Entrepreneurship is not a solo sport. And the richest experiences come when we share it with others.
That’s why, more and more frequently, entrepreneurs are making conscious decisions to build their businesses with an eye toward lending a hand in solving real-world problems, using their knowledge and expertise to create innovative, sustainable change or through simply giving back and supporting others.
Even dream ventures that are for-profit businesses can keep an eye toward helping others. And for many women business owners, uncovering this “bigger” positive impact, helps propel them. For-profit or not-for-profit, it’s a concept of doing well by doing good.
Let’s take a look at someone who’s been doing just that …
Shortly after graduating from college with a journalism degree, Liz Forkin Bohannon moved to Uganda to assist in the communication efforts for a youth development organization. There, she met a group of talented young women struggling to finance their education.
“These women were nearing high school graduation. In Uganda, there is a nine-month gap between secondary school and university, designed to give students who test into college time to find jobs to pay for tuition. However, many of the young women I got to know were going home to villages, unable to find employment and thus unable to continue on to college.”
“I became bent on helping them.” But Bohannon’s original idea of starting a charity—matching women in the United States with women in Uganda—was challenged by the Ugandan community. These young women needed jobs, not charity. They encouraged her to start a business where they could earn the money they needed.
Bohannon listened … and altered her plan and her thinking about businesses’ ability to create social impact.
After traveling the country to find raw materials and learning how to produce footwear by hand, Liz hired three young women and started Sseko Designs.
Social entrepreneurship—the notion that social issues can be solved with a financially self-sustaining business—continues to gain traction. Taking the resolution of problems with health, environment and education out of the non-profit sector, humanity gets the big win with sustainable and mutually beneficial businesses.
“Consumerism is arguably the most powerful force in the world. Every single day we participate in commerce and every dollar we spend is a vote for the way we want the world to work,” according to Bohannon. “There is limited donor dollars in the economy, but there is a massive opportunity to ‘hijack’ traditional consumerism to make a positive impact.”
Bohannon’s international footwear company is 100 percent for-profit. Sales revenue funds every component, providing employment, educational opportunities and entrepreneurial training. “Our dreams for how our company can make a positive impact on women in East Africa are not limited by donor dollars; rather they propel us to think more creatively and work harder to maximize our profits so we can maximize our impact.”
If you’re thinking of including a social effort in your business model, consider causes that are important to you. Here are large and small examples for you to check out:
MADI Apparel—an intimate apparel company that donates underwear—madiapparel.com
The Way Women Work—a career guidance organization for women in growth economies—thewaywomenwork.com
AmazonSmile Foundation—donates a portion of all purchases to charitable causes—smile.amazon.com
Charitable giving and social focus are good for the community, but make no mistake, it’s also good for business. I’m personally committed to furthering opportunities for women who want to become entrepreneurs. As such, I regularly volunteer to speak at conferences and events, as well as serving as a mentor and coach for women as they strive to recognize their entrepreneurial dreams. Those activities support the community and are also directly in line with my book, SheVENTURE, and its brand.
Could social components give meaning to your new business venture? Remember they don’t have to be the entire focus. But if you do include social giving, build it into your plan on the front end by making it part of your startup expenses and budget.
This article is the final in a 10-part series written to help women entrepreneurs like you take a closer look at what’s keeping you from moving forward, overcome doubts and understand the fundamentals and the mindset needed to help make you successful. They are not designed to help you build your financials or create your marketing plan, but rather to prod you to think bigger … and begin thinking with the mindset of an entrepreneur. They will appear on our blog: https://insightsnationalseminarstraining.com/ and in our free monthly professional women’s newsletter which you can subscribe to: http://www.nationalseminarstraining.com/womenslink/index.cfm
If you missed our first nine articles, read them here:
- Women Entrepreneurs: What’s Keeping You From Starting the Business of Your Dreams
- Creating the Mindset for Success as a Female Entrepreneur
- 7 Questions to Ponder Before You Start a New Business
- Does Starting a Business Feel Too Risky to You?
- Why Women Need to Break Free of the Ideal of “Having It All”
- 3 Shared Money Fears of Many Daring Female Entrepreneurs
- How to Create the Brand That Will lead to New Business Success
- Networking Tips for Women Starting Businesses
- Negotiating Well Gives Women Entrepreneurs an Edge