Our Top 5 Tips For Starting A Social Enterprise

Our Top 5 Tips For Starting A Social Enterprise

So... You’ve found an issue you care deeply about. Maybe it’s affected you, someone you love or maybe it's just something that troubles you. No matter the reason, it’s been keeping you up at night and it’s time someone did something about it. But hold the phone friends. That someone could be you!

A social enterprise is kind of like a non-profit or charity, but with one key difference. Rather than collecting money from sponsors and donations, a social enterprise takes the same approach to making money as a business. That is, they sell a product or service and then spend their profits on the supporting a cause. Two brilliant examples of social enterprises you might have seen around are Thankyou and Who Give’s A Crap.

If you’ve got an idea of what you might like to make or do, congratulations! You’re half way there. Here are our top 5 tips for turning that idea into a reality that can benefit humankind.

1: Accept that it’s ok to be scared

scared nervous kermit shaking kermit the frog

If the idea of starting a social enterprise scares you, that’s a good thing. Being scared is how you grow.

First step to bringing your social change idea to life is just telling people about it. Once it is out of your head and in to the world, it becomes a real, tangible thing. You will be amazed at the support you will receive and the doors that will open when people hear you speak passionately about your vision for a better world. I promise.

And then, if you still don’t believe you can do it, we are firm believers in faking it till you make it!

2: Realise that no person is an island

teamwork stella michael showalter go team

It’s all about teamwork!

Find yourself a team. Probably a small one at first. A team will bring ideas, networks, energy and inspiration and will also help you increase your impact. Find people that share your passion, who have different skills to your own and most importantly, find people you think you will love spending time with. Value their contribution, give them the freedom to be creative and have fun together.

If you are just starting out it is probably volunteers you are going to need and your friends are usually a good place to start. There are also places you can advertise like Volunteering Australia and GoodCompany.

3: Self determination is important

80s boss workout badass like a boss

Be like this obviously very determined person

It is important to involve the people you are trying to help in what you are doing. They will understand the intricacies of the problem, will be able to provide you amazing insight on how to approach it and also have a right to determine how their own cultural, economic and social development is undertaken. Whether it is people seeking asylum, Indigenous Australians or those experiencing homelessness you are supporting, be sure to talk, listen to and involve them in your work.

4: A nickel ain’t worth a dime

When you take the plunge and tell your friends, family and community about your new idea for social change they will no doubt be very forthcoming with their time, advice and support. There is a chance you may find money a little more difficult to come across and unfortunately, it is often a necessity for getting these things off the ground. Don’t worry, there are a few ways of going about it…

Crowdfunding is a way to raise money as well as gain exposure and build interaction with your audience. It is a fair bit of work to run a crowdfunding campaign but what you will get out of it extends beyond just the money. Pozible has a pretty great (and free) handbook that will tell you all about it, and Startsomegood and Chuffed are both pretty great too,

Fundraising events can also be a good starting point. Hosting a film or a barbecue or any other kind of event you can think of is a great excuse to get out there and tell everyone what you are doing as well as raise some funds. Just make sure you budget everything out and try to keep all your costs down. Always keep in the back of your mind while you organise, the main purpose is to raise you some money!

If you are just starting out you might find some of the big grants a bit tricky, but there are a few foundations out there that are just for young people. In fact! FYA is one of them! 

The main thing with raising money is remembering not to ask for too much. If you keep doing things well your initiative will grow steadily as your reputation improves. You won’t have much success finding money if you are asking for huge amounts in the first instance. People need to see what you are doing works first, so start small.

5: Keep this learning going!

julianne moore hard complicated difficult

While this was a good start, there is a bit to this whole change maker thing. Good news is there are lots of programs out there designed to teach you everything under the sun about getting your social change initiative off the ground. For example, Young Social Pioneers! FYA runs this one and it is without a doubt the best one in existence (completely without bias, we swear).

There is also Social Traders, School for Entrepreneurs and the Telstra Imaginarium, which are all great. But seriously, Young Social Pioneers is where it is at for young changemakers 🙂

Of course, there is also the ‘learn by doing’ model. Mistakes are perfectly ok and no one can teach you as much as you will learn by just getting in there and doing it!

Hungry for more info on the life of a social entrepreneur?

Check out "5 things I wish I knew when I started my social enterprise"

Some further reading