Yahoo! Stores vs. Shopify: Which is Best?

In today’s comparison, I will take a look at Yahoo! Stores vs. Shopify so you can finally decide which platform is better to grow your online business. They both have their pros, cons, features, so pay attention — this will help you decide!

Main Differences of Yahoo! Stores vs. Shopify

The main differences between Yahoo! Stores vs. Shopify are:

  • Yahoo! Stores is geared to the new ecommerce shop owner, whereas Shopify helps every business scale quickly (including much larger ecommerce stores)
  • Yahoo! Stores is one part of an integrated solution for small business owners, whereas Shopify is designed to be a ‘one-stop-fits-all’ solution
  • Yahoo! Stores does not focus on inventory management, whereas Shopify is known for their inventory management capabilities

Introduction: Background of Yahoo! and Shopify

Yahoo! is one of the oldest websites on the web. Indeed, Yahoo! was one of the pioneers of the Internet, delivering content, news, and listings to homes across the United States and later the world. Yahoo! helped popularize email, online games, and even e-commerce.

Yahoo! Small Business, or Yahoo! Stores, as it is also known, is one of the older e-commerce platforms available. However, much like Yahoo! as a whole, the service has grown less popular over the years. Regardless, Yahoo! Claims that its e-commerce solutions have sold over $70 billion worth of goods, a number that certainly can’t be overlooked.

So why has Yahoo! fallen behind? That’s a matter for debate. Either way, new entrants offering better services, often at a better price emerged, eating up Yahoo’s market share. Yahoo! has lost ground across a range of products and services, including e-commerce.

One such entrant was Shopify, which was founded in 2006. As with many great tech stories, the founders of Shopify, Tobias Lütke, Daniel Wein and Scott Lake didn’t initially set out to develop an e-commerce solution. They actually wanted to launch a snowboard gear retail website Snowdevil. However, they quickly found that there were few good e-commerce solutions. So while building their snowboarding site, they also developed a stand-alone e-commerce solution that other retailers could use. That e-commerce solution became Shopify.

Anyways, let’s look at Yahoo’s e-commerce solutions and Shopify.

Digging Into Yahoo’s E-commerce Solution

First, Yahoo’s e-commerce solutions can be difficult to understand as Yahoo! offers a few similarly branded services and solutions targeted at different audiences. Figuring out which one is right for you can be confusing. For the sake of this review, we’re going to look at both Yahoo! Small Business and Yahoo! Merchant Solutions.

Yahoo! Merchant Solutions is generally targeted at established e-commerce stores that are looking for a new platform and wanting to grow. Yahoo! Small Business (AKA Stores) is targeted more at startups. Both offer sales features and the ability to use Commerce Central apps. Commerce Central, in turn, is Yahoo’s primary cloud-based e-commerce solutions platform.

However, you don’t have to use a Yahoo! service if you wish to use Commerce Central apps. In fact, Commerce Central can even be integrated with Shopify.

Yahoo! Merchant Solutions Pricing & Comparative Features

Yahoo! Merchant Solutions plans start at $10.95 per month. This plan is designed for websites with less than 12K a month in revenues and features:

  • 1.5% transaction fees with credit card and Paypal processing capabilities
  • access to the Live Insights data platform
  • A domain name

The standard plan starts at $25.95 a month and is designed for companies with sales between $12k to $80K per month. Besides the above features, it offers:

  • A lower 1% transaction fee
  • Ability to integrate payment APIs for more payment options.
  • Real-time integration with external inventory management systems.
  • Gift certificate redemptions
  • Upsell and cross-sell features
  • UPS Worldship integrations

Yahoo! Small Business: Another great solution

Yahoo! has another e-commerce solution called Yahoo! Small Business. This platform offers a complete suite of commerce tools that you can use to quickly build an e-commerce website. Yahoo’s basic plan costs $20.75.

Yahoo! Small Business’s basic plan provides:

  • Access to site builders and professional templates, including mobile-optimized sites
  • As many product listings as you want
  • No storage space and bandwidth restrictions
  • 10 email accounts (30 for professional, and 1,000 for premier)
  • A free domain for basic
  • Paypal and other payment support
  • Ability to import and export bulk products
  • Phone, chat, and online support provided 24/7

As we go through Shopify below, you’ll notice that some features, such as advanced product fulfillment tools, are not provided. However, if you upgrade to the professional plan, you can use third-party integrations. You can then integrate advanced features, including inventory and order management, into your platform.

Yahoo! Small Business charges both monthly subscription fees and transaction fees. Those break down as follows:

Basic: $20.75 (billed annually) plus a 1.5% transaction fee

Professional: $48.25 (billed annually) plus a 1% transaction fee

Premier: $149.33 (billed annually) plus a .75% transaction fee

Shopify: An industry leader

Shopify has emerged as one of the most popular e-commerce websites, holding 9.5% percent of market share, good for third place. Their platform is far more common these days than Yahoo’s solutions. For people who want to launch a retail website without doing heavy coding, Shopify is one of the better options available.

Of course, everything comes at a price. Shopify does charge fees for its services. These fees will often add up to more than Yahoo! and some other platforms, although prices are still competitive.

Shopify Features

Shopify is among the more well-rounded e-commerce platforms, being packed with various features, benefits, plugins, apps, and add-on services. Yet although Shopify is feature rich, it’s also an intuitive and easy-to-use system. There are a few e-commerce platforms out there that offer more advanced features and customization options. There are also a few that are simpler.

However, it’s arguable that no other platform features such a rounded mix of both usability and features. Shopify’s well-rounded nature has helped it rapidly grow, and the platform is now found on over a half-million websites scattered across 175 countries. During Black Friday in 2017, over a million dollars worth of goods were being sold through Shopify per minute (at peak).

So yeah, Shopify is one of the preeminent e-commerce platforms. It’s generally regarded as being easy to work with, flexible, powerful, modern, and also offering a good value.

A preview of Shopify’s features

  • Shopify offers a powerful but also an easy-to-use website builder
  • Customers can also opt to purchase one of the hundreds of different professionally designed themes
  • It’s easy to integrate and maintain a blog
  • You’ll get a free SSL certificate
  • There are a variety of powerful shipping integrations and tools
  • There are a variety of tools for managing inventory, drop shipping, fulfillment, and various other tasks
  • Shopify supports over 70 different payment methods, including credit card and Paypal
  • Sales tax calculators
  • Gift card tools
  • A variety of marketing, social media, and SEO tools and integrations
  • You can opt for a Point-of-Sale (POS) system to integrate brick and mortar sales.
  • Shopify works great with landing page builders such as Shogun or BigCommerce. 

