Tips for getting started in social entrepreneurship

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How can you make an impact in the world with social entrepreneurship?

It begins with understanding yourself and the social needs around you. People often wonder where to apply their energy. They want to know whether to become a social entrepreneur or just join an organization, or what issues to focus on. Finding the answers to these questions depends on personal considerations that are different for each person: What do you care deeply about? What situations bring out your natural gifts? Are you comfortable with uncertainty? Do you have a strong need for independence? 

Thanks to the many roles opening up in the field, there’s probably a role to fit your temperament. Fewer than 10% of Canadian workers are self-employed. Most people prefer to work in established structures, but that doesn’t mean they have to accept those structures as they are. Many promote change from within businesses and public institutions. 

How to get started in social entrepreneurship

Some thoughts on how to get started in social entrepreneurship, adapted from David Bornstein and Susan Davis’ Social Entrepreneurship: What You Need to Know. 

  1. Begin with an end in mind. 
  2. Do what you do best. 
  3. Have people ask you questions about your idea. 
  4. Practice pitching your idea. 
  5. Study the history of the problem you are attacking. 
  6. Develop a theory of change. 
  7. Keep thinking about how you can measure or evaluate success. 
  8. Celebrate every victory, no matter how small. 
  9. Initiate new relationships. 
  10. Apprentice yourself with masters (work without pay if necessary). 
  11. Volunteer for a political or social campaign. 
  12. Publish a letter to the editor or an opinion editorial (op-ed). 
  13. Meet with a newspaper editor and your local MLA/MPP/MNA/MHA. 
  14. Host dinner discussions about your idea. 
  15. Form a group to achieve a modest, short-term goal. 
  16. Ask a question at a public forum. 
  17. Engage people with opposing political views (respectfully, of course). 
  18. Ask for advice from people you admire. 
  19. Read biographies of people who have built things. 
  20. Spend some time working in a different sector, field or country. 
  21. Practice public speaking. 
  22. Take a finance course. 
  23. Learn how to negotiate. 
  24. Find sources of inspiration and use them. 
  25. Hold to principles, be flexible about methods. 
  26. Learn about trends in shifting mindsets. 

At GoForth, we’ve combined our love of entrepreneurship and our love of people to create several “close to the heart” social entrepreneurship projects. We’ve witnessed firsthand the power and joy of social change and raising others up. To us, social entrepreneurship is legacy work, making positive change in the lives of others.

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Who are social entrepreneurs? 

Group of people in a meeting

Social entrepreneurs have always existed. In the past, they were called visionaries, humanitarians, philanthropists, reformers, saints, or simply great leaders. Attention was paid to their courage, compassion, and vision, but rarely to the practical aspects of their accomplishments.

Typical social entrepreneurs can be described as: 

Pragmatic visionaries who achieve large-scale, systemic, and sustainable social change through a new invention, a different approach, a more rigorous application of known technologies or strategies, or a combination of these. 

Social entrepreneurs share common attitudes such as: 

  • An unwavering belief in the innate capacity of all people to contribute meaningfully to economic and social development. 
  • A driving passion to make positive social change happen. 
  • A practical but innovative stance to social problems, often using market principles and forces, coupled with dogged determination, that allows them to break away from constraints imposed by ideology or fields of discipline, and pushes them to take risks that others wouldn’t. 
  • A zeal to measure and monitor their impact. Entrepreneurs have high standards, particularly in relation to their own organization’s efforts and in response to the communities with which they engage. Data, both quantitative and qualitative, are their key tools, guiding continuous feedback and improvement. 
  • A healthy impatience. Social entrepreneurs don’t do well in bureaucracies. They cannot sit back and wait for change to happen – they are the change drivers. 
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Small business blog posts we liked this week

Whether your small business is winding down or picking up, take some time to enjoy these small business blog posts and articles we’ve enjoyed recently. Read anything you liked? Let us know in the comments!

