make a difference

Why wait until you can change the world to start something meaningful?

Do you know you want to leave your mark but haven’t started because you can’t see how you as one person can do something big enough to make an impact? Well, you don’t have to be ready to solve world hunger or end violence in the middle east to start something meaningful. Making a difference in one little corner of the universe can lead to a bigger movement or at least a greater awareness.

When I was in my early twenties, I had a BIG creative dream. It was the peace, love and groovy post-Viet Nam days when we were all idealistic and knew we wanted to create a better world. (note-some of us still believe we can.) I wanted to start a movement that made the arts the framework for learning beginning in preschool years.

A long detour took me out of the way of that dream but in the course of making a living, I realized I was able to make a difference. No, I wasn’t changing the way children are exposed to and inspired by the arts but my businesses did change lives and YOURS can too.

Typically a social enterprise is based on using business principals to achieve social goals and when someone comes to me for advise on how to create a meaningful livelihood,  we look at the cause or change they want to make and then create a business to drive that change.  Sometimes, though, an established business can be the vehicle to make a difference.

I didn’t get into advertising to change the world and I sure didn’t start a furniture business to create jobs or improve lives and at one point I felt like all I was doing was making money.  I was visiting my dad in Florida and mentioned that I was feeling greedy and unfulfilled that I’d drifted so far from my earlier vision of making an impact.  He pointed out all the ways that my partner and I were improving lives. I realized he was right. We weren’t just selling home furnishings. We had created something that fed over one hundred employees and their families and unlike charity, we had trained them to be self-sufficient. (We didn’t want sales people who had been poorly trained in other retail positions so we hired people who had never held sales or management experience and taught them our way. Many of these employees previously held minimum wage jobs and were now earning high five and some six figures.) We’d also found small cottage industry upholsterers working out of their garages or barns and helped them build up their businesses and create jobs in their communities.

When I was a massage therapist, I had mostly private clientele but after doing some volunteer bodywork at hospice, I realized how important it was to give patients and their families the gift of touch. I couldn’t afford to strictly volunteer but wrote an article about the benefits of massage for a local senior publication and people started hiring me to go into nursing homes and massage their aging parents.

While the above are examples of how an established business can develop a social mission, you can start a business with the intention of making a profit and make conscious efforts from the beginning to drive or support a cause.  The initial purpose of my gallery was to make a living and re-immerse myself in world of art but as I researched the work I would carry, another mission emerged. I became aware of how much of the merchandise available in most stores is imported knock-offs of artists’ designs. In some cases, the artist has a licensing agreement and gets a royalty but more commonly, the artist doesn’t know about it until it shows up on a shelf with a “made in china” label. Sadly, few of those artists can afford to fight a legal battle with the large companies manufacturing the knock-offs, so they do nothing about the theft of their designs. When I started noticing that even in little artist havens, the majority of shops sell these imported knock-offs, I made it a mission for my gallery to support American artists and educate the public so that they become more aware of their buying habits.

If you have an existing business, you can add a social component to it but even if you have a job, you can start something on the side that makes a difference and has more meaning.  If you’re drawn to making a difference with your existing business or on the side if you have a job, I’d love to help you design the vehicle the vehicle to make it happen. GO HERE for more info on Idea Generator Sessions 

Are you sending the message “I am not a good investment.”?


In a blog post titled ‘The Natural Habitat of Winners’ my friend and mentor Barbara Winter said, “When you are willing to spend your time and money to expose yourself to new ideas, new techniques for doing things, and new people who can add their enthusiasm to your dreams, you’re also sending a strong message to your subconscious mind about your own worth.”

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been receiving emails from readers saying they’d love to attend the Mile-High Mastermind but don’t know if they should spend the money right now.

When I had my last retail business, my friends with neighboring shops used to complain about slow business and asked why I was doing so well. I cited fresh, timely merchandise and well-trained, well-paid staff as reasons I had more customers and better sales. Of course, these merchants would complain that they didn’t have enough money to purchase merchandise, hire employees or attend trade shows to keep up on trends because business was slow.    This thinking made no sense to me as I watched many of them go out of business. When things are slow, that’s when it’s most important to spend time, money and extra effort to make them better.

