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Tips for Social Entrepreneurs

Discover strategies and suggestions for aspiring social entrepreneurs.
In my work with social entrepreneurs, over the last fifteen or more years, there are so many great ideas and so many great social enterprises already existing. And I think that as a starting point social entrepreneurs do need to engage with that, to identify where there are similar experiences that can be shared. What are the social enterprises’ approaches that they can perhaps get in contact with and work with, and short of see themselves as part of this wider movement to collaborate potentially with others who are trying to do similar things. So, for people who are starting social enterprises
I think I’d say two things. One is, usually you’re thinking “well, the person at the other side of the table, they have the power, they have the money, they have the finance they can make this idea happen”. So you kind of attempted to try and be like them, or to try and look like them or behave like them. I think that’s a wrong move. I think you need to be yourself, and you need to be authentic and passionate about what you want to do and who you are and I think they’ll pick that up. And I think they’ll want to back you if they see you are authentic and you’re passionate about what you’re trying to do.
So my top tip, would just be to be yourself, and be very authentic. If they don’t like you, or there’s not a value’s match or there’s no meeting of minds, well, they won’t do anything with you. And it’s better to know that now, than wasting months and months working with them and finding that out later down the road. My second tip would really be to social entrepreneurs who are at the early stages trying to start something. Take your ideas to people, tell them what the idea is, what’s different about it, and try to do that within two or three minutes at the beginning of a meeting, and then ask the person what’s wrong with the idea.
So you’re seeking objections you’re trying to find out what’s wrong with it, in terms of refining your idea and focusing it, and getting it more workable and more practical really that’s the key to getting your idea off the ground. My first tip would be, talk it out with others. Find like-minded people who have done it before and test out your idea with them. Develop it, you know, give yourself time and space to really think about your idea and how you might be able to make it happen. Those people can be other social entrepreneurs. So see how you might be able to access local networks of social entrepreneurs who are doing similar things. Attend a number of organisations, including UnLtd.
have events which are able to help you work out if there’s something for you. I would then also really try to see if there’s a market for your idea. So, you might have a really strong idea about the social impact you want to create, but you know, if you gonna deliver you’ve got to make sure you have the ability to do so. So finance matters. It’s absolutely right to think about grant funding, but I would really strongly advice anybody to think straight away about what the business model is. Υou know, is there a way to make this sustainable?
Because grant funding is, you know, it is there to help people at those very, very early risk points, but more and more organisations are interested in knowing that there’s going to be sustainability. And you’re going to need that too, right? So, if you’ve got an idea where you’re going to be able to sell to the public, say a product or a service, do they want that service? You know, is that something that they’re going to buy? I think the most important thing is being able to feel that you can do it.
And you know what? You can! We all can.
And confidence is something that you develop as you go. So, at any point in the journey, you know, whether you are at the kind of idea stage, the “grow-it” stage, at whatever point that you’re at, I think the thing to do to help really build your confidence Is just to have a go. And when it goes wrong don’t give up. It goes wrong for everybody. And everybody who says that they had a perfect journey, it’s not true. It’s just simply not true. So, don’t worry if it goes wrong it will, for the most important thing is to be able to take stock, absolutely, but get up and give it another go.

Starting a new venture isn’t easy. You know that. But don’t get discouraged!

As you can see from the video above, there’s a lot to be learned from those who’ve been there, done it or have supported others to make it happen, and know what works. Here are some tips that the School for Social Entrepreneurs gives you for starting up your social enterprise:

1. Get on and do it

If you have an idea for a social enterprise, you won’t get anywhere without giving it a go. There are some fantastic organisations that can support you to get your idea up and running. To begin with, you could just pilot one element of a larger idea; don’t be afraid to fail (but make sure that you learn from it).

2. Try to map out your social impact

What exactly is it that you are trying to achieve and how are you going to measure whether you are achieving it? If you achieve your intended social impact, what would the world look like? Knowing this will give you a clearer strategy for your organisation and is vital when you are seeking funding.

3. Be careful to balance the social with the enterprise

It sounds harsh, but if you don’t have an income then you don’t have an enterprise. Think about how you are going to ensure there is enough money coming into the organisation to keep it sustainable. Try to have a diverse income stream, so that you do not become dependent on a single source of money.

4. Network, network, network!

Being a social entrepreneur can be lonely; people often don’t understand what you are doing and can think that you are slightly mad! Network with other social entrepreneurs, share ideas and look for opportunities to collaborate; just be careful to strike a careful balance between the quality of networking and the quantity of networking.

5. Build up a pool of supporters you can trust

Find people who can act as the champions of your organisation and do everything they can to help you to succeed; these could range from volunteers giving you their time to someone fighting your corner to get you support from within a large corporate.

6. Use every opportunity to raise your profile

This can be both the profile of your organisation and your own personal profile. Shout about your successes, look for opportunities to engage with the press, write blogs, tweet, take part in discussion panels – anything to become more visible.

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Social Enterprise: Turning Ideas into Action

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