Sure, social entrepreneurship is the air I breathe and I say/write/dream of the term more than I think about food. But I still have a lot to learn. However, since social entrepreneurship, unlike calculus, does not have fixed, definite, absolute formulas, the road map remains scribbled on, erased and scribbled on again. So it is highly possible that in my freshman year as a social entrepreneur, my experience may already be a few years and tears worth your time and effort.
If you want to help change the world in a full time basis, here are the top 5 survival tips for you.
1.) When starting a social enterprise, a healthy mix of idealism and pragmatism is ideal. This simply means that you have to balance your bottomlines. As you enter the social entrepreneurship word, you will hear this term a LOT. You may not necessarily understand it but don’t worry, you are not alone. It is hard enough to understand and achieve “profit” as a bottomline. Thinking about two, three, or four, is a bit more challenging. It is useful to always remember that there are several things that should keep your enterprise alive… among these are your cause (your reason for being), your stakeholders (your impact on their lives), the environment (without which you will just perish), and YOU (you need to eat and live too to do all these).
2.) Celebrate the small things but THROW A BALL for big things. Some of us fall into the trap of settling for the small things and celebrating them too much and for too long. When you enter this world, it is easy to fall into the trap of the “at least I am doing something in my own little way”. First of all, it is better not to settle for “at least”. Second, “own little way” is good but not enough. Little ways may start things but commitments sustain them.
3.) Being a social entrepreneur is a lot of fun because you may feel like you are earning and at the same time helping or helping and at the same time earning. But it is useful to remember that “Romanticizing” never helps. There will be paradigms that are hard to change and issues may go on for a long time. You are not Messiah and the people you are helping are not there to praise you for your goodness or appreciate you for your sacrifice. You guys are in the same mess together and you are fixing it together. Key word: TOGETHER.
4.) As an aspiring social entrepreneur, you may want to think of already going for it instead of aspiring. Take the risk. You may want to do this as a part-time, weekend thing and that is just fine… but please remember that until somebody actually commits, your social enterprise idea will be just that… a really good idea. I know that the title of this note is “Top 5 Survival Tips for Aspiring Social Entrepreneurs”, so why on earth am I suggesting that you take the “risk” and why am I not giving you some more “secure” tips? Aside from the fact that I believe that the social entrepreneurship path could be a secure and promising career path, I have to write an attractive title to get you to read this… which brings me to my last point.
5.) Engage the market. What I did was simply lure you into reading this disturbing note. If you were already interested in Social Entrepreneurship but just did not know how and when to start, then you would be interested to know how to survive in this field. Similarly, as you enter this world, you will find yourself talking about what you do with full passion and overflowing energy. As you encounter people from all walks of life, it would be evident to you that you have a desire to inspire them. Just always remember that marketing is not just about you. It is about engaging the market. Once you understand where they are coming from, you could use the best of your talents and words to reach and touch the right buttons. The principle applies to the messages you send and even the products you sell to your market.