Social Entrepreneurship is an inspiring movement that combines business wisdom with a social change mission to create innovative solutions for all kinds of problems. If you want to be a part of it, you are in good company (if we do say so ourselves), but you’re also in for a lot of hard work to make your initiative(s) a success. To help you get started, we partnered with the Wonderful World Faith Leader Farzeen Alam Ferdous to create this guide that will lay the groundwork for your success. Check it out!
1. Research, research, research.
If you’re smart (which we know you are) you know that the best way to ensure success is to draw on the wisdom of those who have gone before you. While you’re dreaming up the next big development solution, you should also be learning all that you can about other social enterprises, how they work, and why they fail. You can start with these insightful articles, but don’t stop here. Get as much information as you can at the beginning and during every step of this process. When in doubt, look it up!
Hopefully, by now, you have a good idea about what social enterprise is, and some examples of it. Now how do you develop your own?
2. Think about the context.
You know from experience that every community is different, so it makes sense that social enterprises should be tailored to the communities they aim to serve. No one solution will work in every place or with all kinds of people. Before you do anything else, ask yourself the following questions:
- Where are you based? What cultural norms and values shapes your community?
- What organizations, if any, are already working towards your mission? In what ways have they been successful or not, and why?
Believe me, these are indirect factors that have a significant effect in determining whether your enterprise will succeed.
3. Think about what you can offer.
Your social enterprise could be based on a truly unique idea, or it could be that you and/or your team have a unique set of skills to offer. Either way, the key word is unique, and you need to figure out what sets you apart. Try thinking about these questions:
- What skills do you or your organization possess? For example, does anyone have a past background in business?
- Think of the different products that you could offer. Remember, you don’t have to actually create everything you think of, but starting with a lot of ideas will help to narrow down the best solutions for the final product.
- What’s the story line? What’s the X factor? Remember, you can sell practically anything (as long as it’s legal) if you have a powerful story behind it.
4. Be practical.
Now that you have all of these ideas for innovative solutions, it’s time to figure out which of them is feasible. Ask yourself:
- What is your budget? What are the sources of finance that you may have access to?
- What’s the timeframe within which the enterprise has to succeed? There’s a rule of thumb that says start ups need around 10 years to mature, however, in today’s fast changing markets, you may have to drastically change your timeframes. Is your business model flexible enough to make that change?
- As cliché as it sounds, dream big, but start small. This way, even if your first venture fails, your sunk costs will not be too high, and you can come back again with a better model!
5. Be even more practical.
The planning that you did in step 4 is a great start, but when you take your idea out into the world, you will want a comprehensive plan of action to make it happen. You’re going to need a business plan. How do you create a business plan to pitch to a potential investor? A very effective, and simple concept that Farzeen uses is the Business Model Canvas, built from this handful of resources. It’s great not only because of its simplicity but because it’s really fun! You can get your team together to come up with many (some even crazy) ideas, sketch it up and put it all up in your office. This is a great final step for your first steps from which you can start making crucial decisions about your business plan.