“In times of change,” said Eric Hoffer, “learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

While those who use lack of funds as a reason to not invest in themselves are still stuck in unsatisfying careers, even in what the media calls a weak economy,  weekend workshops with price tags of $3000. are full with hundreds of attendees.  (Mile-high Mastermind, by the way, is only $579.) I’ve met entrepreneurs at those high-priced seminars who  said they “couldn’t afford the tuition but couldn’t afford NOT to attend.” It’s no coincidence that the following year, those same entrepreneurs who knew they were worth the investment were back with stories of prosperity and satisfaction.

Not investing this way also sends a strong message. As author Sondra Ray says,  “When you say, ‘I don’t have enough money to go to that self-improvement seminar or buy that book, it’s almost like saying, ‘I am not a good investment.’ The best way to make money is to invest in yourself.

Are you worth it?

Barbara knows, “If you truly want to join the winner’s circle, take advantage of every  resource you can find. You never know what might happen if you do. You could be sitting in a roomful of strangers and suddenly meet yourself.”

learn more about Mile-high Mastermind HERE


What to do when your business is making money but not feeding your soul

What do you do when your business is making money but not feeding your soul? Are you feeling confused because the business you’ve spent time building suddenly feels like “not enough”? Like you need to find more meaning and purpose in your business?  If so, before you throw out “the baby with the bath water’ (sorry for the cliche), consider how you can add an element of purpose or social good to your existing business.
I love to help entrepreneurs design a business based on their values and purpose. Starting with a clear mission is in some ways easier but there are advantages to already having a profitable business and then finding the deeper meaning. You have the confidence that you know how to make money so that piece is out of the way. It does, however, take a lot of hard work to tweak your mindset from strictly a positive net profit to the multiple bottom line of a social enterprise. So, how do you transition your for-profit business to a mission driven venture?
First, know that you do not have to change the business entity to a non-profit. You absolutely can make money and make a difference.
Let’s look at a few examples from big businesses that made the transition to ideal-driven. Dove, the soap manufacturer, has made a big part of their mission to improve the self-esteem of girls. Instead of using the tried and true stereotypical thin girls in their ads, they are using models of all body types to show that beauty doesn’t look just one way. Paint company Akzo Nobel is now focused on using more sustainable packaging and speaks to enriching people’s lives through color.  We are seeing a trend in business to stress environmental or sustainable benefits but  it has to be authentic, not some marketing trick or ‘green-washing’.
The best place to start when trying to create more meaning in your existing business is to ask yourself a few key questions.  What is the passion behind my company? Why does it exist? What can my business contribute to my customers and society? How can I realize this ideal at customer and society level?
As always, you are invited to comment below. I would love to know what it would take to make you fall in love with your business again.

Why FOR profit models can help more people than charity.

If you have been following me for awhile, you know that I am a big believer in social entrepreneurship but if you are like most people, you may think that means non-profit. It can, but for-profit business for the purpose of solving a social problem can actually help more people than charity.
“How can that be? “you might ask.
First, you need to understand that people who run non-profits DO actually make money. In fact, the director of a not-for-profit foundation frequently draws a six figure salary. The non-profit part refers to what the organization actually nets AFTER salaries and expenses are paid and the rest is used to further the cause.
When a for-profit business is set up as a social enterprise, there is a multiple bottom line with the intention of solving a social issue and making a profit. But, because it operates on business principles, the owners only make money if the the business is successful at the helping component as well as profitable.

For comparison, let’s look at this example. If I set up a non-profit to buy hearing aids for  hearing impaired children, I would need to raise funds. I’d start by asking everyone I know for donations and possibly apply for some grants. Once I’d exhausted those sources, I would constantly be scrambling for funds to help the people who had come to depend on my for aid. But, if I set up a a for-profit social enterprise, I would be able to help more children because it would be based on business principals which means making sure there is a continuous flow of income. I could set up a “buy-one-give-one” model and for every hearing aid I sold, I’d give one to someone in need. Yes, the profit margin would be slimmer than a typical for-profit business but this sustainable business model would mean I would continually be able to help more hearing impaired children.

