Social entrepreneurship is buzzing right now among the youngsters who want to start their businesses. Several start-ups are elaborately designed to involve different people. But it should be clear that crowd-sourcing start-ups are not the same as social entrepreneurship.
For one, their aim is not the same. It’s not just a matter of involving more people, but rather, for what purpose these people are involved. Most important of all is the main intention of setting up the business. Of course, it’s for profit. It wouldn’t be a business without it. But who enjoys the profit?
Social entrepreneurship is still a for-profit approach, but the profit and the side benefits of setting up the business aim to address a social problem. It is not just about creating job opportunities for locals, either. It aims for something beyond like poverty alleviation, awareness-raising about climate change, etc.
Deciding on your product
Even if you want to win the hearts of your target clientele with a greater cause, you don’t want to rely on their charitable side. However, it’s not sustainable. People will not keep buying baskets just because they were weaved by families that need income. They will not keep buying your shirts that have your calls. At most, they will probably buy twice or thrice to share with friends. But these are not necessary commodities.
This is one of the main problems of social entrepreneurs. They start with the handicraft, thinking they could then develop a marketing strategy around it. This is feasible if you could partner with industries that could use your product. For example, if you are producing rags, you could ensure that you would have continuous buyers if you partner with some hotels or cleaning companies. This is the only way you could have a sustainable initiative. Otherwise, if you don’t plan to operate on a large scale like that, you have to balance the crafts with products that people would always go back to.
For example, you could open up a café that would display some crafts but, at the same time, offer drinks and meals. And don’t make the food you offer taste like an afterthought. It should be enough reason for your clients to keep coming back and not just because they want to support your cause.
Putting money into appreciating assets
At the start of your project, you might have some philanthropist or charitable institutions providing a budget. See if you can negotiate to have some operational costs turned into assets that the business will use in an emergency. Instead of budgeting funds for rent, purchase a house or land that you could use as your base of operations.
Depending on what kind of business you have decided on, you could partly use it to house staff if they come from remote areas, or you could have some rooms available should members of the community you are serving visit. Some businesses purposefully purchase real estate so that they could house their executives or business guests there instead of having to pay for hotel amenities. In time, if the location is good, the value of the property could appreciate.
Selling your narrative
Storytelling is one of the best marketing trends this year. Especially for the social entrepreneur approach, you have to tell the story of the people behind your product or service. You could do it by adding short blurbs to the products on display. You could write articles and stories about the people behind the business on your website. You could even do a coffee table book. Let your clients get into your story so that they feel like they are part of it and will value it.
You could also provide your customers with insight into your production. It’s very common for community products to be displayed in cafes and stores. They are sometimes placed at counters, on shelves. But why not showcase how they were made? You can have a showroom at your store that could occasionally give demonstrations. If you are selling baskets or weaved cloths, you can have scheduled demonstrations on how these are done.
Social entrepreneurship is a good approach to business. It is the model where the consumerist mindset of society contributes to some greater good. However, people in the past have taken it for granted because they bank too much on the charitableness of people. The ones that succeed are those that take it as a serious business. Even if the profits don’t make anyone rich, remember that the sales performance is still needed to adequately achieve the altruistic goal you had set for it.