That’s a pretty extensive list, right? There are more features, of course, but you get the gist of it. Shopify is one of the most full-featured e-commerce platforms available. We didn’t list every single one of Yahoo’s features either, but most would agree that Shopify is more feature-packed

Of course, there are some drawbacks weighing against Shopify. Compared to Yahoo’s services, Shopify’s costs tend to be a bit higher.

Shopify is a pricer option

Shopify’s basic plan starts at $29.99, compared to Yahoo! Small Business’s $20.75 plan. Both of these low-cost plans are rather limited, but Yahoo’s more feature-rich standard plan costs just $48.25, compared to Shopify’s $79 monthly fee.

Yahoo’s introductory plan also charges a lower transaction fee, just 1.5% compared to Shopify’s 2%. Both Shopify and Yahoo! drop their transaction fee to 1% with their standard plans. Yahoo’s premier plan, which is designed for big businesses, charges a transaction fee of only .75% while Shopify sticks to .5%. While .25% might not seem like much, it can add up quite quickly if sales are pouring in. Shopify eliminates charges altogether when you use Shopify payments rather than an external processor.

However, Shopify also charges credit card fees (although some regions are exempt). These fees start at 2.9% plus 30 cents. Fees drop to 2.6% for the standard plan and 2.4% for the Advanced Shopify plan. Again, these fees can add up quickly. With Yahoo!, you’ll have to set up a third party payment processor, such as Braintree Direct by Paypal. This service likewise costs 2.9% but 30 cents. Other providers, however, may be more affordable.

However, if you integrate 3rd Party Solutions Into Yahoo!, costs may rise

Shopify comes with more features, such as inventory management, that are built right in. With Yahoo!, you’ll have to rely on third-party providers for many of these more advanced features. Often, you’ll have to pay for these features. When calculating costs, it’s important to consider what 3rd party solutions you’ll need and how much they’ll cost.


Yahoo’s e-commerce solutions are compelling but Shopify is dominant for a reason

Yahoo! has been working hard to modernize its e-commerce solutions. By-and-large, the company is making progress. However, Yahoo! is still trying to catch up with industry leaders, like Shopify.

If you’re on a budget and won’t require some of the advanced options offered by Shopify (i.e. inventory management), Yahoo! may make sense as you’ll save a bit of cash. Likewise, if the lower transaction fee will generate large savings, Yahoo! may make more sense.

However, for most small businesses, Shopify is the safer choice as it offers more features right out of the box. Yes, you’ll have to pay for those features, but there’s a reason so many e-commerce platforms run on Shopify. Quite simply, the costs are worth it.

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NopCommerce vs Shopify: Which One Reigns Supreme?

Finding the right e-commerce tool could be the difference between immense success or no sales! If you want to succeed in the growing, massive online e-commerce markets, then you need to do your research and find the tools that work for you. This is why I give you the full nopCommerce vs Shopify comparison!

Main Differences Between NopCommerce vs Shopify

The main differences between NopCommerce vs Shopify are:

  • Shopify is a dedicated platform for ecommerce sellers, whereas NopCommerce is an open-sourced platform
  • NopCommerce does not have as many features for online stores, whereas Shopify has many integrations, features for online sellers
  • NopCommerce can be used for free (with limitations), whereas Shopify is a paid, dedicated service from the beginning

Online retail is the future. Over the past few years, many brick-and-mortar retailers in the United States have struggled. Shopping malls are becoming ghost towns in some areas, historic brands like Sears have fallen by the wayside, and even once-massive shopping holidays, such as Black Friday, have lost their luster.

Why fight the crowds to save a few bucks?

Of course, consumers have continued consuming. More and more people, however, are shopping online. Since the Internet went mainstream, the Internet has been popular for shopping. In the early days, however, online shopping was limited to certain goods, such as books, gadgets, and the like. Now, however, you can order groceries online, and in some areas, you can have them delivered same day.

The world is changing. Many brick-and-mortar stores have been setting up e-commerce websites. Fortunately, anyone looking to set up a site can skip building one from scratch. When Amazon and other trailblazers launched their websites, they had to build many of the functions and capabilities from scratch.

These days, you can use out-of-the-box tools and platforms to set up e-commerce websites literally overnight. Of course, you’ll still have to market your goods, process payments, and fulfill orders. However, it’s never been easier to get into online retail. There are many different choices and platforms you can use. Today, we’re going to look at two of them, nopCommerce and Shopify.

Shopify vs nopCommerce: The Comparison 

When it comes to platforms, Shopify and nopCommerce are foundationally different even if they share many fundamental similarities. Shopify is a multi-billion dollar company with a paid staff that numbers in the thousands. Shopify works hard to stay at the cutting edge of e-commerce technology, using its many billions of dollars in revenues to support those goals.

NopCommerce, on the other hand, is an open source platform, meaning you can download and use the software for free. There are few strings attached. If you’d like to white label the software, you need to pay a fee, but outside of that, you don’t have to pay anything.

Of course, you “get what you pay for.” There are many important differences between Shopify and NopCommerce. Both platforms are worth a look. Which one’s best for you? That largely depends on you. We’ll jump into the differences between these two platforms so you can decide which one’s better for you.

NopCommerce: An Introduction

Russian developer Andrei Mazulnitsyn began developing NopCommerce back in 2008. In 2009, he founded Nop Solutions to oversee the development of the software. NopCommerce is built with ASP.NET MVC 4.0 and upon MS SQL Server 2008 (or higher) database.

Currently, nopCommerce is used by over 9,000 websites worldwide. This is good for a market share of just .32% but suggests that the platform is still relied upon by a number of websites. NopCommerce has also been downloaded over 1.8 million times, so quite a number of people have given the platform a try. We’ll shortly explain why the platform isn’t currently found on nearly so many websites. First, let’s highlight a key benefit.

There’s one huge benefit to NopCommerce that few competitors can offer: it’s 100% free to use. You can download NopCommerce today, build a website, and not have to worry about paying anyone anything. Such is the nature of open source software.

Of course, there is a catch. NopCommerce is significantly more difficult to set up and use than paid out-0f-the-box solutions like Shopify. Generally speaking, you need to have developer level skills if you want to build a NopCommerce website.

