it’s here to stay. For entrepreneurs: start thinking about your society, make an impact and create products that don’t harm our natural resources.