The initial challenges in the first year can be broken down into some simple steps, each with its own set of questions you'll need to find answers to, perhaps with the help of a coach or mentor:
Idea generation: As a social entrepreneur, you will see opportunity in the face of massive challenges and identify gaps in the sector which others may not. However, do make sure you test your business ideas before committing.
Finance and funding: Business modeling will be key and I would encourage you to find a mentor who has already set up a social venture to help guide you and perhaps sit on your board. On top of that, you'll need a strong business model to be able to compete with others doing similar businesses without the social agenda. Once you've got that model defined, never compromise on it: Your enterprise is still just that, even if it does have a social conscience.
To sell your concept to investors, you will need to find ways to bring your story to life while rooting it in hard numbers and against a solid plan. You'll need to test out a professional and compelling pitch before going to the big investors.
Accounting and legal: You will also need to hire a good accountant. For a while you may be managing the books. Consider automating your financial reporting — this can be a crucial time-saver.
Marketing and sales: As the owner of the business you will be the face of the company. You will need to establish a strong brand identity and navigate the world of social media. You will need to be able to measure the impact of your marketing efforts and do startup PR that gets coverage. Finding your initial 100 paying clients or customers will be your biggest Phase 1 challenge.
Team and recruitment: Creating an organizational culture that attracts top talent is critical to your success. You will need to know how to structure a strong employee relationship and how to make your first hire, and when. Put on your HR hat and think of innovative ways to incentivize your team and build that strong startup culture.
I wish you the best of luck turning your passion for social change into reality. Commit to it and stay strong while finding inspiring colleagues to join you on the journey. Do let me know when you launch and I’ll spread the word.
Thank you to successful social entrepreneurs Felipe Zalamea of Sumak Travel and Sustainable Pangea, Jamie Grainger-Smith of Think.Eat.Drink and Maggie De Pree of Imaginals for their personal insights and contributions to this blog.
Photo of woman in front of maze provided by Fotovika via Shutterstock