What Is Social Entrepreneurship?
We millennials are a bold generation. From our insistence that work have meaning to the disruptive innovations we embrace (e.g. Lyft), we are dramatically shifting the future of this planet. Our enduring legacy will be the expectation that business do well for the world.
So, it should come as little surprise that one of the hottest career options for millennials is the new field of social entrepreneurship. You’ve likely heard this term before, but there are so many different flavors of social entrepreneurship that it can seem overwhelming. Today, let’s dig into this new field so we can better understand its meaning.
Social Entrepreneurship Defined
A social entrepreneur is a person who creates a profit and purpose driven organization in which the business and social missions run in tandem. Our social mission, therefore, becomes a key component of our marketing, branding and success metrics.
Types of Social Entrepreneurial Businesses
Most people associate social entrepreneurship with the ‘buy one/give one’ model. While this is the most popular form of social entrepreneurship, there are several other exciting models out there. Let’s have a look at them:
One for One
Toms Shoes is known for this. You buy a pair of their shoes and they give a pair of shoes away. LSTN Headphones gives a hearing exam and hearing aids to a child in need for each set of headphones it sells. This model has been very effective because it is straightforward and easy for customers to share with friends.
Percentage of sales/set dollar amount
For years, major corporations have committed to donating a percentage of sales to select non-profits, but this has generally been done as an afterthought. Social entrepreneurs treat this model differently. A great example is Mission Belt. Mission sells a highly unique men’s belt and donates $1 to Kiva for each belt sold. Because Kiva issues microloans in developing countries, each dollar donated is repurposed again and again as loans are repaid. Mission Belt makes this story a key part of its brand by weaving the cause into the company. Each belt sold features a story of someone whose life was changed by a Kiva loan, it’s motto is ‘buy a belt, feed a family’, and the name ‘Mission Belt’ leaves no doubt about why the company exists.
Companies with multiple causes
An emerging trend in social entrepreneurship is for companies to craft a brand that addresses multiple social challenges. This can be tough to execute well, but some companies have pulled it off beautifully. For example, Sword and Plough creates a cycle of giving by repurposing military fabric into high quality tote/handbags, hiring veterans to make the bags, and finally by donating 10% of profits to veterans initiatives. The company is led by two sisters with a long military background, which has contributed greatly to its success.
Companies that transform a community
This is one of the most exciting forms of social entrepreneurship because it allows you to tell your customers a story that they can relate to. Yellow Leaf Hammocks is exclusively devoted to a tribal community in Thailand. The artisan weavers employed by Yellow Leaf were previously trapped in extreme poverty and debt slavery. By empowering its artisans to share their craft with the world, Yellow Leaf has shifted the trajectory of their lives. Indosole repurposes junk tires into new shoes using a process that has been practiced for years in Indonesia. Through this work, Indosole also brings dignified employment to an Indonesian community that was sorely lacking it. The key with both of these companies is that they deliberately weave the story of their community into the story of their business.
Millennials have made the bold statement that business can make a dollar AND a difference. Social entrepreneurship, in its many forms, is the best way for us to realize that vision.
Josh is the founder of Social Change Nation, whose mission is to provide startup social entrepreneurs with the best tools for growing their companies. He hosts a podcast featuring interviews with the world’s leading change agents and creates educational content to help businesses make a dollar AND a difference. Josh is also an amateur bagpipe player. No joke...you should ask him about it sometime :)