The fine line between entrepreneurship and most business startups, and that of social enterprise, often comes down to the mission of the business. A social enterprise, by definition looks to fill the social and economic gaps not being met by current businesses.
But what about those business startups with the mission to help people?
Today I introduce you to the dynamic entrepreneur Chidelu Enigwe, who has successfully started her own business with a simple mission: to help people lead dignified, independent lives when their physical or intellectual circumstances prevent that.
For Chidelu, the start-up process was old hat--she ran her own independent firm for years before being bought out. The challenge instead was finding an industry and an opportunity that gave her the chance to impact lives and create meaningful relationships with clients. That is where the home care industry came in. Long the subject of criticism as well as government spending, the home care industry has begun a renaissance with the help of passionate entrepreneurs like Chidelu.
I asked Chidelu to share with me how she combines her commitment to compassion with a passion for providing excellent service and business acumen.
Steve Mariotti: Do you remember the first time you realized you had become an entrepreneur?
Chidelu Enigwe: I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I have known from a young age that I was a business person. But it wasn't until I got that first phone call, from a now client, [who found my company through my marketing efforts] that I knew; "...this is really happening!"
I actually started out on an entirely different path. With degrees in Marketing and Legal Studies, I worked for several Fortune 500 companies, which taught me a lot about business, broadened my perspective and helped me tackle seemingly-impossible goals like entrepreneurship and starting my own business. I ran my own PR firm for eight years until it was acquired by a larger one -- an opportunity I welcomed as it gave me the motivation to pursue something more personally meaningful. With that in mind, I founded Able Mind & Body Home Care (AMB), a boutique-style home care agency. My mission is to improve the lives of our clients, supporting them in leading dignified, independent lives in the comfort and safety of their own homes. It is something I am very proud of and I think what we do is very unique.
SM: How did you go from PR to home care?
CE: Most people say that they want to 'leave their mark on the world,' but for me, it's about leaving a mark on lives. So after a year of research and discovering the increased need in the market, it became clear the home care was the best industry to impact lives... and do it with a valuable twist that you can only provide when you start your own business. We provide a community-based service that assists our clients and allows them to remain safe and independent in their own homes or apartments. We are specialized to work with clients from a variety of backgrounds: some are aging, some are injured, and others have intellectual disabilities such as autism. We work hard to provide a holistic service, working with every person and provider involved in a patient's case. Not all home care agencies can say that. And we do all of this with a unique commitment we call the Mother Treatment: treat every client as if he or she was your own mother.
SM: What is the biggest challenge you face as a business person?
CE: As a business owner, my biggest challenge is balancing work and family. Often times the demands of running a successful business can overlap, or interfere with the demands at home. The challenge, however, offers the valuable opportunity to address, manage and tackle those challenges. It's always a work in progress.
SM: What do you think are the three biggest challenges to business start ups today?
CE: I believe the three biggest challenges to start ups are: 1) raising capital; 2) understanding the importance of proper marketing; and 3) intimately understanding the ins and outs of their respective industries (e.g. understanding the strengths, weaknesses, competitors, etc).
SM: What has been inspiring to your entrepreneurial success?
CE: It always boils down to family. My driving factor is in assuring that my family has a legacy to thrive on. For me, to be able to provide for them, places me as a unique role model, thus inspiring them to achieve greatness, as well. This inspires me and keeps me motivated to succeed.
SM: What are four tips you would like to give to up-and-coming professionals in your industry?
- Always educate yourself: attend workshops, seminars, take classes, read. Whatever it takes to remain knowledgeable about your industry
- Keep ahead of the trends: Know your market, their behaviors, patterns, likes and dislikes. This makes communicating to them more seamless.
- Utilize Social Media: Opportunity, exposure, and brand awareness is always possible on social networks
- Always network: You'd be surprised how fast your business will grow when you continuously network