Think about the organizations that feed hungry children in underdeveloped countries. If we set up a charity bringing formula to babies in a developing country and then for whatever reason we could no longer deliver, those babies would starve. They would have come to depend on our help and the mother’s breast milk would have dried up so they could no longer nurse their babies. But if we set up a business teaching those same women a craft that they could wholesale to us and we could turn around and re-sell, they would have a livelihood that provides the resources to continually feed their children without our help.

Is there an injustice or lack that pulls at your heartstrings? You can set up a charity and find volunteers to help but if you run short of people willing to give their time or resources, you can no longer do your good work. Or,  you can set up a business that addresses that problem AND makes a profit so that you can sustain the level of aid and thus help more people.
If you need help figuring out how to develop a business that can bring you income and solve a social problem, click HERE to learn about my “idea generator” fall special package of three consultations. We will examine who you want to help and how you can set up a business that both makes a living and a difference.

What does “social entrepreneurship” really mean?

When I tell people my favorite clients to work with are aspiring social entrepreneurs, they frequently ask if I help people open non-profits. Maybe it’s time to clarify what a social entrepreneur is.

Yes, some social ventures are not-for-profit but it’s a common misconception that you can’t drive social change AND make a profit. By definition, social entrepreneurship is “a process involving the innovative use and combination of resources to pursue opportunities to catalyze social change and/or address social needs.” Whether a business is a non-profit, for profit or NGO, determining if it qualifies as a social enterprise comes down to a basic question: does the business add value to society or drive social change.

Two well-known examples of social entrepreneurship are micro-financier Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and Aravind Eye Hospital in India, a provider of eye surgery at a fraction of the usual cost. Both are for profit businesses that improve lives.

When we think of social entrepreneurship, most of us think of the international do-good organizations tackling hunger and disease in developing countries. Sure, we’d all love to change the world, but we can make enormous differences starting in our own little community.

Because my expertise is in the area of for profit, I only work with people wanting to set up a for-profit business. Aspiring entrepreneurs come to me when they want to start a business that has more meaning, makes a difference and a profit.  Every business needs a profit and loss statement but I leave that up to the accountants. I have a different balance sheet we work through that helps aspiring entrepreneurs work out their multiple bottom line-a value in addition to financial profit that’s measured in how the business improves lives. It doesn’t have to change the universe. it can be as small as making a difference in your own neighborhood, what my friend Alice Barry calls your “YOU-niverse.”

Even as an artist or craftsperson, you can be a social entrepreneur. Let’s say, for example, you design a line of jewelry that you’ve been fabricating yourself. Your business has grown to more than you can supply yourself but rather than outsource it to China, you want to help local women earn a living . By training local women to do part of the production for you, you are enabling them to feed and care for their families by teaching them a skill they can do at home. You save on overhead by not having a manufacturing facility and you’ve provided livelihood for women who may otherwise be dependent on social welfare. Your profit from your sales and the change you make in these women’s lives is your double bottom line.

Another category of social entrepreneurship is the buy-one, give-one model made popular by Tom’s Shoes. Other business donate a portion of their profits to a particular cause. My favorite is a business that actually teaches people how to help themselves so that they are no longer dependent on hand-outs. That method of making change is more sustainable than charity because it enables people to always be permanently independent. The giving continues even if the funds for the program are no longer available.

One way to decide what changes you want to make is to think about what really irks you. What do you think of as a terrible injustice or lack? Most likely if it’s an issue that really bothers you, it’s something you are passionate enough about driving change that you will be effective in creating lasting change. That’s the ultimate in social entrepreneurship.

Crafting for a cause; your art can make a difference

For decades superstar entertainers have done benefit concerts to raise funds for causes they believed in.  I will always remember the 1971 Concert For Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden organized by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar for the relief of refugees from East Pakistan during the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities and Bangladesh Liberation War.  The event drew 40,000 people and was the first benefit concert of this magnitude in world history.  It featured Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, Badfinger, and Ringo Starr.
The popular summer music festival, Bonnaroo donated $50,000 to Music City flood relief efforts and of course Nashville’s elite songwriters made enormous donations to the flood victims but you don’t have to be a rock-star or billionaire to make a difference.
I’ve heard from artists and crafters who feel called to make a contribution to aid recent disaster victims but think they must have name recognition like sea-life artist and environmental educator Wyland to be taken seriously.  Not so.
Local musicians and indi crafters at the Chattanooga Market are sending proceeds from their art to Nashville flood aid and you can make a difference with your craft too.  While the magnitude of these issues may feel overwhelming, every little bit helps.
Craft Hope for Haiti has an Etsy store where artist donate the profits to Doctor’s without Borders. Crafting a Green World and Etsy list artists and groups who are using their craft to raise funds for Earthquake victims.

