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8 Ways to Ensure Your Social Enterprise Can Make Ends Meet

8 Ways to Ensure Your Social Enterprise Can Make Ends Meet

When starting a Social Enterprise, you will have to juggle many competing priorities. One that should always be at the top of the agenda is ensuring that at the very least, you are creating enough income from the enterprise to cover the costs of running it…or making both ends meet.

Here are eight things to consider to keep your social enterprise on track:

1. Ensure you have an entrepreneurial mindset.

As the person leading your social enterprise, you’ll want to ensure that you adopt the traits of the most successful entrepreneurs from all walks of the business world; these characteristics include:

  • Being fearless
  • Being prepared to take risks
  • Being action-orientated
  • Not being phased by temporary failures
  • Being persistent, optimistic and resourceful

Your mindset will impact everything that you do, and it will largely determine the success that you’re able to create for your social enterprise. This includes being able to attract the necessary income to your venture.

2. Know your social enterprise’s story.

Stories create an easy way for people to buy into both you and your social enterprise. What is the story behind why you got into this business? For many social entrepreneurs, this often happens when they discover an ugly truth about society – something they find so shocking, disturbing, or unacceptable that they have to do something about it.

For example, Andy Bradley, who grew up watching his parents lovingly run a home care facility, set up Frameworks 4 Change after later working in the National Health Service and discovering that not all nurses were as compassionate as his mother had been. With an ambition to change the culture of nursing entirely, he set about devising a training course teaching a series of habits nurses can adopt to make sure they are always compassionate, regardless of how busy they are.

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Sharing your story allows those who are interested in your social enterprise to connect with you and your mission, which is a crucial ingredient in keeping your enterprise going strong.

3. Don’t prioritize your social aim over business viability.

In his Feb 2014 article, Dan Zasatwany stated that the principle of “income must come before impact” was not necessarily being implemented amongst the majority of social entrepreneurs, citing that there was “a lack of widespread understanding in the sector about what it means to be an ‘enterprise.’”

One of the main things to understand about a social enterprise is that, first and foremost, it’s a business. Although it may exist to fulfill a social aim, it will only be able to do that in proportion to the profits that it generates.

Having a passion to make a difference is not enough to make a social enterprise successful. In order make ends meet, you must first ensure that, particularly in the early days, your focus is on creating a viable, standalone business model that can survive long enough to make your social aim a reality.

4. Do the business basics and create a business plan.

Remember, first and foremost your social enterprise is a business. As such, you need to ensure that you’ve carried out the same steps that someone setting up a traditional business would do. Although you don’t want to suffer analysis paralysis and spend too much time in the planning phase, some basic groundwork is necessary to ensure that you are going into a venture that has a realistic chance of creating a profit. Some key areas to include in your business plan are:

  • Research: What’s already happening in the industry that you want to go into? What will be unique about what you are going to do or how you’re going to do it? Who is actually spending money on the products or services that you are going to be selling?
  • Financial Forecast: Based on your research, how much will you charge for your products and services, and how much can you reasonably expect to sell over a specific time frame? Be comfortable with the idea that you are trying to create a profit. Don’t let your passion for your social aim see you practically giving things away, including your time.
  • The Break Even Point: If you intend to make your living with this social enterprise, how much do you need to sell in order to cover both your business costs and your basic living expenses? Knowing your daily, weekly and monthly break-even point will give you a great focus in the early days of your social enterprise, and is a crucial part in making sure you can pay the bills on time. This article provides some useful tips on how to calculate your break even point.

5. Know and understand your target audience.

Being clear on your niche audience – that specific group of people who are going to be paying for your products and services – allows you to market to them more effectively, and to ensure that you’re meeting their needs. This, in turn, will allow you to make a bigger impact on your social aim.

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Be aware, of course, that with a social enterprise, often the people who are going to be paying for your products and services are not the same people who are going to be using your products and services. Your message needs to be effective with the people who provide the cash to make your enterprise possible.

Marketing, branding and innovation expert Rafe Offer emphasizes that you need to understand your customer by really getting to know what it’s like to be them, and he suggests role-playing with them in their environment to achieve this. He also encourages a marketing approach that is focused on making them feel good.

Getting this area of your social enterprise right will mean repeat business from customers that can become raving fans, which ultimately will be an important part of creating the income that will not only make ends meet, but will create more social impact for your business.

6. Have a scalable system for success.

Following the collapse of his own social enterprise, Matthew Cain identified that one of the features of successful start-ups was that they had a replicable system that was first tested and proven on a small scale. Once a successful system of trading has been established, it’s then scaled up to increase turnover and profits. Cain found that waiting to launch an enterprise with big numbers was one of the top five reasons that social enterprises fail to make both ends meet. You can read about the other four reasons here.

Scaling up – also referred to as ‘social franchising’ – is a model that is becoming popular amongst social businesses that borrows from the experience of the commercial franchising sector. A social enterprise that has done this successfully is Care and Share Associates (CASA)who have duplicated their system of employee-owned social care homes and services to several sites around the UK.

Social reform organization The Shaftesbury Partnership compiled a useful report on social franchising in 2011 that you can access here.

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7. Measure your impact.

As part of what he calls his BIB (Business Impact Brand) method for starting a social enterprise, Marquis Cabrera talks about the importance of being able to measure the impact that you intend to, or have already made.

For example, he cites that Sword and Plough, a social enterprise that re-purposes military surplus waste into fashionable bags and accessories, has a social mission to “empower veteran employment, reduce waste and strengthen shared military-civil understanding.” At the time of his article, Sword and Plough reported that so far they had

  • recycled 15,000 lbs of military waste
  • created $400,000 of sales through the sale of 2600 products (with 10% of profits going back to veteran initiatives)
  • created 36 jobs for military veterans.

How could you state the impact of your social enterprise today? Measuring your impact will not only make it clearer for other people to connect and contribute to what you are doing, but will force you to look at the numbers in your social enterprise. Tracking your numbers is vital for making sure you are not spending more than you are creating in income.

8. Don’t go it alone.

Being an entrepreneur in any business can be a lonely affair, particularly if you are working from home. However, as a social entrepreneur, you may find this to be even more true as the pressing weight of fulfilling your social mission is added to the feelings of isolation that many traditional entrepreneurs experience.

Therefore, it’s important that you focus on building up a network of people who buy into your social aim and share your vision. One of the ways to do this early on is to put together a Board of Governors to give you objective assistance in ensuring that your enterprise is achieving its social aim, fulfilling its mission statement and is on track to meet its financial goals and targets.

Other important relationships to cultivate are

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  • Mentors
  • Advisors
  • Champions
  • High profile contacts within your online and offline networks

Attending business networking groups can be a great place to create these relationships if they don’t exist already. Your Board of Governors will be an important part of keeping you on track financially.

Social entrepreneur, presenter and consultant Phil Tulba is a Trustee and Director of Adrenaline Alley, an award winning social enterprise. He offers these closing words of advice to social enterprises seeking to make ends meet in their venture:

“Always make sure you are as close as you can be to your customers, beneficiaries and stakeholders. Losing sight of where you have come from, your market and your mission could result in disaster, and it’s sometimes not an easy line to walk.”

Featured photo credit: Jarmoluk via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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