Through social enterprise you can make an impact and a profit, a definite win-win and a major reason for its popularity as a business model. But while more entrepreneurs are incorporating social good into their business, the struggle that comes with balancing the management of a new company and tackling important social issues can be a bit of a mystery to them.
Getting a social enterprise off the ground is delicate work, and there are many potential pitfalls along the way. Through my own experience running a social good company, I've found there are obstacles that are important to learn to navigate from the onset. Keep reading for the three mistakes to avoid in order to create a social enterprise capable of big impacts and big bottom lines.
Don't go solo
The key to a good social enterprise is a great partnership. A nonprofit partner can help maximize the philanthropic impact of your business, using their experience and insider knowledge to find the best way to realize your mission. By tapping into their network, you're gaining additional access to resources you may not have otherwise, as well as a sense of credibility and trust for your new business among the community.
To make this work, find a nonprofit partner that aligns with your cause. When you share the same goals, you can work better together to share legwork and cut costs, increasing your capacity for social change and benefiting you both.
Straying too far from your mission
When you have a passion for social good, it's tempting to want to tackle many different causes with your business. But while it seems like more is better, your efforts will actually have less of an impact when you stray too far from your mission. Stay focused on why you went into social enterprise and dedicate your business to making the biggest possible effect in that specific area. Avoid stretching your resources too thin, or you risk compromising the success of your goals.
Put simply: Do one thing and do it really well.
Overlooking your product
It's naïve to assume that the adoption of a social good mission will help you drive sales. It's going to take a lot of effort, marketing dollars, business know-how and, most importantly, a product that resonates with consumers. You can have the best nonprofit partner and a laser-like focus on your mission, but as with any business, if your product doesn't click, the success of your social enterprise is in jeopardy. Lead with your product first and your mission second.
That said, if this happens to you, you might just need a change of perspective. If your motivation stems mostly from a desire to do good, adopt a larger viewpoint of success. You may not be able to drive significant business outcomes, but if strength of impact is in your core definition of success, you can drive results from a different avenue.
Mistakes are a natural part of growing any business, but by keeping these points in mind throughout your journey, you may find the path to a successful social enterprise a bit smoother.