Social entrepreneurship seems to be on the rise. Many entrepreneurs are looking to make the world a better place while being fabulously self-employed.
Co-working spaces like Impact Hub take action to drive positive social and environmental change. Part innovation lab, part business incubator, and part community center, their co-working and events spaces off members a unique ecosystem to grow impact boasting a diverse global network of over 11,000 members in over 63 locations.
I work out of the San Francisco location and when I walk into the coworking space each day I see and hear, firsthand, how everyone there aims to make the world a better place. These types of co-working spaces are encouraging everyday social good companies to go above and beyond and change the world.
Social Impact Reality
I don’t think that social entrepreneurship is for everyone. As a co-founder of a socially good 501c(3) non-profit I have encountered, firsthand, the struggles and realness that comes with putting people before profit.
When you begin racking up debt you also wonder if you can pay it off within the next year or so; you also start to wonder why you’re even doing it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not feeding starving children in Africa. I’m not providing clean water to underdeveloped countries. So, finding grants and sponsors to throw money at my company is significantly much harder.
Yet, along the way I’ve learned that there are certain characteristics that social entrepreneurs must have in order to be successful, in spite of it all.
Passion sounds cliché, yet is arguably the most important characteristic a founder will need when embarking on a mission to do more social good. Why? It’s simple. Much of your work will go unnoticed, unappreciated, and some will question your ability to keep it running after a few short months of being in business. If you lack passion for your mission, then you’ll get easily discouraged and quit pushing forward.
Just like passion, you must be persistent and continually push forward despite the mounting obstacles in your way. Creating a company designed to make a social impact is challenging, especially when you aren’t solving a global issue that prompts advocates and sponsors to throw millions at your cause.
At ProtoHack we’re solving a unique problem by making coding accessible to non-technical business owners through code-free hackathon events. Companies aren’t as willing to throw money at us like we’re solving world hunger, so the battle is uphill and requires even more determination.
The types of situations you’re going to encounter as a non-profit in the social-good sector can be challenging. I can’t tell you the countless times I have had to barter, convince, and sweet talk my way into free or low-cost opportunities. Everything from event space, food and beverages and other items that I didn’t have the cash on-hand to supply; but I needed to be fearless in order to start those conversations.
When you’re working with a non-existent marketing budget being resourceful will make you successful. I’ve been able to sell out events in new cities without spending a single dollar on marketing. Being resourceful will get you far as a social entrepreneur.
Social entrepreneurship can be immensely rewarding, despite the challenges. Each day I wake, I know I am making a difference no matter how difficult it may seem. At the end of the day, when I go home exhausted, I know I will wake up and go at it again because of the difference one small success can make.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Blake McCammon is the co-founder and CMO of ProtoHack, a code-free hackathon events series. ProtoHack is a 501c(3) and its mission is to enable non-technical entrepreneurs and give them the tools and resources to create something amazing from nothing. Connect with @protohack and @rblake on Twitter.
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