July 11, 2019

5 proven ways to be a better social entrepreneur

Starting a new business or nonprofit? Here are some tips to keep you on track towards your goals.

The entrepreneur life can be lonely without colleagues for advice and ideas. Photo by Avi Richards on Unsplash

At The Renewal Project we love the work of social entrepreneurs. They build businesses from the ground up and find innovative ways to help their communities, from starting the first black-owned grocery store in Detroit, to launching an ethical fashion subscription service in Philadelphia.

But being a social entrepreneur isn’t an easy job. You’re often without guidance from a manager or colleagues. But there are ways to improve your entrepreneurship game. 

Stay dedicated 

It’s going to be a hard road. But you have to stay committed.

“Identifying and solving large-scale social problems requires a committed person with a vision and determination to persist in the face of daunting odds,” Raviv Turner, co-founder and CEO of Guerillapps, told Forbes. 

One thing that can help is actually writing down a mission statement, says author and business advisor C.J. Hayden. “Ask yourself simple guiding questions like ‘What will I do?’ ‘How will I do it?’ ‘Who am I doing it for?’ and ‘What value will I provide?’ The answers to those questions will inform your mission statement,” Hayden said in an interview with Free Enterprise.

Keep up on new ideas

No matter your field or industry, it’s important to know what’s going on. Attending summits, conferences, and other events can help you stay up to date on the latest news in your field and learn from other smart people.

If traveling for conferences and events isn’t in your budget, there are other ways to bring fresh ideas to your business. TED Talks that tackle topics like stress, leadership, and innovation can help you on your entrepreneurship journey. 

 Another way to learn new things? Keep your reading list up to date. While you shouldn’t skip over the classics like Dale Carnegie’s “How to win friends and influence people,” notable figures like Bill Gates and Barack Obama release their annual reading lists, chock full of titles that will make you think. 

Connect with people

Keep building your network. Staying connected with people in your field can turn into partnerships that prove beneficial for your organization. Also, you never know where a connection with someone in a sector different than your own might lead. 

“Entrepreneurs with a diverse circle of contacts—they interacted with many people outside their field—were three times more innovative than those with a more predictable group of friends,” according to a study by Princeton sociologist Martin Ruef, cited by The Wall Street Journal. 

Building a network can also prevent loneliness. Social entrepreneurs are often on their own, especially in the beginning of building an organization. 

“You still need to be sure to invest in your most important relationships—no matter how busy you are,” Sujan Patel, Co-founder of Web Profits, writes for Inc. 

Listen to feedback

Of course you should expand and strengthen your network, but also make sure you’re reaching out to these partnerships and supporters and people in your network to get feedback. You can show them your mission statement, or ask for their thoughts on the nitty gritty details. Whether you receive constructive criticism or compliments, consider their feedback carefully. 

“You’ll have to have a thick skin when doing this because some may provide very strong corrective criticism,” advises Hayden. “Remember that your team members likely have good intentions and want to see you succeed.”

Don’t forget to have fun

Some social entrepreneurs think their peers should make sure they enjoy what they do. Here’s what some of these founders told Forbes: 

  • “Have fun with it. Do it for the fun of it and don’t worry about the rest,” said Andreas Karelas, Executive Director of the nonprofit RE-volv.
  • “Live your passion, love the process, treat people well, do what you say and never, ever, give up,” advises Paul Elio, founder and CEO of Elio Motors. 
  • “If you are passionate about the mission, it’s not work. You enjoy every challenge and every day,” Recommends Nancy Hughes, president and Founder of the nonprofit StoveTeam International

Caitlin Fairchild

Caitlin Fairchild is the deputy editor of The Renewal Project.