Entrepreneurs as Change Agents-Can you Make a Living and a Difference?

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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.

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