Over the last several years entrepreneurs heading up “disruptive” startups have been regularly making the headlines. They build a business around an idea that sets a seemingly intransigent old business model on its ear. The way peer-to-peer transportation startups like Lyft and Uber have disrupted the taxi industry is one of our more recent examples.
What if smart and energetic entrepreneurs could “disrupt” a social problem and give us whole new ways at looking at solutions? That’s the heart of social entrepreneurism.
We often counsel individuals to pursue what they love and what interests them. If social change is what captures your imagination, starting down the path to becoming a social entrepreneur might be your best life choice. Taking an innovative idea and running with it is central to both business entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs.
Famous Social Entrepreneurs
Some examples of social entrepreneurs through history would be John Muir, who worked to found the Sierra Club and the national park system; and Florence Nightingale, who established the first school for nurses in England.
Just like entrepreneurs in the commercial sector, social entrepreneurs also need excellent fundraising and sales skills. The sources of their funds are mostly different than in those in business and can range from individuals to charitable endowments to government agencies and even to crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter. Social entrepreneurs need to be able to sell people on their vision.
However, if you are involved in a business and don’t want to walk way from the whole enterprise to start something new, it’s possible to create a not-for-profit arm of your company and become involved in social entrepreneurship. Also, far-reaching social responsibility policies are becoming increasingly important in the business world and they may impact the ability of future startups to succeed.
Social Responsibility and Millennials
One of the widely noted qualities of Millennials is the value they place on social responsibility in the business world. Companies like Toms—famous for giving away shoes in impoverished areas—have won over legions of shoppers with strong views on social issues. In the same way, Millennials prefer working for companies that share their social concerns, typically these can involve issues of poverty, justice or environmentalism.
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In other words, as we move forward, I expect to see the most successful companies actively involved in finding creative solutions to social problems. They will have to do this to win Millennials as both consumers and employees.
This is good news for entrepreneurs who share these concerns. By finding ways to incorporate social entrepreneurism into your plans you don’t have to leave your dedication to improving the world behind as you work on building your company. Additionally, you’ll find that many of the same skills you used to get your business off the ground will serve you well as you branch out into the social realm.
Do you have a strong desire to be an instrument of change? If so find a social need and fill it.
This article was originally published by Susan Solovic
Published: April 23, 2015