Not only Ok but vital to your livelihood and your cause. I’ve heard people complain about the salaries paid to directors of non profits. They say things like “if she really were in it for the better good, she would do it for free.” Or, “I resent that part of my donation (to a particular charity) goes to paying a director’s salary.”
Do these same people believe that their doctor shouldn’t charge a fee or that public defenders should do their jobs pro-gratis? I don’t believe that the people who research cancer treatments or those who develop cleaner fuel sources feel the least bit guilty about getting paid well to do good in the world.
So why is it that many entrepreneurs who want to make a difference by addressing social issues feel they shouldn’t command a reasonable income to do what they feel passionate about?
The truth is, non profits do pay nice director’s salaries and as a result attract the best, most effective staff. If everyone who wanted to make a difference had to be a full time volunteer, we would not have the effective leadership to make positive change. Most of us need to make a living and it takes the brightest, highly driven and most dedicated executives to direct change. If those people couldn’t make a good living as change agents, they’d have to be corporate leaders and just do what they can for a cause in their spare time. I, personally, am thrilled to have the best and brightest heading up causes I feel strongly about. and I am happy to see them making what they are worth to make changes in the world.
If your dream involves making a difference but you don’t see how you can make a living as a social entrepreneur, the first step is to examine your attitudes about wealth and adjust your mindset around money. You likely have a gift to share with the world and it has monetary value. If a corporation was to hire you to use your talent to set up and run a particular department, you’d expect to be paid well for your expertise. As a social entrepreneur, you have even greater value.
As you are dreaming of making a difference, think about what special skills you have that you’ll use to implement change. Then consider what you’d expect to be paid to do this job in corporate America. That is the value you should place on your new “job” and figure that into the overall plan. It may involve some creative financing or grants, and you won’t make that salary overnight, but it is your “value” and you have no reason to feel anything but generous about giving your time and talents in exchange for income.
This evening I had the privilege of witnessing a gifted group of young artists perform in an old warehouse studio in Cincinnati. Six of the 14 teenagers, second year students with an independent theatre group, performed a first run play that asks the question, “What would happen if the story of Snow White took place today?” The other eight actors, first year participants, each wrote and performed a 3 minute vignette. These scenes, some serious drama and others humorous, each very different in theme and style, dealt with life issues and dilemmas not normally associated with teenage conversation.
Some of these 16 to 18 year-olds attended a charter public school for the creative and performing arts. Others were involved in theatre departments in their high schools. Some will be entering drama programs at universities in the fall. Some are from the inner city. None are from affluent areas. And all appeared to have the support of their families and friends.
Seeing these young people so passionate about their craft and full of hope for their futures was so refreshing. I only hope that they can hold onto their dreams instead of turning into who they believe they’re expected to be and then realizing at 50 how far from their true north they’ve wandered as so many people do. Some will stick the course, though, and what will make the difference for them is the support they feel from their family and friends. Some of the parents are obviously concerned about how their sons or daughters will support themselves in what they know can be a roller-coaster ride of a career. Yet, many are borrowing money against the equity in their homes or doing whatever creative financing they can to fund a college education for their children knowing that the investment will not result in a six figure job offer upon graduation.
I believe these students are likely to realize their dreams of a career in the performing arts. Not because they have more talent, better training or connections than some other aspiring actors but because they have the love and support of people who believe in them.
I would not be surprised to learn that some of these supportive parents have spent years following someone else’s dream and are willing to do whatever it takes to enable their children to follow their own. With those they love rooting for them, they’re bound to succeed on whatever paths they choose. What better gift could a parent give their child than faith in their ability to succeed in their authentic livelihood?
If you aren’t familiar with KIVA, as an inspired, or aspiring, entrepreneur, do get to know this exciting example of social entrepreneurship.. Kiva.org is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to entrepreneurs around the globe. Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.
Since inception in 2005, Kiva has primarily connected lenders with entrepreneurs from derdeveloping countries.