NopCommerce isn’t nearly as feature-rich as Shopify and other pay-to-play e-commerce solutions either. This is especially true when it comes to out-of-the-box features. While NopCommerce is highly customizable, you’re going to have to put a lot of sweat into developing those custom features.

NopCommerce Key Features

NopCommerce comes with many of the key features commonly found with paid platforms. Keep in mind, however, that to get many of the functions up and running you might have to write and plug in some code yourself. Features found on nopCommerce include:

  • Mobile commerce
  • Multi-store management
  • Multi-vendor integration
  • Product listing pages and features
  • Checkout capabilities
  • Marketing tools, including SEO
  • Payment integration (although more limited compared to Shopify)
  • Shipping tools (although more limited compared to Shopify)

Shopify: An Introduction

Shopify is one of the easiest e-commerce software suites available. Even newbies can build their own website. Of course, when it comes to technology, some people will find the learning curve to be quite steep.

Regardless, Shopify makes it very easy to set up an e-commerce website. In fact, Shopify was born when Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand, and Scott Lake were trying to set up their own e-commerce website but realized that there were few good e-commerce solutions.

The trio wanted to build Snowdevil, an online snowboarding website. They managed to do so, and along the way, they built their “Shopify” e-commerce solution. The platform has since snowballed (pun intended) into a massive global company, with roughly 2,000 staff members scattered around the globe and generating over $580 million in revenue (2017).

Shopify is a Software-as-a-Service solution. You pay a subscription fee and then the company provides software via the cloud. Updates, new features, and all the rest are handled by the company. You’ll have to build your own sales website. However, Shopify themes can be bought for roughly $150. With a theme, just about anyone who’s PC literate can set up a website in a matter of hours.

Shopify’s Common Features

Few e-commerce platforms are as well rounded as Shopify. The platform is one of the most cutting-edge in the industry. Should you find a feature that it lacks but a competitor has don’t be surprised if Shopify implements it in the near future.

NopCommerce might be an exception of sorts, however. Don’t hold your breath waiting for nopCommerce to become a free platform. It’s almost certainly not going to happen. Anyways, some of the many features found on Shopify:

  • An advanced and fully-featured shopping cart
  • An easy website builder + hundreds of professional themes
  • Simple blogging integration
  • Mobile commerce ready and optimized
  • Easy brand implementation and customization
  • Free SSL certificate
  • Automated shipping tools, such as rate calculator
  • Accept credit card payments and payments from over 70 sources
  • Powerful but easy to use Point-of-Sales (POS) solutions
  • Instant tax calculation
  • Multi-language support
  • Customer account management (including profiles)
  • Shipping tools and order fulfillment (including drop shipping)
  • Refund management
  • Gift card management
  • Powerful analytics tools
  • Marketing and SEO tools
  • Web hosting

Okay, that’s a long list and it’s far from complete (to be fair, nopCommerce has other features as well). It’d simply take too long to list everything out. Shopify is one of the most complete e-commerce solutions available.

Comparing Pricing Between Shopify and NopCommerce

NopCommerce if free but “free” is never free.

The code and software needed to install and run NopCommerce is free. There aren’t any strings attached in this regard. Of course, you’re going to have to pay for web hosting, website development costs, hardware, and all the rest.

Further, if you need advanced assistance, you’ll have to shell out some serious money for support. Three months of support will run you $299.000 while a full year will cost $799. Mind you, this is for support, not development. You’ll still be getting your hands dirty.

Shopify costs money but might be cheaper in the long run

How can a service that costs money be cheaper than a service that’s free? With Shopify, you pay monthly fees both for your subscription and also for transactions. However, in exchange, you get access to an excellent “Software-as-a-Service” platform that simply works.

Building an e-commerce presence with Shopify is quite simple, at least as far as branding goes. Yes, you’ll still need to invest in marketing, staff, inventory, and all that. However, the actual development costs will be minimal and if you’re willing to learn, you could likely set up a website on your own even if you’re not a professional developer.

Conclusion: NopCommerce is right for some but Shopify is right for most

If you’re not a developer, you probably want to skip NopCommerce. The amount of time you’ll spend learning how to develop a NopCommerce website, or conversely, how much you’d have to pay a professional developer, simply won’t be worth it. At a bare minimum, you’ll need to be familiar with .NET, MS SQL, HTML, and CSS.

If you do have some development skills and are familiar with the code and systems that NopCommerce is built upon, it could be a great choice. You’ll still have to sit down and figure out if the time commitment makes sense. Developing a NopCommerce website will take some time but in the long run, the costs might be worth it.

On the other hand, small business owners who aren’t developers or don’t want to spend a lot of time writing code will be better served by out-of-the-box solutions like Shopify. Yes, you’ll have to shell out some money but in exchange, you’ll be able to quickly set up and manage a website.

We also recommend you looking into a landing page builder app before you commit to either Shopify or NopCommerce (you’ll want to have one if you plan on expanding your stores), such as Shogun, which plays well with Shopify, BigCommerce, Magneto. 

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University of the Future: The Sustainable Education Model

How do you teach a human to be human?

This might sound like a trick question, but it’s a question that Gabriella Geffen has to deal with every day. “Gabi” is a business development expert at the Maharishi Institute and is also a member of the National Task Team responsible for developing Entrepreneurship and Social Entrepreneurship in South Africa.

The world has changed dramatically over the course of the past few decades, and many people are coming face-to-face with a harsh truth: humans will never be better at being robots than robots themselves.

This has dramatically changed the global employment market, and in places like South Africa, it has contributed to massive, systemic unemployment. Some 27 percent of South Africans are unemployed. Youth, meanwhile, face an unemployment rate in excess of 50 percent.

Gabi notes that so many are unemployed even as over a million jobs in South Africa remain unfilled.

Employers want employees and South Africans want jobs.

However, there is a disconnect between the skills and education that employers need, and the skills and education that many South African youth possess. Even those bright South African students that succeed in the face of abject poverty and failing public education systems often find the doors shut when it comes time to acquire an advanced degree.

Many South African public universities have acceptance rates on par with Ivy League universities. Meanwhile, yearly tuition comes in at about $2,000, an insurmountable sum for many of South Africa’s impoverished.

Maharishi Institute founder Taddy Blecher, featured in issue 12 of Change Creator Magazine, realized this after helping impoverished high school students learn meditation techniques that helped them perform better in school. Many students deserving of an opportunity to attend college were simply denied the chance.

How do you break the cycle of poverty?

