Slowly cementing itself as a global force that promotes long-lasting social change for over three decades now, social entrepreneurship is just one of the many ways the modern world used as a way to cope with the needs of this time. Combining traditional business smarts with social and environmental awareness, social enterprises aim to solve or help alleviate problems that don’t spark much interest but big enough to create long-lasting effects.
Of course, to succeed in their respective ventures, these companies must follow a loose set of rules to guarantee a favorable outcome. A social enterprise’s typical aim is to potentially improve and help a community or marginalized part of society that suffers from an unbalanced socioeconomic situation, but first, a social enterprise itself must be sustainable. And sustainability is something every social enterprise head must be willing to face head-on. And earning it won’t be easy, as the process raises uncomfortable questions, makes you focus on the business side of this entrepreneurship, and pushes you out of your comfort zone.
As with anything, getting your foot in the door is no easy task, but keeping these four factors in mind will help ensure that your social enterprise will do more than take off the ground:
1. Start big, then scale it down.
To start things off, well, start big. Think of the biggest idea for your social enterprise, then trim it down into tiny bite-sized pieces. Understand that while you think your big idea is perfectly achievable, it’s much better to scale it down and focus on every nook and cranny to make sure everything is working. Indeed, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but that whole won’t be any good if any of its parts aren’t properly working. Focusing on smaller areas will help your enterprise on quickly delivering value while also making sure that all gears are properly oiled for the longer and bigger journey ahead.
2. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Unless you’re born perfect, starting a new social enterprise will make you uncomfortable. Learn to live with it. Thrive in it. Doing so will help you continuously grow and learn not just as a social entrepreneur but also as an individual. Understand that growing and being comfortable isn’t meant to mix together. Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs failed when first starting their respective companies, and now they have reached tremendous success. All enterprises struggle, and yours is no exception.
Additionally, you must understand that your social enterprise has the capacity to flourish but only when you accept that the road to it, although paved with good intentions, is going to be rough.
3. Pick an idea, stick to it, and don’t stray from it.
Think of what you really want to do, and stick to it. If your business has the funds to create a wide range of services, then it’s not that hard to do so. But keep in mind that it will make you lose focus. So get your head straight, focus on one area, and believe in its importance in bettering the system.
Scott Harrison of Charity:Water believes it’s as simple as giving the less fortunate access to clean drinking water, and now he’s helped over 8.2 million people all over the world. Bill Drayton believes it’s helping others reach their potential, and that carried over to his company, Ashoka, a social enterprise that has a long record of helping fellow social entrepreneurs.
4. Be authentic and don’t be afraid to reinvent.
With the age of information in full swing, more and more people are looking for companies that show authenticity and honesty in their work. Be that company. Be a social enterprise consisting of humans established to help others and dedicated to getting the work done for those who can’t. Be transparent with your work. Have a heart, and don’t be afraid of putting passion in everything you do. Give people something to care about.
And of course, don’t be afraid to shake things up a little. You can’t expect anything to change if you keep doing the same thing over and over. So mix it up. Bend the rules. Repurpose an old idea into something new.
Exponential, Inc. (XPO2), a cause-related technology marketing firm founded by Dom Einhorn, is one such example. At its core, XPO2 is a young company focused on creating the biggest net social impact, making sure that every dollar given is put to good use. Established just last year, the company has developed an NGO crowdfunding platform and has been successfully raising funds for numerous NGOs. To date, the company is also in partnership with over 1,200 merchants from all over the world.
Impact investors nowadays asked for more engagement and transparency, and XPO2 gives that through its crowdfunding and impact investing platform that connects the consumers to various NGOs that need vital funding. This way, supporters are given access to exclusive discounts and savings, while generating revenues to distribute among the nonprofit organizations and charities they support worldwide. In essence, XPO2 gives the consumers what they need through an easy-to-access portal while also ensuring the NGOs they support have a consistent pool of backers. In its most recent effort to reach and support as many NGOs as possible, the firm launched its new and improved crowdfunding platform, which the company will use to further build its brand and improve its stability.
XPO2 is disrupting the traditional fundraising with this strategy. Its participating merchants get to save between 10 and 40 percent in marketing costs while being able to up their corporate social responsibilities through donations to NGOs XPO2 hosts. Meanwhile, the organizations it carefully vetted are assisted at zero cost to them as XPO2 shoulders the marketing costs. As such, they receive all the financial support from backers, which they can immediately spend on their important causes.
With the e-commerce market projected to balloon to $4 trillion by 2020, XPO2’s methodology can prove to be sustainable — just by capturing one percent of all the global retail transactions, it could raise $120 billion a year on behalf of worthy NGOs.
So don’t be afraid to keep on reinventing and adjusting.
Building a sustainable social enterprise is probably one of the biggest challenges you’ll ever face, what with the oversaturation in the market. But given enough time and experience, it’s not impossible to succeed. So keep these factors in mind when you get the chance to take your idea out of the drawing board. Always believe in your cause, and give it your best shot.