The organization just launched an expansion program to offer loans to entrepreneurs in the US. The negative reaction of many US lenders shocked me.Some individuals who make micro loans through KIVA are making comments such as “the needs can’t truly compare to those in the Sudan, Cambodia, or Peru.”, that their loans should “help individuals whose business needs are much closer to the line of “basic necessities of life” or “Micro-loans work best where the problem is access to credit, which is not America’s problem” and “social services here are so much better than they are in developing countries.”.
Do the individuals who are making these statements not know about the working poor in this country, that we have thousands of single, working mothers living in their cars because even a full time job isn’t enough to pay rent and feed their children? Do they not know that in order to “have access to credit” a borrower must appear to not need it and have a personal balance sheet that shows more assets than liabilities? That the point is to enable the working poor to be self sufficient and not depend on social services?
I am a supporter of Kiva and a lend to entrepreneurs in developing countries,but I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to help our own aspiring entrepreneurs launch their small business.
With the mass layoffs in recent months, why would anyone want to see an increase in social service claims rather than help our own citizens to be self sufficient? The purpose of micro lending is to enable people to help themselves. Kiva isn’t about charity. It’s a boost to the “working” poor.
I’ll continue to support the young startups in developing countries but not at the sacrifice of getting our own working poor into a position of self sufficiency.
What is your reaction to this? Given the choice, would you lend to American start-ups or choose to send all your loans overseas? Do you agree with the critics that no one in the US is in true need of support to start their own business? I invite you to share your thoughts and opinions with our readers.
I’ve received so many inquiries about co-op galleries that I want to address this and give you some helpful pointers on starting your own. Lots of you have expressed interest in opening your own gallery or craft shop and said you are concerned because so many fail. It’s true that many co-op style craft galleries don’t make it but artists who approach it as a business rather than a hobby can do very well. There are some co-op galleries in this county that have lasted decades.
First, let’s look at the advantages of a co-op:
Customarily, the cash output initially is minimal since it is shared amongst members.
You don’t need to purchase inventory to start up since it is the members who make up the artists represented.
As an artist you will not be stuck sitting the gallery yourself full time at the cost of precious studio time.
You don’t ever have to advertise for help. The members all put in time.
The reasons they frequently don’t work are:
There are too many “cooks”and not enough sous-chefs. You need a director or a team of directors.
Every one does every task so you have people taking on responsibilities that they are not qualified for or don’t enjoy so they can’t do their best job.
In an attempt to save money on rent, co-op galleries are frequently poorly located. There is often no jury process so members display any work they chose. One or two amateurish artists can ruin the professional image and reputation.
The mix of price-point or media is out of balance.
No one’s promoting the gallery.
The artists have their individual contact information on their tags so customers will try to go directly to the artist rather than through the gallery. They believe they’ll save money.
Some artists charge more for their work in a co-op to make up for the percentage the gallery takes. If you are trying to bypass the gallery’s commission, you’re sabotaging everyone’s efforts to make it a success.
What can you do differently to make sure you are one of the success stories?
Choose three people with a good sense for business to be the directors. We’re not talking about members with a business degree. Just those who are a bit more right-brain balanced or detail oriented. Three because an odd number means there will always be a tie breaker rather than two directors possibly butting heads. If there are not 3 members of your co-op who fit the profile, select members of the small business community. Ideally, they will be retailers whose business is complimentary, not competitive.
Divide the tasks according to members strengths. You may have some members who are better at display, others who are good at handling behind the scenes like paperwork or public relations. Someone else who is good at event planning to handle the show details. Of course, you don’t want to put everyone on the sales floor. Many artists find it difficult to ask for the sale and while you don’t want to hard-sell or pressure customers, the purpose is to sell art. The members can be trained at good sales skills but some people are going to be naturally comfortable speaking and educating the customer.
Don’t skimp on location. I’m always amazed when coops take locations on a second floor or side street to save money. There is no costlier mistake in retail. You may save $800. a month but you’ll lose $8,000. or more in sales. This doesn’t mean that you will only succeed if you choose a very high end location. There are many factors and specific criteria for the right location. If you aren’t sure, it is definitely worth hiring a consultant to help you chose the best location. I’ve had the experiences that someone has hired me to help them open a gallery and they do everything right except go for the locations we’ve helped them choose and negotiate. They opt to save a few dollars on rent and and their sales figures suffer.
