Here in the US we celebrate Independence Day July 4th with barbecues, sparklers and parades. It’s a time to commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and for many with jobs, it’s a day off work.
As the fireworks light up the night sky this week, I am also reminded of another independence to feel grateful for. I am not dependent on an employer to tell me when I can or can not spend a midweek day playing with friends and family.
If you envy those of us who are self-employed, maybe Independence Day is the perfect time to finally make that commitment to give your own dream the time and energy any good idea deserves.
Are you ready to create your own independence? Here’s another reason to celebrate:
If you register by July 15th, you can still get the Early Bird price for the upcoming Obstacle-Busters Mastermind with Barbara Winter and a free hour on the phone with me refining your big idea. HERE’S THE SCOOP
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.
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.
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.
Several months ago I felt honored to be invited to mentor a 17 year old high school senior. As a requirement for graduation, each student chose a year long community service project, which culminated in an awards program. Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the presentations and came away with an optimism about our future leaders.
Naturally, some of the students thought the project was “lame” and did only the required work with little enthusiasm. But what delighted me was seeing the pride on the faces of many others who were so inspired by the work that they far exceeded the obligatory hours. Their Power Point presentations, story boards, scrapbooks, oral or written reports showed they’d put far more time and energy into the project than was required.
I’m aware that young people often do volunteer community service because their churches encourage benevolence or they know it looks good on a college resume, but whatever their initial motivation, some of these kids discover empathy and purpose that hopefully will give their lives direction. Of course they feel the satisfaction of helping others but they also learn that goodwill and philanthropy isn’t just about volunteering and making charitable donations. That beneficence can be a way of life and a livelihood.
A proponent of socially responsible business, I found it encouraging that these young people gained an appreciation for and interest in environmental, elder care and youth services careers. As a life-long entrepreneur and self employment advocate, I was elated that they not only volunteered in civic and social service agencies but also witnessed adults gleefully earning their livelihood as proprietors of private recycling services and sports camps for disabled children. They discovered that they could be self employed elder advocates, or environmental lobbyists in the private sector. One young man exuberantly reported on his work with a rock band who did a playground improvement project in each town they performed on tour. Another student, a pitcher on the high school baseball team, when asked if he hoped to play professionally, said his project coaching an inner city basketball team inspired him to maybe start a baseball camp for less privileged kids. A girl whose project was testing river water for impurities, when asked if she wanted to be a researcher said, “No, I’m going to be an author. I’ve already started writing fictional stories that teach a lesson about our precious natural resources.”
Sure, many of these kids will be job seekers but I’m ecstatic that some are already thinking like entrepreneurs. They know that they don’t have to have a job to do well financially and that volunteering or check writing aren’t the only ways to do good. These grads are heading out into the world knowing that they can make a difference by making a living as a social entrepreneur. I’m still smiling.
At a Summit on Social Entrepreneurship at Yale University last week, “Sandbox” community members were asked to share their thoughts on “Fearless Leadership”. Interestingly, the young change agents argued that if you wish to change the status quo you must fear something.
Sandbox members identified three fears necessary to drive change:
1. The fear of not having an impact.
2. The fear of doing something they are not genuinely passionate about.
3. The fear of being ‘normal’.
Had I been asked the same question, I’d have cited discontent or anger at an injustice, but this got me thinking about what is at the core of my own drive to want to make a difference. Does it really stem from my fear of leaving this earth without having made an impact? Is it the fear of not doing something more meaningful. Is it a fear of mediocrity? Maybe. Probably. What about you? What fuels your need to create change? As always, you are invited to share your views here.
As most of you know, I had to postpone the live tele-seminar series in the fall but did record the interviews and the first several are now posted on the Inspired Entrepreneurs page. You may read about these inspiring artists, authors, performers and social entrepreneurs who make a living in the arts and a difference in the world and listen to the interviews here.
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
The late Anita Roddick knew “if you can create an honorable livelihood, where you take your skills and use them to earn a living, it gives you a sense of freedom and allows you to balance your life the way you want. ” As founder of The Body Shop, she created a business that was wildly profitable while remaining socially responsible.
There are many ways to make a difference and they don’t have to be limited to volunteer or non-profits. If you’re like many of us, you dream of doing something more meaningful and making an impact but you do still need to earn a living.
As social media specialist Jeff Korhan noted in his lawnandlandscape.com post yesterday, “Social entrepreneurship isn’t philanthropy. It is augmenting your business model to include social needs alongside traditional profit needs.” Contrary to the beliefs of so many aspiring entrepreneurs, it’s not only OK to make a solid income from a socially responsible business, but your business is more likely to make an long term impact if your company is profitable. If you are continually worrying about adequate charitable donations to drive change, you aren’t going to be able to focus on the greater good.
If you’re searching for a way to create more meaning in your work, check out the upcoming Inspired Livelihood workshop in beautiful Sedona, Arizona with Barbara Winter and Alice Barry, where you’ll learn how you can make a living and make a change in society.
Recently, I’ve had several inquiries about what exactly “Social Entrepreneurship” means, so it’s time to look at the new paradigm of meaningful livelihood.
People frequently equate social entrepreneurship with non profits or charitable organizations but the new model is more focused on the desire to drive change.
“Cause marketing”, a trend in the 90s, has been replaced by green marketing in the past decade of environmental consciousness. Unlike today’s social change driven entrepreneur, those earlier models were often charitable as an afterthought or a show of goodwill. Rather than the idea of amassing a fortune before a business begins making contributions, today’s altruistic change agents are designing businesses as a vehicle for making social change.
A broad definition of social entrepreneurship would be creating a business venture for the purpose of facilitating common good.
The most frequent criteria that I hear from private clients is that their new career must have more meaning. They want to not only do work they enjoy and make a nice living but feel good about the impact they can make.
What do you feel so strongly about that you feel driven to make an impact on? What pulls at your heartstrings or feels to you like a terrible injustice? Is there something you wish you could do to help others, a purpose that nags at you to address? Most of us have at least one social issue that we feel particularly drawn to work toward improving. What’s yours? What do you believe it is your purpose to try to make a difference in?
If you are like most aspiring entrepreneurs searching for meaning, rather than asking yourself how what you love to do can make a difference in the world, try turning the question around. Ask yourself what it is you want to make a difference in and then look at how you can use your interests, skills and talents to develop a business that helps facilitate that change. As always your ideas and comments are welcome and appreciated and maybe we can all come up with suggestions for how you can be an agent for the change you wish to see in your community or the world.