Willing to start a social enterprise? Here’s what you should plan for

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I tried to run a business that was fairly a new concept to my market. Some man came to my premises and was impressed. He was complementary, saying, “young people need to be creative.” And he’s right. Any young Kenyan who wishes to achieve their life goals has the alternative of getting a good job or starting a strong business.

To get a good job, if #IkoKaziKe doesn’t give you a way out then you have to continue upskilling. For business, you need to attain minimum viability to avoid getting stuck in a business that will never grow. This usually needs adequate funding. Creatively, another way in entrepreneurship is starting a social enterprise.

They are considered the future form of business. One trend supportive of this is in our opportunity page. There’s much more foreign assistance targeting social entrepreneurs. And you have to be one to be in on it. But social enterprise looks like a harder Rubik’s Cube to solve than a typical commercial venture. How do you balance the need to create positive impact with your ambitions to grow, and maybe join the snobbish upper middle class ranks?

Well, social entrepreneurs have to draw up a business plan like everyone else. All of it in order to determine viability of their idea, problems they’ll face and levels of investment and patience they’ll need in the game. And a business plan’s other purpose, to outsiders, is to summarize your business model. Even if you start a social enterprise, your business model will consist of the same usual elements. The content is what’s different but that goes for two different businesses. So, you shouldn’t be intimidated not to even consider becoming a social entrepreneur.

Your business model should answer the following questions:

  1. What value will you be offering?
  2. Who will be your customer?
  3. What channel will you use to reach him or her?
  4. What resources will you need?
  5. What activities will you undertake to actualize the product or service?
  6. How much will all that work cost?
  7. Where the hell will you get money to sustain all that?

A social enterprise has little difference, to typical businesses, with regards to questions of cost, activities and channel. Why? These social entrepreneurs may be special but they too have to follow the laws of physics and abide by health of the economy. If input is expensive, it will remain so. If output takes a particular number of hours or days to produce, it will remain so.

It’s the other 4 that are a little different. This being caused by the different defining nature of social enterprises.

Value

A social entrepreneur is driven to “maximize benefit to a community.” This work is more than just providing a better spending alternative to customers – check out our infographic on types of competition. A social enterprise produces to either provide welfare or have an outcome of equal opportunity. And there are myriad problems in Kenya. You (yes, you) can find ways to sort gender inequality, access to quality education, or issues of sustainability. Basically, if you see that a particular social problem can be solved privately please help us.

Customers

This is the Rubicon that has to be crossed, isn’t it? You have to convince the prospective customer that yours is worth spending money on. A social entrepreneur can instead sell to the community he or she is targeting to assist. You may have figured out a cheaper way to produce a necessary product or deliver such a service. Since profit maximization is a relegated concern, you would have done a good job delivering to your customers.

As well, a social enterprise can sell to the general market. It is from these earning that they would get the means to do good. Perhaps, you could be employing marginalized individuals or putting to use their produce. It all depends on the specific circumstance, which we can’t go into now (I assume you’re reading this when it’s not your free time, even).

Resources

Every business person has to figure out the place they’ll do business, the equipments they may need, supply of material and how much labor they will employ. Unfortunately, social entrepreneurs don’t have as much room to be blindly ruthless when solving these problems. This is why they are not always viewed as sustainable. They are. They just have to be more malleable thanks to the unique thing they do.

A social entrepreneur has to be open to receiving assistance from extraordinary ends. For instance, in Kenya, it is known that donations are a normal source of resources for them. This can be money or help in kind. These augment what the venture acquires through its primary activities. As well, it’s more important in social enterprise that employees share the value of the entrepreneur. Otherwise you’ll end up with the Kenyan Government (set up to help the public but everyone in says it’s their turn to eat).

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Web Content and stuff. You can reach me you know: editor@herbusiness.co.ke, malitrobert@gmail.com

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