Being a social entrepreneur and doing good means you can't make a decent living? This is a common and persistent misconception and in fact we would argue the opposite is true. Social enterprises are not non-profit organizations, (although many non-profit organizations are adopting principles of social enterprise, that’s another discussion) Just like most other entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs run a business, they make a profit, they can earn good money.
The difference is the “why” ….for many social entrepreneurs, it’s the mission and purpose behind the business that gets them out of bed in the mornings. Social entrepreneurs are simply motivated by more than just plain bottom line profit. They’re motivated by a bigger purpose. This does not mean social entrepreneurs don’t value their time or efforts enough to earn a generous income.
And it’s this purpose which ultimately helps make social enterprises even more profitable, when a bigger social purpose is the central theme of your business, you can expect to have stronger unique selling propositions, which means more customers, more growth, which results in the social enterprise being able to have a more impactful social or environmental outcome.
The more positive social and environmental impact you have the better your competitive edge becomes, the better your customers feel about supporting you, the more of a reason you have to get out of bed every morning and innovate. So the whole lot just keeps compounding on itself. The potential just grows and grows.
At Unearthed, we believe this central pillar of “having a purpose” is the very reason you’ll be successful and not a limitation to being successful. The label, entrepreneur or social entrepreneurs doesn’t matter. The more people who want to become entrepreneurs and want to leave the world a better place than how they found it , the better – the label does not matter.
Ultimately, how profitable you are, how much money you make, is really up to you. As with any entrepreneur, you get to pay your own salary, how big you grow, how fast you grow, how many sales you make, that’s entirely up to you and how effectively you can implement your social enterprise.
The question is more around how much of a positive impact you can make and less so around how much you get paid. The more successful you are at your purpose, i.e. your social enterprise, the more successful you can be financially.
So, yes, it CAN be done. Social entrepreneurs CAN make money and do good at the same time. And they should not feel guilty about charging for the good they do and the real value they add to people’s lives. Certainly, they have far more right to than most for-profit corporations. Author Richie Norton captured it brilliantly when he said: “Start projects that motivate you to save the world and simultaneously make you money (and create mindshare) for your company. Social innovation makes magic happen.” ~ Louise van Rhyn, founder, partners for possibility
It’s really quite simple and we see absolutely no reason why a good social entrepreneur would have any less earning potential than a “normal entrepreneur” in fact, with the growth in consumers wanting to support business for good, we would expect social entrepreneurs to have a greater earning potential. It’s important to understand that “social entrepreneur” is really just a label. The only difference between a social entrepreneur and a normal entrepreneur is the purpose, the drive, the need to use their business for good!
We often have discussions with participants on our programs who feel guilty about drawing a salary. They feel they should put everything back into their cause or purpose. But in reality, it’s very difficult to put yourself into a position where you can really have a positive impact and make a real difference to our planet and people UNLESS you have taken care of your own needs first. What those needs are vary from person to person, but it simply becomes another driving force to help your business grow sustainably.
Sustainability is at the core of any social enterprise and unless a social enterprise is financially sustainable itself, it can't make the social or enviromental impact that's intended, so being financially sound underpins a successful social enterpise.
Being a social entrepreneur can be stressful ....But it’s also one of the great freedoms in the world too, to be totally in control of your own destiny and knowing your following your passion, having a purpose in your work-life, making a difference in areas that are important to you. You have the freedom to think big and build your own destiny, it’s a long road and is not easy, but goodness …..it’s a brilliant feeling and yes, it can bring you solid financial rewards.