In a world that is increasingly dependent on college education and people skills, a lack of access to higher education can all but ensure the perpetuity of poverty. So how does one break that cycle?

How do you provide students with an education that will equip them with the skills they need to succeed in the modern world? How do you ensure accessibility, especially for those who are impoverished and disadvantaged?

Gabi and the other staff at the Maharishi Institute grapple with this challenge every day. And the solutions they have come up with may ultimately revolutionize the modern higher education system, both helping teach people to be people in a modern world, and ensuring access for all.

Finding Sustainability to Increase Accessibility

The Maharishi Institute started out with the same ambitions as many other university programs targeting impoverished communities: simply be free. However, as Blecher and other early-day Institute employees found out, there’s no such thing as free. The money always has to come from somewhere. Donations are great, but they are hard to sustain.

The Maharishi Institute shifted towards a pay-it-forward model.

Students would pay fees, but these fees are more affordable than the public universities in South Africa and students are given access to loans. The Institute started with a no-fee model but found itself too dependent on the whims of the donors. However, by having students contribute, the university can better sustain itself. All tuition fees paid go towards ensuring opportunities for future students.

Another challenge would help the Maharishi Institute become even more sustainable, and could pave the way for a tuition-free future. Institute leaders soon learned that many employers didn’t want just a degree, they also wanted experience. Students in South Africa faced the same conundrum students in other countries have to deal with: Employers demand experience but students can’t acquire that experience because no one will hire them.

The Maharishi Institute provides business education to thousands of students. These students have business skills, so why not use them? The Maharishi Institute has been building out businesses, essentially hiring its own students and then paying them.

Currently, the Institute is focused on building up Invincible Outsourcing, which aims to become a first-rate outsourcing and call centre business in South Africa. Enrolled students can not only pay for their tuition but also earn a stipend to pay for daily living. This makes education not only affordable but sustainable for poor students.

For impoverished students, the ability to work through school and to be paid for that work also helps lower the often overlooked opportunity costs. When your family is barely scraping by, heading off to college to increase your future wages can seem almost selfish. After all, your family members have to eat today, not tomorrow. Shouldn’t you be out trying to earn an income now rather than in the future?

For many impoverished South African youth, this is the reality they face. The Maharishi Institute is providing a solution. Attend university and help the Institute build up businesses along the way. These business aspirations help students pay for their life in the moment. On-the-job training and work experience, meanwhile, helps students further build up their resumes, establish networks, and prove their mettle.

Some students also go on to work at partner companies, such as Accenture. The Maharishi Institute’s leadership has found that while many companies want to invest in education, few know how to actually do so, and often the results are, at best, scattershot. For companies, rather than funding a school or classroom, hiring students, paying them a wage, and then providing on-the-job training can be an effective way to contribute to the student’s success while pursuing their own business aims along the way.

Regardless of where they work, students are given an invaluable opportunity to break the cycle of no experience. With actual job experience in hand, Maharishi graduates are among the most competitive in the market. Indeed, nearly every graduate has secured a skilled job, and collectively, Maharishi’s 17,000 graduates earn over 1 billion rand per year! To put that into perspective, the Institute itself runs on just 24 million rand per year, highlighting the tremendous return on investment.

If Our Deepest Drives Shape the World – How do we Reshape it? | Gabriella Geffen | TEDxCapeTown

Meditation Is Another Key Ingredient to Success

You might be wondering what Maharishi means. This term actually refers to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a meditation guru who founded Transcendental Meditation, which in turn is another key element of the Institute’s success. Early on, Blecher and other staff members realized that many students were coming from backgrounds that were so traumatic, that they struggled to focus in class. In fact, many students were suffering from various forms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Despite his doctorate and sterling academic resume, Blecher himself was far from a model student when he began is actuary studies. In fact, he struggled in many classes and was at risk of failing. Then he discovered Transcendental Meditation, a scientifically proven form of meditation to greatly enhance concentration, clarity, creativity and learning and retention rates. For Blecher, Transcendental Meditation would be life-changing, and so it was incorporated directly into the Maharishi Institute’s curriculum.

Of course, just because meditation worked for Blecher, that doesn’t guarantee that it will work for other students. A renowned public university in Johannesburg decided to test the effectiveness of meditation in reducing stress among college students. The University took its own first-year students and the Institute’s first-year students and then measured their stress levels. Unsurprisingly, many students from both organizations were suffering from high levels of stress.

At the end of the year, an independent psychological study measured stress levels once again. The results? Students at the university reported increased stress levels. This should come as no surprise. After all, the burdens and expectations of a university can be overwhelming. However, when the University remeasured students at the Maharishi Institute, they found that stress levels had dropped substantially. In fact, many students were asymptomatic, seemingly cured of their PTSD symptoms and high-stress levels.

For the Maharishi Institute, meditation is as important an element for teaching humans to be human as formal education. While the Institute’s bread and butter is online, remote education, Gabi stresses that providing students with an opportunity to make professional connections is vital for helping them further their career.

Digital Delivery, Human Focus

Technology is at the heart of the Maharishi Institute’s long-term aims. Yes, many of the students are taught technology-related skills, but it goes much deeper than that. The Institute’s long-term aim is to continue to reduce costs. While most Universities around the world are constantly increasing fees, the Institute is constantly searching for ways to reduce them. With technology and the increased success of its business-side operations, the Institute hopes to eventually charge students only $500 per year in tuition.

Yet as Gabi points out, Universities aren’t just about imparting academic knowledge but also teaching human skills and encouraging the growth of human networks. What makes Harvard Harvard and Oxford Oxford isn’t just the world-class faculty. It’s also the networking opportunities and chances to build lasting relationships. The Maharishi Institute combines distance learning with site learning and on-the-job training. By doing so, Maharishi students can build up human networks and relationships in a way that many online students can’t.

Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding. While many South African universities have a throughput rate of about 25 percent, meaning only a quarter of students finish their degrees, the Institute’s throughput rate weighs in at 80 percent. This, even as up to 70 percent of students arrive unequipped for a university. A combination of meditation training and foundational education allows the Institute to get students up to speed quickly. Roughly 17,000 students have already been educated, and combined they earn over 1 billion rand per year.

Now, the Maharishi Institute is looking to take the lessons learned and to offer opportunities not just in every province in South Africa, but across the world. The University aims to be on the ground in at least 15 countries in the next five or so years. Besides other African nations, India and non-African countries are being targeted. Currently, the Maharishi Institute is aiming to train 100,000 business leaders who will generate over 1 trillion rand in lifetime earnings.

