Five Signs You're a Social Entrepreneur

Or you want to be.

Services for companies who are making a social impact.
Services for companies who are making a social impact.

If you live in Silicon Valley, Seattle, DC, Chicago or LA, you may think that entrepreneurship is on the rise. However, the US has actually seen a steady decline in startups. In fact, CNN reported that the amount of startups per year are currently about 400,000. While that might sound like a lot, Americans were opening nearly 600,000 businesses per year in the 70s. That last fact really stuck out to me.

Really? Millennials aren’t opening more businesses than our parents? I thought we were the generation killing everything by opening new, more innovative programs. Apparently that isn’t true.

But maybe, just maybe, millennials are taking a different approach. While traditional entrepreneurship is declining, social entrepreneurship is on the rise. If you aren’t familiar with Social Entrepreneurship already, here’s a very quick overview - social entrepreneurs open businesses that give back while also growing a sustainable financial model. Classic examples are Tom’s Shoes, Lola Tampons, and Indiegogo. For more examples, see Forbes’ 2017 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurs to see the young people making a strong social impact this year.

Whether you already own a business and want to ensure it is socially impactful, you are a known social entrepreneur already, or you are considering opening a business - it’s never too late to make a social impact.

Here are FIVE key traits that make you a Social Entrepreneur.

#1: You have a strategic plan for a robust bottom line.

“What? Socially impactful companies aren’t supposed to make money!” -A lot of people.

Nope. I’m going to start with the one that is the biggest myth when it comes to social entrepreneurship. When we think of social impact, many think of nonprofit companies (I’ll get more into that later) and assume that if there is an organization contributing something powerful to the world, no one should be profiting. Social Entrepreneurs do not agree with this sentiment for multiple reasons (most of which I will explore below). The most important reason is this: CEOs making a social impact, and the people who work for them, have just as much of a right to earn a living as anyone else.

#2: You do not rely on the government for social change.

Though we, the people, need to hold our representatives responsible for implementing social programs that actually make a difference, social entrepreneurs take it upon themselves to drive necessary change. The CEOs and leaders of companies that focus on social impact work take on the burden of progress. They are people who strategize and problem solve without including government officials. These leaders take on an extremely important responsibility to develop sustainable models that help people through services and programs.

#3: You are sick of Nonprofits

When most people think of social change, the first thing they might consider is the work that nonprofit organizations (501C3s) are doing. Now, I do not want to accuse nonprofits of having the wrong intentions. That being said nonprofits are often a way to shuffle money through the system without ever paying taxes and those nonprofits may not actually be contributing any legitimate products or services that help the community they claim to. Most nonprofits are established to raise awareness. I’m going to be honest with you, nonprofits, and it’s going to hurt - Awareness only goes so far. Once the public is aware, your organization has a responsibility to take the money you have earned and do something. You can provide a service, create a product, start a scholarship program, or anything else you might think of. It’s time to turn awareness into action.

#4: You work hard because you love the work you do.

Everyone is familiar with the work hard, play hard mentality of most entrepreneurs and successful millennials who are on the grind all day. And boy, I hope you all enjoy your jobs. But if you are working in social impact, you sure as hell love your jobs. No one goes into the business of working with special needs, mental health, education, feminist issues, and so on because they want to make money - although they probably want to make money too. No, these are people who have a passion. They didn’t go into business simply because they wanted to be a “business owner.” These people started impactful organizations because they were inspired and they work their ass off to kick ass every day.

#5: You give a shit!

This is the obvious on. If you are a Social Entrepreneur, then you care about something. People who work for companies who do social impact work don’t take those jobs just to have a job. No, these people seek out specific positions, and build specific companies, that address an issue they care about. Social Impact is broader than you might think so there are a lot of ways to get involved. You might start with #blacklivesmatter or #autismspeaks and from there decide to find - or better yet, start - a company that is driving change every day with their services, programs, or products. When you are at the table, making decisions that drive social change, it’s because you give a shit.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

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