Needleworkers and fiber artists making wash cloths for wiping the fragile birds and sea turtles in the gulf.  Yarn shops are donating wool to clean up the oil.
And if you think any effort you make is too small to make a difference, consider eleven year old Olivia Bouler of New York who has raised $70,000 from donations for her bird drawings for the audubon society to help birds in the gulf oil spill. She said, “I want to help, and I want to make a difference and show that the birds are important, and we need to preserve them.” Olivia’s mother, a teacher, says her daughter has proved what she’s always told students: “you can make a difference, and I pretty much believed it,” she says. “But now I know it is truly possible.”
What can you do with your art, your music or other talent that can make a difference?
As always, you are invited to share here. We’d all love to know how you are using your gifts to benefit the world.

Join a tribe, create your sewing circle, make a living and a difference

Last week, I put out a call for people who love to sew but hate to market. I was thrilled at the overwhelming response from readers and astonished at what some had to say. Many of the emails I received were from people looking for a “work-from-home JOB”.  Why would  someone who for a long time went by the name “self-employment muse.” want to “hire” you?

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know that my mission is to help people create meaningful self employment, that I once had a payroll of over one hundred. While I loved knowing that my business was enabling people to earn a living, it broke my heart when the business could no longer support that many employees. I am committed to empowering people to be responsible for their own livelihood and not be at the mercy of a boss.

It’s my conviction that the creation of small businesses will be the cure for a sick economy; that the only real security is self employment. When I put out that call last week for people who love to sew but hate to market, it was in response to all of you who say you are looking for a way to make a living doing what you love. You love to create but not sell. I LOVE marketing, letting people know about cool products, especially handmade items.  So, what I’m looking for are people who want to be self employed, want to have their own business and be their boss. I don’t sew but I have a product that I know will sell if you, the crafters, supply it.  It’s my goal to create a tribe of entrepreneurs who love what they do and have control of their own time, income and environment.

If it’s a job you’re looking for, I’m not your gal.  But, if you’re seeking inspiration and guidance to be your own boss, to join a tribe of inspired entrepreneurs, let’s talk. You have the equipment since you already sew. You can do all the sewing yourself or create your own community, your sewing circle. And we’ll all be making a difference, making income doing what we love. That’s what inspired livelihood is all about.

He Eats, Sleeps, Writes in Italy-Makes a Living and Improves Lives

Can you imagine making a great living sampling home made pasta, tiramisu and gelato, schmoozing with the proprietors and then snuggling up in a cozy bed and breakfast overlooking Lake Como?  And knowing you’re improving lives of thousands?

My friend  Barbara Winter brought this little video to my attention.  Rick Steves talks about his joy at having found his own right livelihood.

Note that he says he enjoys visiting these people who have found their niche.

While he isn’t directly solving world hunger or righting an injustice, consider the ways his business is improving lives.  He’s not only making a living doing what he loves but making a difference in the lives of thousands of entrepreneurs by recommending their establishments. He’s also enriching the lives of all his readers and viewers who might never experience foreign cultures if he didn’t show them how they can do it in style on a budget.

Your own business may not change the world tomorrow but how can you improve the lives of a group of people by sharing what you know and love?

If you know you want to find more meaning in your livelihood doing what you love and making a difference in a few lives, your community or the world, March is the time to step up and get started.

Are you having trouble figuring out how doing what you love can improve lives and earn the income you need?

In honor of what my friend Alice Barry ( “Entertaining the Idea”) calls the Month of More Meaning, I’ve bundled my “Idea Generating”sessions and you can now sign up for a package of 3 Private One-to-One Phone Sessions with me for $270. My single session rate is $185 an hour but because NOW is the TIME to TAKE ACTION, I’m opening up a limited number of session hours to a select few who are ready to MARCH.

This month only, until the slots fill, you can purchase a
3 Session Package for $270 ( less than half the usual hourly rate.)