Along the way, the Maharishi Institute is providing valuable lessons to other social entrepreneurs looking to shake up the education sector. It’s not enough to impart knowledge, you have to teach people to be people. In the modern world, humans can’t compete with robots, but by focusing on human skills, universities can still help students launch successful careers.

For those coming from traumatic backgrounds, that could mean teaching meditation or other methods to increase focus. Further, while technology is a useful tool, educators need to remain conscious of the need to teach people skills and to build social networks.

Key Takeaways:

Maharishi Institute moved beyond free tuition and relying entirely on donors by asking students to pay it forward with tuition fees. By doing so, they built a more sustainable model that will provide more opportunities to future students.

The Maharishi Institute leverages online learning. However, they use site-based learning as well to impart people skills and to help students cultivate personal networks.

Founder Taddy Blecher recognized that students who were coming from such underprivileged backgrounds struggled to focus. Transcendental meditation training, however, has been proven to alleviate stress-related conditions.

Listen to our full exclusive interview with Gabriella Geffen

Getting Back to Nature: The Dyrt Has an App for That and Just Raised $2.6M

Listen to our interview founders, Sarah & Kevin

American consumers spend over $2 billion dollars per year on camping alone, with tens of millions of people hitting their favorite campgrounds every year. Despite its massive size, the camping industry has been resistant to technological change. No surprise, right? The point of camping is to get back to nature.

Yet doing so can be easier said than done. Anyone who’s spent enough time camping knows that the experience varies a lot from campground to campground. Some are barren, cement poured fields, others offer beautiful forestry but are overflowing with mosquitoes and poison ivy. Meanwhile, some are just plain awesome. The difference between a great campground and a subpar one is often the difference between a fantastic vacation and a miserable time.

Rapid App Growth

That’s where The Dyrt App comes in. The Dyrt makes it easy to find genuine reviews, photographs, and videos of campgrounds, and other useful insights. Over 30,000 campgrounds are already listed on The Dyrt, and its active user base has already submitted +70,000 reviews, many of them complete with pics and vids. Actually, there’s no bigger collection of campground photos and reviews anywhere else the web. As such, finding that diamond in the rough campground is pretty straightforward with The Dyrt.

Given all of the above, it should come as no surprise that The Dyrt is growing like crazy. In fact, a new user is signing up every minute. In 2017, The Dyrt added a respectable 16,000 people. Now, the app is growing like wildfire, with 18,000 people signing up just last month.

Such breakneck growth has attracted investors, who have poured $2.6 million into The Dyrt.

Solving a Pain Point

The Dyrt app will be a game changer. Up until now, word-of-mouth has been the go-to. When it comes to campgrounds, online reviews are often unreliable and terse. Google Reviews and similar platforms seem to be places for people to let off steam with complaints. Word of mouth, meanwhile, is great but unless you happen to have a thousand country traveling camper friends in your personal network, it leaves you limited. The further you get away from home and the farther you move off the beaten path, the less input you’ll find.

In fact, this pain point is what drove the founders of The Dyrt to build their app. While searching for campgrounds, Kevin Long & Sarah Smith could personally enjoy, they realized that it wasn’t easy to find good campgrounds in the vast wilderness of the World Wide Web. It was hard to find pictures, honest and balanced reviews, and other information.

Where there’s a pain there’s a problem. And where there are problems, there’s a potential to develop a solution. The Dyrt App allows campers to quickly and easily find amazing new campgrounds. What’s more, users can share camping lists with family and friends, easily dig up contact info and sort through campgrounds.

75 Million Active Camper Households

In other words, The Dyrt is a one-stop-shop for anyone who’s interested in camping. Turns out, that’s a whole heck of a lot of people. In 2017, there were roughly 75 million “active camper” households in the United States. Moreover, 13 million American households reported that they planned to increase camping in 2017 compared to the year before.

So millions of people are packing their trunks and trailers ready to hit the campground this year. With over 30,000 public and private campgrounds, campers have plenty of choices. Yet how do you make the right choice? A bad camping trip could turn what was supposed to be a relaxing getaway into a stressful nightmare.

Camping is a commitment. The family will have to pack up their lives. The trip will require a lot of preparation. Costs can add up quickly. Given all of that, you want to make sure the trip goes right. Thankfully, the World Wide Web and apps are making it easier to dig up information. The Dyrt, in particular, makes it easy to find honest reviews and great campgrounds.

Given that The Dyrt recently received millions in funding, expect the app to get even better. The app race is a money race. Those development teams that build up early momentum and secure funding are in pole position to build the biggest communities and code the best apps.

It’s Not Just About Growth

It’s not hard to figure out why investors are throwing their weight behind The Dyrt. It’s not “just” about rapid growth. Apps that solve pain points could be very successful. As for camping, in particular, the market is huge, and yet there’s also a potential to tap into “niche” amplifiers.

Gathering around a campfire with strangers to share advice, stories, marshmallows and more is pretty much a right of passage and tradition. As The Dyrt app continues to build up its audience, expect word of mouth to amplify its success. “How’d you find this campground?” The Dyrt. “Hey, we’re heading to Montana, any recommendations?” The Dyrt. “We’re looking for someplace really quiet and out of the way.” The Dyrt.

America features some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the world. Indeed, America’s so naturally blessed that it can be overwhelming. Until now, many campers were all but stuck going to the same well-worn campgrounds, like the Yosemite National Park campground. While these hot spots are fantastic, there are plenty of other opportunities out there as well. In the past, you’d have to hope you stumbled across a hidden gem.

Now you can simply pull up The Dyrt App and find that picture perfect campground with all the amenities you want and need.

Vend POS vs Shopify: Which One Will You Like More?

These days, Shopify is one of the biggest names in retail. The commerce giant is well-known for its e-commerce systems and is increasingly making itself known in the brick-and-mortar space with its Point-of-Sale (POS) systems. However, Shopify faces some steep competition from POS providers that specialize in the trade, such as Vend. That’s why we’re going to compare Vend vs Shopify.

