What is a social entrepreneur?
In a nutshell, a person who sets up and runs a profitable business enterprise with goals to make a difference in society.
A social entrepreneur sets up a business which aims to earn money to support and deliver problem-solving solutions that help people with social issues such as poverty or making a physical or financial contribution to save an endangered species.
Social intervention, commonly associated with non-profit organizations, is fast becoming a different concept through the response and establishment of Social Entrepreneurs. Thousands of people go out each day to make a difference, and nearly all of them have limited funding, which means that the project has a limited life span.
The message to businesses in the 21st Century is that they need to pick up the ball. Money is in ever decreasing supply for needy people around the world, but the problem won’t go away. More social entrepreneurs are needed to take responsibility and lead the way to combat environmental and social problems by getting involved with economically sustainable projects.
Give a person a fish, and he will eat it and still be hungry. But, if you show him how to catch his own fish, he will have an endless supply of food.
One of the most progressive social enterprise businesses has been the involvement of socio-economic groups in micro-finance projects. Leaders on the ground realized that to keep the social reforms moving forward, best practice dictated giving people financial stability and allowing them to work towards their own social and environmental upliftment.
How to start a Social Enterprise
Finding a viable business project, which will be both sustaining and profitable, is inherently difficult. Coming up with the most suitable business that not only turns a profit but also assists a wider community, without negatively impacting on environmental and social issues are what lead to failure. It is pointless taking a failed business and trying to turn it into a success. What is needed is a new idea with new, sustainable markets, that will take people out of poverty and engage them in keeping up the program for the long term.
Think Outside the Box
Get a big idea that is not local consumer based. Focus on setting up a product or service which has a more powerful end-user, such as government or industry. By creating a problem solver for business, such as software which calculates dirty factory emissions, the business not only helps the company and workers but also gets cleaner air to the surrounding population.
Harness market forces for social enterprise. Create a positive knock-on effect in society.
It is not a difficult proposition when you head straight to the government to find out what their social needs are. Often there are social problems such as alcohol or substance abuse. Investing in these areas can be a little tricky. It is more likely that a big business project will create an upliftment of the socio-economic group with anti-social behavior and substance dependency.
The Social Element
Giving money to charities operating within your business location or neighboring area is another method of sustaining people in dire need of financial or physical assistance. Once could argue that making a tithe to the community charity chest is an excellent way to combat hardship.
The social entrepreneurship, however, is not coming to the fore with handouts. Engaging the group needing the financial assistance is a better way to take them out of hardship. The micro-finance scheme mentioned earlier is one such method. Another is to create an environmental project which includes the population.
Cleaning up streets and neighborhoods, planting trees and gardens and assisting those people who are living in poverty by helping them address their slum-like conditions of life, is one of the most uplifting projects to undertake. It can also be one of the most challenging and involves the formation of a business type platform for successful operation.
Back again to the subject of lending to the poor to enable small entrepreneurs to get ahead and make long-term changes to their lives. Kiva International, based in San Francisco, runs a successful micro-finance business.
One of the challenges facing the poor is their inability to do anything about their environment when making purchasing decisions. Inscrutable suppliers flood the market with cheap and nasty goods. We won’t mention the primary offender here, rest assured that they are a world player when it comes to flooding the third world with junk and need to be stopped.
Setting up a business in an impoverished society is harder than setting up in a first world, especially when that group is in a far flung third world country. However, providing the funds for a small business enterprise which makes soap and washing powder, which is environmentally safe, can and should be done.
Think back to the West African Ebola outbreak of 2013 to 2016. The disease might not have taken hold if the villagers had access to cheap soap for washing and hygiene.
Crowdfunding and Angel Donors
The market for free trade items is growing. The first world is becoming more aware of the environmental impact that their products and services are causing in the poorer countries, giving social entrepreneurs in the first world the biggest opportunity. By setting up a business in the third world which manufacturers and sells products such as coffee and clothing that are partly organic and environmentally neutral.
The point is, make a difference with your social enterprise. Find a market where every industry is harming the environment and capture a market share by offering a better alternative. Governments and NGO’s around the world are seeking ways to combat poverty. Often it just takes one energetic entrepreneur to have an epiphanic moment and come up with a “magic bullet” business solution.
It’s not a piece of cake!
Don’t think that setting up and leaving the enterprise is the done deal. Remember, the people you have come to help are not business savvy and marketing their products will become one of the primary functions for the social entrepreneur. You wouldn’t leave money on the table in a typical business environment. Keeping things going for a social enterprise is just as important. Make profits, nothing wrong with that. Doing your bit for society will make an effort seem like child’s play.