I’m one of those incorrigible optimists I believe every individual has some sort of talent and skill that can be used for good. I also believe that, when a person shift the focus from the ‘I” and what this can do for me (The ego base) to the ‘us’, what good can I do for the whole ( The Gai theory), serendipity happens quickly and potential turns into action. When you ask people why they don’t just do what needs to be done and action on the things they want to accomplish, they often say … Funds. Because let’s face it good intentions make the world go round, but still we haven’t found a way to pay the bills with it.
Social Enterprise was for me the much needed answer to this problem. Make enough money to live well and help out in the way you have been called to help. This can be done well if you apply good business practices.
Social Enterprise vs Purpose Led Start –Ups
The landscape of social enterprise is not very clearly defined legally at present, and a lot of theories put it squarely in the not for profit sector. Some like me challenge this idea and we prefer to use it as a verb rather than a noun. Since we can’t legally call a business with a heart a social enterprise just yet. Sometimes it is called a Purpose Led business.
A social enterprise as now defined by QSEC has a) a social cause as its main driver, B) has blended or purely trading revenue and c) reinvests up to 50% of profits back into the cause. I run my own business to help people develop social enterprises and employment for mostly disadvantaged people. I trade as a revenue source and I deliver 20-40% of my work pro bono with organisations or start up clients. I also provide employment opportunities where there were none.
Limiting profit and giving back is very different than the traditional corporate mantra of ‘Share holder profit maximization’. The idea that an unknown person can make ever increasing amounts of money from doing no work just because they had money in the first place, is the essence of capitalism….. and part of the reason we have such severely misbalanced wealth. Women are among the worse victims of this discrepancy. Many women have worked all their lives whether in the home or in careers, they struggle to juggle raising children and taking care of husbands, and yet they are the largest quickest growing group in homelessness. Women are very clever and have been the crucial nurturers in the survival of the human kind, so why now that they have never been as educated as they are, have so many opportunities, or such a high chance of living through child birth…. how come they haven’t cracked the financial code?
I read somewhere; Social Enterprise is the only global industry with 50/50 female leader representation! Shock! We actually make it in one space. So that tells me 2 things..one that women are willing to work hard at possibly one of the most difficult industries, were the competing forces of doing good and making profit collide; or else that women are more likely to do well when they do good for others. Maybe we are more motivated, we are willing to sacrifice more or just that we are driven by more than money.
It is clear that women lead in the different way, and that is what we need to change the way things have always been done. We also need different supports to succeed. Jane Caro’s Accidental Feminists shows a perfect example of this. She describes an incident were a wife was given a house cleaning voucher by her husband for Mother’s day. Not only is cleaning help one of the largest factors affecting women professionals’ success, but what this particular lady actually really valued was the emotional labour that went into that decision to engage a cleaner, find the best quote, and make the appointment . This type of emotional labour is never even mentioned but it belongs to the women’s realm.
Another thing women need that they don’t usually find easily is sisterhood. We struggle to work together and to support, complement and help each other. It is good to point out that this is what men have done for years and years to succeed in business. They created networks, chambers and secret societies, while women were often pitted against each other using the oldest divide and conquer technique. We can find help in each other, we are not competing. There is more than enough to go around. And if you are thinking of starting your own business, my first advice is you need a tribe. Find a community, at your community center, online if need be, join a book club. The entrepreneur journey is a lonely one. You need good friends and people to share it with. Eventually when you have employees they will share the journey with you but starting is not easy.
But start you must ..and start you should. On the Sunshine Coast 31% of employment is in micro businesses. That means that there are a lot of opportunities in a market already welcoming of small business. A lot of us have been in the position of not being able to find a full time job, especially as ladies get older it becomes harder and harder. A lot of women have a lot left to give, and I encourage you, have a safe risk managed go at creating a business that truly represents you. As people we seem to go through a number of experiences, unique to us. Did you ever think that maybe these unique experiences come to us to make a unique person, with a unique set of skills? What if the combination of those unique skills is what our purpose is.. Our IKAGI…
We are all here today because we know there is a better way to do things. There is a lot of work to be done in our communities, in our environment in our whole society. We no longer have the luxury of waiting for others to do what needs to be done, or for doing it only if someone pays us. The time for action is now. We need to roll up our sleeves and start working on change, little tiny steps and doing what comes next. The path will be clear when you start. It’s a bit like driving, you can never remember the roads at the top of your head but once you re there you know what turning to take next. Believe and start. I believe we are all multi-talented people with many possible paths, and yet we tend to spend years obsessing about finding our right path, when all along we could be doing so many other amazing things.
