How to Run a Successful Social Enterprise

When you walk into the business section in a bookstore, you encounter countless books about running a business. From books about taking risks by Warren Buffett to the ultimate introductory book from the For Dummies series, you can read and learn from. But what about books running a successful social enterprise? Truth be told, finding them won’t be as easy.

But there’s a growing need for such books. It’s because, as many people might not believe, running a social enterprise is not at all like running a purely for-profit business. Social enterprises are organizations that make a profit to support their social cause and make a greater impact on societies. According to a survey conducted by Statistica in 2019, 32 percent of social enterprises grew by more than 10 percent compared to the previous year. But, if they knew more about running a successful social enterprise, that percentage could have been higher.

These are the basics of running a social enterprise.

Start with a Specific Problem and Plan

Before you can focus on becoming a successful social entrepreneur, you have to think first like the head of a nonprofit, not the head of a social enterprise yet. By doing so, you are focusing first on the problem and advocacy that you want to solve.

It’s easy to identify your advocacy. You might be an animal lover, so it makes sense if you run a social enterprise dedicated to animal welfare. But what’s difficult is identifying the problem that you want to solve. And you need to be very specific about this because, otherwise, you won’t be able to come up with effective and impactful solutions. So do your research. Find the communities that are most underserved. Work with community members to understand their needs.

From there, come up with a plan that will solve the problem in the short term and the long term. For example, you might have identified the high rates of carbon emissions in communities in the midwest part of the United States. The short-term solution could be providing solar banks to communities in need. But the long-term solution could be educating community members about the importance of using clean and renewable energy, working with them to build power plants that don’t run on fossil fuels, and lowering their carbon emissions. The ultimate goal is to create a sustainable impact that lasts long after your program is done or your products are sold.

Create Epic Partnerships

Creating partnerships is not unusual in the business world. Many businesses work together to serve each other’s goals. But for social enterprises—and nonprofits, in general—partnerships are crucial. They could be a lifeline for some social enterprises to stay alive and running. Because they’re not driven purely by profit, social enterprises need all the financial support they can get. And they can get that from foundations and individuals.

Look for foundations and individuals with missions that align with yours. Then, build the partnership from there. Create a connection with them through your shared mission. This way, not only will you gain funding to help with your social enterprise, but you might also gain some volunteers who are eager to work with you. You might even get to enjoy some marketing from the foundation. This is because foundations like to publish their work. They like to share with the public the actions that they take to fulfill their mission.

Highlight Your Mission to Attract More Customers

The great thing about running a social enterprise is that you can easily get more people to be involved with your work. This is something that many nonprofits have trouble with. The public may be eager to help them with their cause. But getting volunteers is a whole other thing. But social entrepreneurs don’t have to be too focused on this problem.

What you can do is always highlight your mission to attract more customers. A great example is TOMS. For every pair of shoes that you purchase from them, one pair goes to a child in need. They’ve been donating pairs of shoes to more than 50 countries.

Let your target market know that they are doing their part for the greater good by purchasing your products or acquiring your services. They get the products or services that they need. You get to make a profit. And both of you are helping with your mission. It’s a win-win-win situation.

Social enterprises still need to make a profit to survive and thrive. But you must always remember that the root of your work is your cause. This, ultimately, is what differentiates social enterprises from for-profit companies.

Meta title: What Leads to the Success of a Social Enterprise

Meta desc: Running a business that has strong advocacies is not at all similar to running a purely for-profit corporation. Here is how you can run a successful social enterprise.