You might have heard the word “social enterprise” or “social entrepreneur” and probably wondered what it means. Why the “social” prefix? Well, this article will break it down for you and show you how to create one for yourself!
What is a social enterprise?
A social enterprise is a business that channels it’s profit into solving social problems. It could be providing care for widows, donating school uniforms for impoverished students, contributing to environmental cleanup, etc. Social entrepreneurs identify a problem or a gap in the society and use the profit from their enterprise to solve the identified problem. With this move, social entrepreneurs make a difference in other people’s lives. Social entrepreneurs introduce products and cutting edge solutions while at the same time making impact in their communities. For example, an individual can identify a nutrition challenge in an internally displaced persons camp and then set up a restaurant business, informing customers that the proceeds from the business will be used to feed malnourished children in a specific camp.
A social enterprise could be for-profit or not-for-profit. It is a business that is built on creating solutions and a passion for helping people. Social enterprises come up with innovations to solving societal problems in a sustainable way. Social entrepreneurs strike a balance between business and community solutions
Now that you understand what a social enterprise is, there are few questions you should ask yourself before you start one.
What is your story?
What is the motivation behind your intention to start a social enterprise? What is the story behind the impact you wish to make in your community? Have you or someone close to you been affected by the problem you want to solve? Having a direct or indirect connection with a problem will be very helpful in fueling your passion. That connection will enable you to keep moving at the face of challenges.
Your story must clearly state the problem you have identified and your model for solving the problem. When people (customers/clients) hear your story, they will align themselves with your story and will feel a personal hunger to contribute their quota towards ensuring the problem you have identified is solved.
How strong is your social capital?
You will need to leverage on the existing networks of support that you have – family, friends, colleagues,etc. This is because you might need funding to make the enterprise work, especially in the early stages. You will need some people who can assist you with funding; people who can stand by you and who will assure you that they believe in your story, your vision and the impact you are trying to make. These people will see your potential social enterprise as their own and will stop at nothing to give you the push and support you need to make that impact and fuel the social change you envisaged.
You might also need to establish new ones. Research potential donors and reach out to them, leverage on the benefits of social media to expand your networks.
You should note that leveraging on new or existing networks does not guarantee that everyONE you share your story with will believe in the step you want to take. There are still some pessimists who might want to discourage you and you should be prepared for this. Do not allow those kind of negative words discourage you. Rather, move on to the next contact. Generally, you will have many shoulders you can lean on because of the impact you are about to make in your community. Who does not want to be identified with social good? You will be surprised that those who felt you shouldn’t venture into the unknown waters of the social enterprise will come forward to acknowledge your work and might even become a strong supporter.
Can people trust you to deliver?
This is very important. How credible and how disciplined are you? You have a great story and the impact is defined but can people trust you to keep your promise. An example of instances where some social entrepreneurs have disappointed their network is in the delivery of humanitarian services to refugees and internally displaced persons who fled because of danger to their lives. These sets of people might have lost their homes and possessions and are in dire need of basic services like food and water, shelter, health care, good sanitation, education, etc. The impact of the potential social enterprise (which should be sustainable) cannot be denied but these so-called social entrepreneurs have used the support gotten from their networks to actually enrich themselves.
A real social entrepreneur is a humanitarian, one with a good heart. Therefore, such a good heart must be guided and focused on the goal especially when the social enterprise begins to boom and funds begin to flow in like a flood.
When the questions above are answered, you are good to go. Check out these other helpful posts on how to write a business plan, how to incorporate your business and how to get funding for your business to get your social enterprise up and running.