Here’s a letter to every social entrepreneur and those aspiring to be one. Think you’re ready to get started? Read this first.
– By Damilola Oyewusi
Dear Aspiring Social Entrepreneur on a 9-5 job,
The world is a mess and you want to do something about it. At least that’s how the thoughts started … until you started counting the cost. So for years, you’ve been waking up every morning, grudgingly lifting yourself out of bed and allowing your responsibilities lead you to the company you work. There are days you just want to quit. But you need that alert at the end of the month. Don’t feel bad. Money is important. And that security of a monthly cheque is probably the security you need to get started on turning your world-changing desires into a reality. Here are a few things you can do while waiting for the day you can say goodbye to your boss with the excited smile that confidently hides your true feelings of trepidation.
Get specific about the social problem you want to solve.
For people with a desire to change the world or make an impact, it is sometimes easy to sound nice and passionate without an actual focus on a particular problem. Take this time to properly evaluate the problems you would like to invest a solution in. Too often, social entrepreneurs are too optimistic about solving many problems at the same time. This is one of the fastest ways to burn out. Don’t let that happen to you. Take your time to evaluate the sector you would like to work with, and hone it down to one problem.
Test your ideas
You get tons of them in a week. They keep flying through your mind. Excitedly, you write them down, storing them for that ‘oh so wonderful day’ when you get to live your dreams. Maybe you get one that you hold on to. But the truth is that you can’t tell how it would pan out if all you have is a picture in your mind of what you want it to look like. Start by doing research on people doing similar things across the world. Put your idea through a pressure test. There’s a great exercise in a book called ‘The Social Entrepreneur’s Playbook’ from Wharton Business School. The soft copy is less than $15.
Understand what Social Entrepreneurship is and what it isn’t.
You do want to make an impact but not as a charity organization. This means you must have a business plan, develop a revenue model and understand how your business will run. People will not patronize your product or use your service just because you have a good heart. You need to have a quality offering in terms of your product or service and have a go-to-market strategy that positions what you offer as a must-have solution. There is information available on the internet and it is mostly free. Take a free course on any of the numerous learning platforms. Take advantage of the internet.
You need a network. You need a community.
Dear brilliant mind, you cannot do this alone. Make relevant friends on the job and find the right community of people to mingle with on the weekends. This is why places like Co-Creation Hub and Wennovation Hub exist. Creative co-working spaces are springing up in different parts of the country, join one. And if there is no one around you, use the power of social media to find like minds and get together for brainstorming sessions, or just for drinks.
Stop waiting till it’s all perfect before you start. Take one step at a time and focus on what is important. Not everyone has to know what you’re doing all at once. Don’t spend your time and energy on building hype and brand awareness to reach thousands or millions. Know your target audience and build all you do around them.
There is so much more you will learn as you go along. And while you should not remain in your comfort zone, take this time as an opportunity to build something that really works while enjoying the security your paid job affords. The founders of Warby Parker can tell you something about this. On the flipside, it is easier to deliver on the demands of a day job when you have an exit strategy and you take action on it daily.
Remember, there are people waiting for your success.
All the best,
Someone like you
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.