I liken being a social entrepreneur to being a New York City resident; you don’t really feel like you belong until you can show others around as if it is your own. After celebrating two years of being a social entrepreneur on August 1st, I am thrilled to be sharing with you 9 mistakes that every social entrepreneur makes.
Likely I could have added 5 more just in the time it took to write the above. That brings us to mistake number 1.
“If you are doing it instinctively, you are doing it wrong.”
You certainly won’t get it right. It pains us all to come to that realization. Fail often and fail fast. You only learn from the mistakes. Mistake number 2 is:
“Entrepreneurship starts when everyone else would have quit.”
You will have some amazing days as a social entrepreneur. Your work will be fulfilling and you have the freedom of being out on your own. However, when things get bad and they will, it’s on you to come out of it. But, it won’t be because of mistake number 3:
“If you can get them to cry, you can get them to buy!”
That is the idea of those ASPCA commercials, right? Wrong! A social entrepreneur’s greatest tool is Story-Selling. The idea that Because of YOU, something good has happened. TOMS shoes uses it, because of you a child in need received a pair of shoes. FEED: Projects uses it, because of you 35 people will eat tonight. Though it’s not for everyone and that brings us to mistake number 4:
“Giving back is a boomtown!”
Consumers can spot these folks a mile away. Did you know that McDonalds give a percent of each Happy Meal sale to the Ronald McDonald house charity? I bet you didn’t know that % amounts to $.01 for every Happy Meal sold. If giving back isn’t a part of every decision your business makes, you might not be a social entrepreneur. Which brings us to mistake number 6:
“You will never get credit when you need it”
Running a more traditional business that gives something back might make it way easier to find capital than a business who makes it part of their mission. Luckily for us, there are amazing organizations like B Corp, the Social Venture Network, Investors’ Circle and more that will make it easier. And remember mistake number 7:
“There is no such thing as a bad conversation”
Far too often I hear stories from other entrepreneurs about the deals they missed out on because, of the networks they couldn’t tap into. Don’t get me wrong, there are 100 reasons you can lose a deal. But consider this, if you talked to everyone you ever met for 5 minutes about what you were working on, do you think a few of them might be able to make some great introductions? The answer is, YES. Though keep in mind mistake number 8:
“Man, parents just don’t understand”
Social entrepreneurship is a generational thing. Try telling your parents friends that you can Do Well by Doing Good. After they scratch their heads for a while, they will reply back with something like, “I see. By well, do you mean oil wells?” Mistake number 9:
Patience. Set expectations for your first year and cut them in half. Don’t overreact when everyone doesn’t jump on the bandwagon right away. Don’t twist and turn to the every whim of your first couple clients and most importantly, stay true to your mission.
Your idea is good and if it keeps you up at night, it’s even better. Get out there and do it. The tides are turning around the world making this the ideal time to start a social venture. More than 56% of consumers according to eMarketer are seeking companies that give back.
According to a study of Stanford undergrads, more than 90% said they would take a lower salary to work for a company that shared their values.
Time to start making the mistakes you will NEVER regret.
Zack Rosenberg is a social entrepreneur and Co-Founder of DoGoodBuyUs (http://www.dogoodbuy.us), the marketplace for Goods that Do Good. After a career in advertising working for companies such as BuzzFeed, WebMD, SmartBrief and others, he turned his attention to transforming the world through business.
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