Is Social Entrepreneurship For You?

The Challenges Social Entrepreneurs Face
The problems that social entrepreneurs face can be similar to the problems their counterparts in the business world face when it comes to the challenges of starting, running and sustaining a business. Before entering a market with a new business idea, a social entrepreneur should have a clear understanding of the problems and issues they may face so that they can make informed decisions. For an entrepreneur, success or failure is mainly determined by the profits the business makes. This applies to social entrepreneurs but they also need to determine success based on the social impact they have.

Motivation has long term effects. Why you do something often determines how and how well you end up doing it. You are probably already motivated by your passion for a particular issue or project but to actually put your passion into practice requires a lot more than a desire to fix something. Take some time to examine your own motivation for wanting to become a social entrepreneur. Write down what you come up with. You may find you use the information to refocus your goals or change your direction.

It is important to think hard about why you want to be a social entrepreneur in the first place and to be honest with yourself about whether you’ve got what it takes to make it work. Here are some reality checks that you should consider before you go any further:

The Funding Problem
This is by far the earliest and most common problem facing most start-ups. Most businesses take years before they start covering their costs to break even, let alone generating profits. Do you have another income to support you?
Lack of Business Experience
Many social entrepreneurs fail to run their social entrepreneurship as a business. They often lack the business skills necessary for sustained success. Are you prepared to learn new skills?
Problem with acquiring talented employees
This is a real problem when a social enterprise moves past its founders, it is difficult to find employees who are talented, who share the vision and who are willing to generally take less money.
Social enterprises take a long time to get going.
You should expect the research and development process to take at least six to twelve months before you come close to starting your social enterprise. It will probably take another three or four years before your social enterprise covers its own costs. This is the time it takes to research, plan, develop and grow a successful social enterprise – there are no short cuts. Are you prepared to put in the hard work?
The hard work never stops.
Running any business, but particularly a social enterprise, doesn’t get easier with time. Even successful social enterprises which have been around for years are still vulnerable to failure – competition gets stronger, the cost of production rises, key staff move onto other jobs, a supplier goes bust, the market for their product changes and so on. Are you prepared for the long haul?
Regulatory Issues
All too often, a smart idea has been hindered by regulatory hurdles, which makes it critical to be aware of legal or legislative hurdles. In some countries, just the process of starting up a new business can be cumbersome enough to discourage even the bravest innovator.

If you are not sure if starting a social enterprise is for you, then join a social entrepreneurial organisation. This will be a great opportunity to learn from experts in an organisation and structure that is already established. You can learn by doing, which is the best way to learn!

Yes, educate yourself on the possible challenges and issues you may face but I love how John Robbins, when interviewed for the Social Entrepreneur Empowerment Series, puts it “When I fall on my face, it is a way to see the ground in a new way”. Sometimes we are so concerned with failure that we don’t even try, but John sees failure as a good thing, a way to learn and an opportunity to get inspired.
Perhaps the most important qualities of social entrepreneurs are courage and resilience. Their courage allows them to champion a cause and to take risks others wouldn’t dare to take. Their resilience enables them to endure the obstacles, setbacks and failures along the way to achieving transformational social change for as many as possible, as soon as possible.
“Success means going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” William Churchill


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