Waking Up at 5 a.m. Isn’t Enough to Make You a Successful Entrepreneur at Entrepreneur

How Two Leaders Use Hidden Storytelling Techniques To Inform And Influence at Forbes

Why Social Entrepreneurs Are So Burned Out at Harvard Business Review

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What is social entrepreneurship?

social entrepreneurship

According to David Bornstein and Susan Davis in their book Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know, social entrepreneurship can be defined as:

“A process by which citizens build or transform institutions to advance solutions to social problems, such as poverty, illness, illiteracy, environmental destruction, human rights abuses and corruption, in order to make life better for many.”

The most popular definition of social entrepreneurship was offered by Greg Dees, who is often referred to as the father of social entrepreneurship education. Dees draws on the thinking of economists Jean-Baptiste Say and Joseph Schumpeter, who argued that entrepreneurs improve the productive capacity of society and provide the “creative destruction” that propels economic change. Dees holds that social entrepreneurs do the same for social change, creating new combinations of people and resources that significantly improve society’s capacity to address problems. Social entrepreneurs, he explains, create public value, pursue new opportunities, innovate and adapt, act boldly, leverage resources they don’t control, and exhibit a strong sense of accountability.

Is social entrepreneurship new?

Social entrepreneurs have always existed. In the past, they were called visionaries, humanitarians, philanthropists, reformers, saints, or simply great leaders. Attention was paid to their courage, compassion, and vision, but rarely to the practical aspects of their accomplishments. People may know about the moral teachings of St. Francis, but not that the Franciscans became the fastest-growing religious order of its day. Children learn that Florence Nightingale ministered to wounded soldiers, but not that she built the first professional school for nurses and revolutionized hospital construction. Gandhi is remembered for demonstrations of nonviolent resistance, but not for building a decentralized political apparatus that helped India make a successful transition to self-rule.

For more about social entrepreneurship, check out our industry-leading Canadian online small business course.

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7 types of entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship isn’t a one-size-fits all model. There are different kinds of small businesses, and there are different kinds of entrepreneurs. Below is a list of the seven most common types of entrepreneurs. Which type – or combination of types – are you?

1) Home-based

Home-based entrepreneurs are self-employed. They run their business alone or with just a few employees, with headquarters being their own home or a home office. These business owners love the flexibility and autonomy of working from home, as well as the freedom to arrange their own schedules. These businesses usually don’t have a storefront, street advertising signs, or customer parking.

Examples: Bookkeepers, tutors, and graphic designers.

2) Internet-based

Internet-based entrepreneurs run their business online and use virtual technologies to support business activities. The business can provide a service or sell a product through a website. Some internet-based businesses can be home-based businesses too.

Examples: Virtual assistants, marketplace sites such as eBay and Etsy.

3) Lifestyle

Lifestyle entrepreneurs rank furthering their own personal goals second to making a large profit. Lifestyle entrepreneurs can pursue a cash-generating hobby during their spare time, or even start a business based on an interest. These businesses usually aren’t intended to be high growth, and usually have few employees.

Examples: A secondhand book store, or a small market stall selling homemade baked goods.

4) High potential

High potential entrepreneurs usually run companies employing between 20 and 500 people. These companies are often very fast-paced, with high growth rates, developing the latest technologies and innovations. Most start-up activity by high potential entrepreneurs is technology and internet related. They are often able to get funding easier than other sorts of businesses

Examples: Quickly-growing technology companies and large IT businesses.

5) Social

Social entrepreneurs are passionate about making a positive impact on the world around them. They create a business to provide solutions to social issues. They are also called non-profit or philanthropist entrepreneurs. Funding for social entrepreneurs typically comes from non-profit organizations, foundations, governments and non-governmental organizations.

Examples: KickStart International and the Grameen Bank.

6) Venture capital

Venture capitalists invest in businesses, through managerial and technical expertise, as well as with money. Venture capitalists are very picky about the companies they invest in, and as much as 98% of firms seeking funds are rejected. Aside from individual angels and venture capitalists, venture capital firms also exist.

Examples: Seen on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, as well as in large companies like those in Silicon Valley.

7) Franchise format

With direction and support of the franchisor, franchise format entrepreneurs open a franchise or chain in their local business area. These entrepreneurs follow the structures of their franchise and experience less freedom and autonomy than other types of entrepreneurs. However, they also enjoy the reduced risk of being part of an established franchise.

Examples: Century 21, Goodyear Tires, and Tim Hortons.

 

 

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