The Main Differences Between Vend POS vs Shopify

The main differences between Vend POS vs Shopify are:

  • Vend POS is a point-of-sale tool, whereas Shopify is an entire ecommerce platform
  • Vend POS is a relatively new tool, whereas Shopify is more established 
  • Vend POS monthly subscription rates are more expensive than Shopify, whereas Shopify can include a lot of upgrades as you grow your business
  • Vend POS is seen more as an ‘add-on’ service, whereas Shopify is dedicated to building ecommerce stores for its customers

Trends in Online Shopping — There is still a lot of opportunities

Retail technology has advanced a lot over the past several years in line with technological advancements elsewhere. Smartphones, smart cars, smart TVs, and yes now retailers can use smart Point-of-Sale systems. These POS will handle all of the duties of a traditional cash register, such as unlocking the cash drawer and providing receipts. At the same time, however, smart POS will track all of your sales, compile data, and even monitor your inventory.

Those dumb cash registers acted as “Point-of-Sale” systems. The cash register facilitating the sale right at the point where the transaction is taking place. These days, POS usually refers to physical locations, while e-commerce refers to web shopping.

Shopify has emerged as one of the most popular smart retail solutions. Shopify is used not “just” for Point-of-Sales systems, but also for e-commerce. With Shopify, you can set up an entire online retail store akin to Amazon. You can also use Shopify’s Point-of-Sale system, tying that online retail store into your brick-and-mortar efforts. Shopify’s primary focus has been e-commerce, with the POS being more of an add-on.

Vend is a sort of the opposite. The company is more well-known for its Point-of-Sales systems while e-commerce is a secondary focus. However, over time, both Shopify and Vend have developed good across-the-board capabilities and most businesses will be satisfied with both. Vend now has e-commerce capabilities while Shopify has developed a solid POS presence.

Whatever you choose, you must know — there is still plenty of room for business online. Knowing the right tools that work for your business is key to being able to succeed in any market, which is why I give you this full Vend POS vs Shopify comparison!

Vend: An Overview

Vend is based out of New Zealand but has a global presence. Despite being a relatively young company, having started in 2010, Vend has emerged as one of the biggest players in the POS space. Vend first rose to prominence by teaming up with Paypal but has since engaged with other corporate partners.

Vend delivers its Point-of-Sales services exclusively through the cloud and can operative on a variety of operating systems. Vend does not offer on-premise deployment, which could be a concern for some larger businesses.

Vend has emerged as one of the biggest Point-of-Sale providers in the world. 20,000 stores across 140 different countries are using Vend POS systems. Disney, Etsy, the World Wildlife Fund, and NASA are among the retailers using Vend.

While some POS and e-commerce providers like to build walled gardens, Vend is a relatively open system. For example, if you have a Shopify e-commerce website, you can actually integrate it directly into Vend. Want to build your own custom website using Vend? No problem, Vend will provide the basics while your development team gets to work.

While Vend is not as well-known in the e-commerce space, it has begun to offer solutions. So far, the company’s e-commerce website templates and other features have been well-received. However, Vend still lags behind Shopify and e-commerce leaders (more on that later).

Shopify: An Overview

Shopify has emerged as a retail and commerce giant. Over 600,000 businesses rely on Shopify and over $55 billion dollars worth of goods have been sold through the platform. In 2016 alone their Gross Merchandise Volume topped $15 billion. Tesla Motors, Budweiser, Penguin Books, and various other big names use Shopify for their e-commerce stores. Thousands of mom & pop businesses rely on their services as well.

Traditionally, Shopify has been more well-known for their online retail platform. Indeed, Shopify got its start when its Candian founders Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand, and Scott Lake tried to launch an online snowboarding equipment store. They quickly discovered that the out-of-the-box solutions for building online retail stores were limited. So they built their own platform and spun it off as a separate service.

Up until 2013, Shopify remained relegated to the web. That year, the company expanded into the brick-and-mortar space with its Point-of-Sale system, allowing small businesses to integrate their brick-and-mortar stores and online presence under one system.

Vend offers a 30-day free trial while Shopify offers a 14-day free trial.

Vend vs. Shopify Pricing

We all want the best value for our money. So how about Vend versus Shopify? Which one is the better deal? To be honest, the pricing for both products can be a bit difficult to sort through. It’s wise to first consider your needs and then individual plans. We’ll help you get started.

Shopify’s “Lite” plan is the cheapest option per month

Shopify offers a Lite plan that starts at just $9 per month. However, this plan is very basic. With the Lite plan, you can make “buy now” buttons for your existing website and social media. You can also use their Android and iOS app to accept credit cards. However, you will have to pay transaction fees with every Shopify plan.

Shopify’s full-featured but still basic plan starts at $29.99 per month.

Vend Stars with a higher price but costs quickly converge

Vend’s basic plan starts at $69, while Shopify’s basic plan starts at $29.99. With Vend, just $10 more gets you access to the more advanced features, such as gift cards and expanded payment options, for just $10 extra per month. Shopify’s comparable plan likewise costs $79.

Vend does not charge separate transaction fees

With Vend, you simply pay a monthly subscription fee. Payments are month to month and you can cancel at any time. You are not tied to the company’s hardware, and your hardware won’t be tied to the company. Unlike other POS and e-commerce solutions, Vend does not charge transaction fees.

Shopify charges transaction fees

Shopify features low monthly subscription fees and most of its add-on services and products are affordable as well. Yet there is a major downside: Shopify charges a 2% transaction fee for its basic plan, 1% for its normal plan and .5% for its advanced plan. This will be paid on top of any other payment fees the payment processor might charge you. By using Shopify payments, however, you can eliminate these fees.

Shopify also charges fees for credit card transactions. Each transaction will cost 30 cents plus 2.9% for the basic plan, 2.6% for the mid-range plan, and 2.4% for the premium plan.

Comparing Vend vs. Shopify Attributes

Vend is operating system agnostic

Vend can operate on a variety of operating systems. So long as you have access to a web browser, you’ll be able to run Vend. Windows, Apple, and Android are all supported, so when it comes to hardware, you’ll have plenty of choices.

Shopify works best with Apple iPads

Shopify does offer an Android app. However, the company packages its POS with Apple iPads and has put most of its POS resources into Apple products. iPads aren’t exactly cheap, so keep tablet costs in mind when comparing costs.

Vend is not as e-commerce friendly

Vend has been building up its e-commerce features but lags behind industry leaders (such as Shopify). Vend doesn’t currently support drop shipping, integrated with distribution centers, and other features found in advanced commerce solutions. However, Vend’s website is advising people looking for such features to keep an eye on future releases.

*Remember: you can integrate your Shopify e-commerce store and Vend.

Conclusion: Choosing Between Vend and Shopify?