Appoint a jury to approve what is displayed. As friends, members are often concerned with hurting someone’s feelings but the quality must be consistent. You might ask a few local artists from the local art association or even a nearby college to serve this role. They will most likely be flattered to have been asked. This keeps the selection neutral and professional.
Every member should agree to charge at least keystone (double) the price they wholesale to other galleries or shops and agree to never undersell the gallery price at craft fairs or online. Keeping your prices consistent maintains integrity for the whole gallery.
As tempting as it is to bring your work in and paint or make your art when it is your turn to work the gallery, it should be agreed that no one does work during their assigned gallery hours. As artists, we get involved in the creative process and find it an inconvenience to be interrupted. The customers feel that and you will loose sales.
While having a working artist in the gallery is good for traffic and sales, it should not be the person whose turn it is to be on the sales floor. Customers want connection with you, to hear the story behind the work, a little about the technique and some bio tidbits. They’re not just buying the piece of art. They’re buying the human element.
There are many other factors that make a co-op a success and you’ll have a chance to hear from the founders of a successful co-op gallery during our summer Inspired Livelihood tele-summit. Meanwhile, so that you get your specific questions answered in that call, please let me know what more you’d like to know about about starting a co-op.
The title of this post will probably earn me some enemies. And I apologize. But it’s true. There are no magic formulas for success. Why do I say that? Because I wrote a ’foolproof” formula and I’ve watched it work and not work, depending on one factor.
Years ago, massage therapist friends asked how I was able to re-build a full practice so quickly when I moved to a new town in another state. What was a mystery to them felt natural for me. It was one of those skills that come so easily that you just assume everyone knows. I was shocked to learn that many people in the “helping” professions felt uncomfortable charging for their services.
When I shared some tips with a few friends and they saw good results, I put my “Full Practice Formula” on paper for other healing professionals. Some, like the initial group of friends, quickly attracted all the clients they could handle. Others struggled and whined that they weren’t getting more clients. After reviewing that they had in fact all followed the formula step by step, I looked for the difference in the two groups. The answer came quickly. Those who succeeded Read more
When friends and family ask me what I do, my description often includes the term “social entrepreneurs”. Typically, I see puzzled look and I explain that I help inspired entrepreneurs to make a difference in the world. This is frequently followed by, “you mean you work with non-profits?”.
While some social entrepreneurs do run non-profit or not-for-profit organizations, and draw a nice salary as director, many social entrepreneurs are in private enterprise. The terms “social entrepreneur” and “for profit” are not in conflict. There’s a common misconception that making a difference means living on peanuts. That’s absolutely false.
Social entrepreneurs can make a substantial living, however their mission is to for “more than profit.” Unlike “cause marketing” which is attracting customers by promoting the fact that a percentage of profit goes to a particular cause, social entrepreneurs are moved by a specific social problem and use entrepreneurial principles to aid in social change. As opposed to a business deciding to donate to a cause, the cause is the impetus for the business.
According to an article in Business Week last fall, there are now 30,000 known social entrepreneurs producing $40 billion in revenue. The same article reported that President Obama suggested starting a new government agency to help socially conscious startups gain more access to venture capital.
Although we’d all love to make changes on a global scale, social entrepreneurs can make a positive impact by using their business acumen to facilitate change in their own community.
Daily, I hear from entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs who’s priority is making a difference. Coaches, counselors and other re-careering professionals report that the most common criteria their clients express for an ideal livelihood is that it must have meaning. A traditional career counselor hears this and steers the client to social work or other helping professions. The idea of entrepreneurship isn’t part of a career counselor’s toolbox.
Do you have a strong pull to make a difference in your community or the world but no idea where to begin to build a business around it? Or are you already an entrepreneur looking for greater meaning in your business and your life but can’t figure out how to have both? Either way , you’ll not want to miss the summer “Inspired Livelihood Tele-Summit” where you’ll learn from entrepreneurs who are making a living, doing what they love and making a difference.