Become a social entrepreneur

If you’ve got a great business idea and are generally less selfish and annoying than everyone on The Apprentice then you could be a social entrepreneur. Here’s how to go about making some cash and changing the world.

man with heart businesscard

My business is some money too please.

What is a social entrepreneur?

Social entrepreneurs, like all entrepreneurs, start their own businesses or enterprises. But they’re not just for profit; they aim to help society in one way or another.

John Elkington, founder of social enterprise SustainAbility and author of The Power of Unreasonable People, says social entrepreneurs tend to be people who, rather than adapting to the world around them, seek to change it.

Have I got what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

“A social entrepreneur needs to be someone who’s prone to action, prepared to take risks but also to take responsibility, and has a vision of where they’re heading,” says Nick Temple of The School for Social Entrepreneurs. “They also need to be resourceful, committed and persistent.”

If that sounds like you then beware, it isn’t an easy route. “I’ve known too many people hit a brick wall and wonder what the point is,” says Richard, who started his own business training young wrestlers to help them stay out of trouble.

“I hit walls all the time, but you have to carry on. The main hurdle for us has been the sheer cost of things, like insurance and overheads, because we’re a small company,” says Richard. “We’ve also had a rival company poaching our teachers. You’re up against a lot.”

Get support and financial backing

If you’re young and have a great social business idea, you’re in luck. There are several organisations set up specifically to help 16-30 year olds kick-start a new venture. You can find out more about funding in this article for entrepreneurs. (link)

Richard got a grant from Live Unltd, an organisation that awards grants of up to £2000 for 16-21 year olds interested in setting up a social enterprise. “I didn’t think I’d get anywhere, but there are people willing to help,” he says. “I had great support and business advice from Live Unltd, who always went out of their way to help me.”

Network with other entrepreneurs

Social entrepreneurs need excellent networking skills. Any new business needs backers, but social enterprises especially so. Using social networking is an important way of getting your idea out there and finding out who your competitors and rivals are. Blogging will help establish your reputation as an expert in your field and can help get you media exposure.

First steps to success

The early stages of a business demand a lot of time and energy. You’ll be working long hours for very little money, so getting an accountant can really help make life easier. They can even save you money and, what’s more, you can offset their fees against tax. Bonus.

It goes without saying that keeping costs down is essential in the beginning. Working from home can make a difference, as well as setting up the basics (branding, marketing, website etc) of your business. Richard also recommends doing a basic web design course. “Creating my own website helped reduce overheads,” he says.

Next Steps

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015

Photo of heart businesscard by Shutterstock