Find out More about these Idea Generator Sessions

STOP beating yourself up for not accomplishing what you planned to earlier this year. Forget those New Years resolutions. January and February are hibernation months in nature for a reason. But, March is time to SPRING into action!

Are making a living and making a difference separate parts of your life?

The old idea of philanthropy as writing a check or volunteering after you’ve made your fortune in a high level job is  20th Century thinking.  A trend we’re seeing at universities worldwide is to prepare graduates to build a business that makes money and embraces social change. A business degree is definitely not necessary to start a business, but it’s worth noting that major business schools are turning out a new breed of MBAs who want to make a buck while also making the world a better place. The old MBA model turned out graduates with the goal of landing a solid corporate job. If a student’s goal was to make a difference, they’d go into social work or the non-profit sector.   In a recent article in the Independent, a UK publication,  Pamela Hartigan, director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship was quoted as saying that “rather than separating where they (new MBAs) make their money from where they do good, they are convinced that it is possible to live comfortably and dedicate their careers to pursuits that are fundamentally innovative, philosophically positive and morally compelling.”

Are you ready to join the ranks of 21st Century Entrepreneurs who are creating businesses that improve the lives of individuals, families, communities and countries by using their passions and creativity to solve local and global problems and create social change?  If you’re ready to learn how you can create a profitable business that means something more, I’d like to invite you to join Barbara Winter, best selling author of “Making a Living without a Job” , Idea Artisan, Alice Barry of “Entertaining the Idea”and me, Terri Belford, self-employment muse for a life and

career changing event.

Where Can You Start to Make a Difference in the World?

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the endless possibilities of the world wide web? In the past decade, the internet has opened up the entire universe as your clientele. As my friend and mentor, Barbara Winter, Author of  best selling “Making a Living Without a Job” reminds us, your customer base is no longer limited to those who share your geography. So, your message can reach potential clients on another continent, even a different hemisphere.

But, what if you just aren’t sure where to start when the whole world is your target? Or you have a strong desire to make a difference in your own neighborhood?

An article in Sunday’s Cincinnati Enquirer featured a young entrepreneur who got her business idea from a need to borrow a ladder.  Keara Schwartz launched Share Some Sugar, a website that lets neighbors post and share items they own and borrow items they don’t.  Searching for an alternative to consuming items that we all use infrequently, Schwartz took a social anthropologist’s perspective to  create a  business opportunity out of a need she saw in her own backyard.

This business can and likely will eventually expand and go national or worldwide, but Keara started where she was, where she saw an immediate need.

Is it possible you are looking at too big a picture and being paralyzed by too much choice? When you try to figure out where to begin to make a change in the world, does it sometimes feel like trying to decide what to order in a Chinese restaurant? Or not knowing where to begin to sort through decades of clutter in your great aunt’s basement?

Try narrowing your focus a bit and reigning in your perspective. Look around your community, explore what unmet needs you notice on your own block. Where can you make a tiny impact? If you can drive change in your own neighborhood, your vision may eventually make a global difference. If you doubt the possibility, consider Craigslist was started as a local site. You can’t make any change if you don’t start somewhere. So start right where you are.

Tiny Steps to Make BIG Social Change

There’s a lot of media buzz recently about huge organizations driving social change. Almost every career change seeker I have spoken with has a strong desire to not just make money but to make a difference in their community or the world. 

For most, this is still a dream, so I began looking at what’s holding them back? It appears that while the drive is authentic and strong, the fear factor kicks in and the aspiring change agent is frozen by overwhelm. They’re intimidated by what they see as impossible. They don’t believe that they as an individual can make a difference. 

What all these aspiring entrepreneurs are missing is that no one starts big. Even the most high powered global entrepreneurs had to start right where they were when the idea became an unstoppable drive to make a difference. 

Not all social change has to be global. Is there something in your own community that just tugs at your heart or feels terribly unjust? You can have a huge impact right in your own back yard whether your interest is environmental, educational or social. You may do something in your neighborhood that makes such an impact on one life, one group or one community that it is duplicated throughout the world. Remember, every huge movement started with a single step. Stay tuned for BIG news on a small event where you can make enormous change.

“The man who moved a mountain is the one who began carrying away small stones.”  Chinese proverb

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

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.