Entering the social enterprise industry as an entrepreneur can be intimidating. With so many issues to support, how do you choose one? How do you ensure a profitable business that’s still focused on doing good? Luckily, there are several ways you can use a market-driven business model to create a successful organization with a long term impact on social and environmental causes.
In this post, we will offer advice on how to enter the social enterprise industry as a new business owner so you can begin to help make the world a better place.
Choose a mission
Your business won’t be socially-conscious if you don’t have a purposeful mission embedded into it. Take some time before diving deep into developing your business plan to determine which organizations you want to support, or missions you want to build your business around. Are you passionate about the environment? You could incorporate plastic elimination by minimizing your product packaging or single-use consumption in the office. Or are you interested in supporting living wages? You could increase the payment structure at the base of your business, support fair trade organizations, or offer child care for your single parent employees.
There are several ways you can build purpose within your business. Spend time researching issues, proposed solutions, and the best ways to make your business model more purposeful and impactful. Then, consistently ask yourself how you can make your products and services more in-line with your mission.
Determine the right legal structure
The legal structure of your organization is an essential aspect of complying with tax law and is important to determine from the beginning to avoid headaches and even penalties down the road. The most common structures in the social enterprise industry include unincorporated association, registered charity, and community interest company.
The decision of which structure to use should be made based on your goals and long-term requirements, but you should consult with a legal advisor before determining which is right for your business.
Write a mission-based business plan
Business plans are critical in helping entrepreneurs structure and organize their business. The document provides a roadmap for working through the challenges of a new business, while also providing a succinct mission for the organization. This is critical for a social enterprise because it helps define the impact your business can have on the world and sets a goal for you and all your employees to strive toward. If you’re unfamiliar with how to write a business plan, mission, or research, review the basics of starting a business.
Keep in mind, however, that a business plan, especially in the social enterprise industry, is subject to change. If your mission focus changes, your consumer trends alter, or your business model needs to be adapted, you should feel comfortable making updates to your plan so it best reflects your current and future business.
Hire the right people
In any business, bringing in the right people is one of the most important elements of success. Your workforce is on the ground level, understands your business the best, and has the most day-to-day impact on your customers. This is especially true with social enterprise companies. You need employees who share your social goals and who will work to support them.
Be sure to incorporate interview questions about charitable interests to gauge a potential employee’s interest in socially-minded work. You can also recruit from certain organizations or look for volunteer activities in resumés. Alternatively, you can host corporate events that include lectures from specialists in your social mission of choice to help you network with those interested in both the work and industry. Virtual meetings or lectures can be equally beneficial and even more far-reaching if you are still concerned about larger gatherings in the time of COVID-19. Someone who meets these requirements, as well as those for their daily role, will likely fit in the best at your company and add value to your social enterprise work.
Find a mentor
If you’re a first-time social entrepreneur, there is so much you can learn from those seasoned in the industry. Work to find a mentor who can guide your business decisions and answer any question you have, whether it be business-related or broader mission-related. They can also help you grow your mission by connecting you with powerful entrepreneurs with similar social interests and helping you find additional donors and large-scale support for the cause.
No matter who becomes your mentor, utilize their experience and knowledge to inform your decision-making, but always include them in your social mission to bring attention to the cause. Keep in mind, though, that the experiences they have had aren’t the only ways to go about social enterprise work. Take your owns risks and explore your own boundaries to best benefit the cause you are championing and your business.
As an entrepreneur, you have the ability to make a huge, positive impact on your community through the values you share and the missions you incorporate into your business. The power of showing your support for different causes can inspire your employees and network to continue the work and eventually make real societal change without having to garner legislative action. Whether you’re just choosing which mission to support, who to hire, or what structure to use, continue learning how to effectively enter the industry as an entrepreneur so you can continue supporting community action and solutions.