Fortune favours the brave I’ve been told. Plant the seed in the most fertile part of your brain and nurture it daily with love and intention. Before you know it your seed will grow into a seedling and with the right actions and networks it will soon take on a life of its own. I meet a number of people with great ideas that are needed in this world. Not all great ideas are marketable and not all marketable ideas are great. It’s usually a long road of little steps before you can hit the sweet spot and you can actually make a living off it. But great things don’t happen without action, little steps and persistence. An idea is nothing without action and hard work. Sharing and idea makes it real. Excitement is contagious, if you believe you can do it then you can, and others will help you. You are the only person responsible to do it, because you thought about it, and now you are responsible to make it happen.
Ideas are great to start something but it’s the “doing” that creates.
Action starts with research, research everything about your idea. Google if it exists, google who will buy it, google how you will make it, how you will get it from one place to another, google how to google if you must. Then have some discipline, do what you want to do every day, or 3 days a week to start with. But stick to your schedule, do not let excuses stop you. You will always have more excuses than you need, but there is one thing that you need more.. to see your dream come true.
Then do it. At some point even if it is the most random date picked on the calendar or when an opportunity arises. Do it! Start a run of something, send out email flyers, put out a Facebook post advertising your business. Jump in, reduce your costs and limit your risks, start small, but do it. This will teach you more than anything. If you feel you’ll harm your brand if you make a mistake, do it under a different name. I stress, do it small, limit the risks but be in the game. This is where you want to be to learn and get the opportunities to grow and take off. Start thinking of yourself as a do-er and start referring to yourself as who you want to be. I am a business woman, I am running my own business, I am an importer. Whatever you’re doing own it. You need to build yourself up. Women have a particularly hard time doing this, we feel like imposters. Even when we’re doing most of the work, we still find it hard to believe we are doing it well. No matter how much others tell us, we seem to deflect it as “its what’s expected”. I read recently that girls are breed for perfection, we give ourselves the hardest time to achieve perfection (which does not exist by the way).We can do things that are not perfect. Its absolutely fine. Everyone does it, learn on the job. Just ask the CBA CEO, or our prime mister ScoMo. Please do not put the stress on perfection on your first business venture, or any for that matter. We all learn more every day.
Especially in managing money and cracking the financial code, we need to keep learning every day. I personally learnt a lot form a little book called The Richest Man in Babylon- The essence of it is 4 goals 1) Save 10%, 2) Make your house/ assets work for you 3) Don’t spend more than you earn, 4) Ask successful people for tips and help to establish a/ or better your business. It is often the case that established business people are not threatened by helping others, they are confident that hard work and good sense makes good business. Remember your tribe, you need these people on your team, they are not your competition, they can probably help you.
#MakingItHappen has been founded specifically for this reason; to empower and help others to achieve their full potential and through that achieve positive change. Whether that means funding innovative education programs, delivering community development projects, enhancing wellbeing through active lifestyles, promoting the arts or upholding human rights.
#MIH is offering tailored consulting to persons or groups that would like to go down the path of offering an important service to community while also making a living. No one has all the skills and it is ok to ask for help with things you have no energy for. Luckily for you we have the energy to help you turn your idea into a marketable sustainable business model. To help you develop a Business Plan which will forecast your trajectory to success and shed light on how long this might take and what it will cost.
So just to recap....if you re interested in social enterprise or a business led with heart. Step 1) Get out there, 2) Talk about it, 3) Research 5) Ask for help 6) Start.. Always limit your risks!