What is a Social Entrepreneur and Why Should You Become One?
Although Social Entrepreneurs have been around throughout history, the phrase wasn’t widely reported until the 1980s and is only now becoming a frequent niche label for businesses which focus on social change.
These days, some of the most fulfilled entrepreneurs are social entrepreneurs. Do you know why? It’s because they’ve found a way to work and make a living while achieving social change. “Wow, what a novel concept!” you’d say. And I’d say… “WTF, haven’t you listened to a word I’ve been saying? Really?”
Just so we’re clear, a social entrepreneur is a person who recognizes a social problem and applies business principles to create, manage, and carry on a business which has as its primary focus, achieving social or environmental change.
Take for example NIKA Water Company which sells bottled water in the United States and uses 100% of the profits to bring clean water to people living in underdeveloped nations. Or, think of actor/producer, Paul Newman, who prior to his passing founded, Newman’s Own, a business with a line of food products sold in grocery stores, which donates 100% of its profits to educational charities.
Here’s how it may come about that you consider becoming a social entrepreneur. You’re kicking back with an ice cold beverage and you’re sitting around on a day when you are bored on your vacation, and you say to yourself, “There’s got to be something more to life. Or, there’s got to be a way that I can earn a living and solve a local, or a world problem?” Now, you’re talking like a social entrepreneur! So what do you do?
- Identify your local/world problem like hunger, clean water, domestic violence, high school kids with great grades who can’t afford college, or whatever you are passionate about, or something that ‘gets your goat,’ or pisses you off.
- Then, come up with an invention or a solution to the problem.
- Devise a ‘big picture’ plan for realizing your vision.
- Brainstorm the action steps with a business coach which are needed to move forward.
- Create a time line and milestones for moving forward with your action steps.
- Don’t look back!
That’s what Millard Fuller did when he founded Habitat for Humanity. He was a hot shot lawyer, who was jaded with practicing law. Due to several circumstances, it came to him that there were still a lot of people, who hadn’t realized the American dream of owning a home. He decided that his passion was to make home ownership a reality for more people. He determined that the problem was that families could not come up with the down payment, or qualify for a home loan. So he devised the Habitat for Humanity program, where individuals with a building area of expertise, partnered with local volunteers to build high quality, low income housing. Potential home owners put in ‘sweat equity’ hours in the building of their house and those of their ‘soon to be’ neighbors in exchange for not having to come up with a down payment. Low monthly interest free loan payments were negotiated to allow homeowners to make monthly payments thereafter…and the rest is social entrepreneurship at its finest!
For some of you, to become a social entrepreneur, will mean forming a new business entity, complete with name, logo, website, the whole ‘new business’ ball of yarn. For others, it will mean merely finding the method for integrating this new venture into an existing business, or expanding an existing business. Whichever route you choose, you can enjoy a lifetime of living, working, and making a profound change on society or the environment as a social entrepreneur. At the end of the day, you will know that you have accomplished the nirvana of entrepreneurship because you have combined your business savvy with your heart to do great things.