So who wins in the Vend versus Shopify matchup? Both platforms are quite good, but they each excel in different ways. Vend started as a POS system and while it has been expanding its e-commerce capabilities, it’s still not as feature-rich as dedicated e-commerce platforms.

Vice-versa for Shopify. While Shopify has been expanding its POS offerings, the company is still most well-known and best suited for online retail. With Vend currently lacking drop shipping and other advanced but increasingly common e-commerce features, web retailers will likely be better off with Shopify. Vend could and likely will level the playing field by integrated such features in the future.

The other big difference between Vend and Shopify is pricing. Vend’s monthly subscription rates are significantly more expensive than Shopify’s. However, Vend doesn’t charge the 2% transaction fee that Shopify does.

If you already have a Shopify store and are looking for a great add-on, Vend can be a nice integration. You might also want to integrate a decent landing-page builder app, such as Shogun, or Pagefly. 

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Shopify vs. Neto: Which E-commerce Platform is Best?

Shopify is one of the giants of e-commerce platforms. If you’re involved in the space, you’ve surely heard the name. Neto, on the other hand, is a spunky up and comer from the land down under. Australia-based Neto has been building momentum and has established a loyal user base. We’re going to dig into the comparison between Shopify vs Neto, but first, let’s talk about e-commerce. 

The Main Differences Between Shopify vs Neto

The main differences between Shopify vs Neto are:

  • Shopify has over 500,000 users and growing, whereas Neto has a few thousand users
  • Shopify is a dedicated ecommerce platform giant, whereas Neto is the new guy in town
  • Shopify has hundreds of themes to choose from, whereas Neto does not have as many choices (some look dated)

There are a lot of giant e-commerce websites out there, including Amazon, Etsy, and eBay. However, many smaller retailers have realized that they can earn more money by having their own online shopping website. In the past, setting up an e-commerce website could get very expensive. These days, e-commerce platforms make it easy to build an integrated, fully-functional e-commerce website.

An e-commerce platform will handle most of the difficult aspects associated with setting up a retail website. For example, with an e-commerce platform, website managers can use templates to quickly set up new product listings. By and large, it’s plug and play. You insert the necessary text, prices, and other vital details, and the e-commerce platform takes care of the rest. If you had to set up each listing individually, updating products and expanding offerings would suddenly be very time-consuming.

E-commerce platforms also make it easy to accept payments, acquire the necessary personal data, such as shipping addresses, and can even organize the shipping process itself. Twenty-some years ago such capabilities were revolutionary. Now, e-commerce platforms allow you to set up the whole system within a matter of hours.

Common Ecommerce Features

  • Ability to quickly and easily set up an online retail website.
  • Capable of accepting a wide range of payment options, such as credit cards, and digital payment systems (i.e. Paypal).
  • Tools for completing, shipping, and tracking orders.
  • The setup process is generally easy and straightforward.

Most e-commerce platforms charge both a small monthly fee, usually less than $50 per month, and a percentage of payments processed. The percentage cut is usually an affordable 2 or so percent. However, some platforms, including Neto, don’t charge payment fees. Either way, setting up an commerce has never been easier or more affordable.

As already mentioned, two of the more well-known e-commerce platforms are Neto and Shopify. We’re going to dig into the pros and cons of each platform shortly. However, both choices are good choices. The question is, which choice is better for you and your company? You need to approach the decision-making process rationally and need to focus on your needs. Keep yourself in mind while reading through our comparison.

Both platforms offer great e-commerce solutions. Shopify has been around for years and can be found on countless e-commerce websites. Ultimately, Shopify is one of the most tried-and-true e-commerce solutions. Neto isn’t as established but it has been gaining popularity. That’s not by accident. At the end of the day, both e-commerce platforms are a great choice, but there are some important differences.

What is Shopify? An Introduction

Shopify is a complete e-commerce solution that is used by over 600,000 businesses. Roughly $55 billion worth of goods has been sold via Shopify. The platform offers a variety of prebuilt themes, allowing businesses to quickly set up clean, easy-to-use websites. Most themes require a one-off payment of roughly $150.

Shopify not only makes it easy for online retailers to set up an e-commerce web but also allows them to integrate their social media and offline selling. Shopify makes it easy to accept online credit card payments, Paypal, and other payment methods. In total, Shopify can accept payments from over 100 different sources.

Shopify also features a variety of automated fulfillment processes and makes it easy to integrate 3rd party shipping apps. In fact, Shopify has actually set up an App Store with well over a thousand apps on it. This plethora of 3rd party solutions is one of Shopify’s strongest selling points.

What is Neto? An Introduction

Markets are driven by competition. Neto has emerged as one of the most serious challengers to Shopify’s market dominance. Roughly 3,000 websites are using Neto. While this pales in comparison to Shopify, it’s still a strong base.

Neto likewise offers a variety of themes at about the same price as Shopify. However, Neto does not offer as wide of a choice, and many of their themes look a bit dated. Neto does offer a good mobile experience for most of the themes, but in general, Shopify is regarded as having a better selection and more visually-appealing themes.

Unsurprisingly, Neto is not as a feature rich as Shopify. Neto does feature a number of add-ons, such as Salesforce, Zoho, and Shipwire. It is also possible to run 3rd party scripts, but few are available for sale and Neto does not cover them. Regardless, Neto offers many of the most useful and common add-ons.

Shopify Versus Neto: Costs

Both Neto and Shopify Offer 14 Day Free Trials

Try both for free. No credit card required. No commitment.

Neto Subscription Costs Are Higher

Neto plans start at $79 Australian dollars per month (~$60 USD). Neto’s basic plan includes listings for only 1,000 products. While this might be enough for many small businesses, do not underestimate how quickly your shop might fill up. A medium plan costs $199 AU per month and allows you to list 5,000 item, while a large plan costs $349 per month and allows for unlimited items.

Shopify Subscriptions are Cheaper but you Pay Transaction Fees

A Shopify plan starts at just $29 USD per month and immediately allows for unlimited product listings. However, Shopify charges a 2% transaction fee on purchases through the basic plan. The normal plan charges 1%, while the advanced plan will set you back .5%. Either way, as you can imagine, these transaction costs could add up quickly.

Shopify also charges credit card fees as follows:

Basic Shopify: 2.9% + 30 cents for credit card charges

Shopify: 2.6% + 30 cents for credit card charges

Advanced Shopify: 2.6% + 30 cents for credit card charges

Neto’s Basic Includes Only One Sales Channel

When pricing Neto, it’s important to understand that the plans start with only one sales channel. If you decide to add another sales channel, such as Point-of-Sales devices to accept physical payments, you will need to pay an extra $49 AUD per channel. You can also add Amazon and eBay.

