Whether I'm in the United States or visiting a developing country, I always have the same message for youth leaders: We need more social entrepreneurs to take on our most pressing problems. My definition of a successful social entrepreneur is someone who has found the right balance: doing good while doing well. In other words, your nonprofit organization is financial sustainable, or your for-profit company is socially responsible.
I recently spent a few days traveling around Indonesia, discussing my work as a millennial philanthropist and social entrepreneur. The students and young adults I met were passionate about wanting to make a positive difference in their communities, but face serious challenges. Some, like the struggles to raise funds and recruit volunteers for nonprofit projects, are universal. But these youth leaders also face culturally specific barriers to pursuing careers in philanthropy, including intense pressure to be able to support their families.
My nonprofit, Jolkona, works to inspire and empower a new generation of philanthropists. The Indonesian youth leaders I met are already inspired, but they need a support system to empower them to take risks and overcome these hurdles. For them, and for other young professionals around the world striving to both do good and do well, I have outlined the three main challenges to succeeding as a social entrepreneur -- and how to overcome them.
Problem #1: Accessing Capital. Initial funding is really difficult for any new venture, especially one that isn't focused on making investors rich. Everyone needs money, and there isn't enough capital out there to support every good cause.
Solution: Get Creative & Find Partnerships. Seek out partnerships with companies, government agencies, foundations and like-minded organizations. When I started Jolkona, I built the first version of the website, then leveraged Microsoft's generous corporate matching policy to help cover our initial expenses. You must show potential donors that their goals align with your plans, and that helping you helps them move their own mission forward.
Problem #2: Staying Focused. Most startups fail because they try to do too much too quickly. It is no different for social enterprises; it is tempting to think that we can take on multiple problems at the same time.
Solution: Start Small & Measure Often. Articulate clear goals for short-term and long-term success, and make progress every day. At Jolkona, we have identified and frequently measure specific metrics related to our mission. We also routinely review our progress and make sure that our staff and volunteers are on the same page.
Problem #3: Constant Sacrifices. Starting a social enterprise -- nonprofit organization or for-profit business -- requires a lot of financial, emotional and even physical sacrifices. For the first 18 months, my wife and I ran Jolkona from our kitchen, while juggling full-time jobs. We had no social life, and I only slept about four hours a night.
Solution: Love What You Do & Lead By Example. Successful social entrepreneurs lead by example and have fun at the same time. Make sure no one is working harder than you, but also make sure that you love doing it. If people want to help, they will follow your lead. After the initial startup phase, once you've assembled the right team, your life will suddenly get significantly easier.
Above all, you must work hard and be persistent. What makes a successful social entrepreneur is that you don't give up when people give you a hundred reasons why you will fail: You give them 101 reasons why you will succeed. And by succeeding, you are making the world a better place.