Note: Equipment for both Neto and Shopify must be bought separately. When considering a POS, it’s best to determine the specific costs for your business.

Shopify Does Not Charge Per Sales Channel

Shopify also makes it easy to integrate sales channels. Shopify supports:

  • Pinterest
  • Facebook
  • Messenger
  • Amazon

Other 3rd party sales channels can also be integrated. Please be aware that some sales channels, such as Amazon, will charge fees on their end.

Both Shopify and Neto Feature Numerous Shipping Tools

Shipping is often one of the biggest headaches for any e-commerce website. Fortunately, both Neto and Shopify feature a variety of tools to reduce the burdens associated with shipping. However, there are some important differences.

Shopify is feature-rich out-of-the-box

Even with the basic plan, Shopify gives e-commerce platforms access to most of their shipping features, including:

  • Shopify Shipping discounts rates
  • Print shipping labels
  • Display calculated rates at checkout
  • Shipment tracking
  • Automatic customer email notification
  • Ship date (U.S. only)
  • Signature confirmation

However, some features will cost you extra money, such as returns. Shopify has a return plugin that will reduce many of the headaches associated with returns, but you’ll need to shell out $10 extra per month.

Neto includes free return management

Neto also includes the ability to print shipping labels and real-time shipping quotes. Returns processing is also free with Neto.

Comparing Other Value Added Features

Both Neto and Shopify offer a range of value-added features. However, in many cases, these features will cost extra money. In some cases, such as setting up a Point-of-Sale system, you may have to buy external equipment.

Higher Cost Plans For Both Support Gift Cards But At a Cost

Gift cards are a popular gift and a great way to drum up sales. E-commerce platforms can be set up to accept gift cards. However, for both Shopify and Neto, you’ll have to opt for their second tier plans. Their basic plans do not include gift cards.

Both platforms feature a variety of product management tools

Managing product stocks and other inventory issues can be immensely difficult. Both platforms, for example, feature low stock alert features. Other features include inventory tracking and barcode management.

Both platforms allow you to set up affiliate marketing programs

Affiliate marketing has emerged as one of the most powerful and valuable marketing methods online. With affiliate marketing, you’ll essentially reward people for selling your goods. Both Neto and Shopify allow you to set up affiliate programs with ease.

Both platforms contain countless other features

There are, quite simply, far too many features for us to list out. Both platforms are feature-rich. Shopify has more features and add-ons, especially when you count third-party solutions. However, Neto manages to cover the most vital features. For many businesses, the extra features and add-ons on Shopify will never actually be used.

Still, you should sit down and consider your business and the challenges it will face. Then, you should write these potential sticking points down. Finally, check to see if Neto and Shopify offer tools that will help you address these issues.

Conclusion: The Neto vs Shopify Choice is Yours

Both Neto and Shopify are excellent choices. Shopify is more feature-rich and more widely-used. Further, e-commerce websites on Shopify tend to look more slick and modern. Still, Neto does feature a variety of useful tools and it’s quite possible that you’ll never notice that a feature or add-on is “missing.”

Don’t count out Neto. Since the platform doesn’t charge fees per sale, long-run costs could be substantially lower. Companies producing high sales volumes could potentially save a lot of money with Neto. On the other hand, e-commerce websites that want the sleekest website and most advanced features will be better served by Shopify.

If I were forced to make a decision right now and had to choose one ecommerce platform that would be best for most growing businesses, I would definitely say Shopify. With so much flexibility and support, it’s the one that is meant to last. So many online companies swear by Shopify and from my experience, it’s a tool that you’ll really enjoy for the long haul. Try Shopify for free for 14-days — click here! 

If you already own Shopify and are looking to make some serious improvements to your store, you might want to invest in a solid page builder, such as Shogun or Pagefly — which can make your life so much easier.

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How to Find Ideas for Your Social Enterprise That You’ll Want to Pursue

So you want to change the world? Congrats on your ambitions. Market-driven social enterprises are proving to be a powerful force for change. Each and every day, social entrepreneurs are working to make the world a better place. With the right idea and a healthy dose of commitment, you can join their ranks. But first, you need to come up with that “right” idea. So, here we go Here is how to find ideas for your social enterprise that you’ll want to pursue!

First  Things First, Discovering Your Passion is Not Enough

Passion and a desire to help is great. However, by itself, these factors are not enough. If your social enterprise is going to succeed, it has to be grounded in the real world, and specifically the markets and local communities you want to work with.

As Change Creator founder Adam Force puts it:

Passion is an important part of the equation but to succeed in scaling an idea and creating a good lifestyle, you also have to know your competency and market.

There’s no sure-fire process to generate a great idea. However, there are some steps you can take to make your brainstorming sessions more productive. There are also some tried and true methods you can use to test your idea to see if they are viable. Before we get into that, let’s talk about how to approach an idea in the first place.

My approach with this article: Develop the methods to create new ideas first!

I’m going to approach this article from an “ideation” standpoint. In other words, I’m going to help you try to develop methods to create new ideas and solutions. However, this glances over another way to find ideas: borrowing. You should never steal someone’s intellectual property, but you can take tried-and-true methods and products and then apply them in a new community or in a new way.

How about setting up a local farmer’s market? Or a zero or low-waste grocery store or restaurant? Maybe your restaurant could donate some or all of its profits and unused food to soup kitchens? These ideas aren’t 100% new, but they could make a big impact in a community.

Related: The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Social Business

Start By Considering The Community

So how should you start with coming up with an idea? First, don’t start with your own wants or needs. Sure, you can and will have your own areas of expertise and interest. Yes, you should leverage these assets. However, if you want to help a community, that community has to take precedence. How can you use your skills to help the community?

The best social entrepreneurs know the communities they are trying to help. If your social enterprise is people focused, meaning you want to directly help people, it’s important to understand the local community. Many charitable efforts, international development projects, and social enterprises have failed, or worse, cause harm, because the people in charge didn’t understand the community.

On the flip side, those leaders who understood the community they were working with have been able to maximize the impact. They understood the community, its needs, its wants, and local conditions. By understanding these factors, social entrepreneurs can craft solutions that will both address local needs and will be adopted by the local community.

Related: Uncovering 5 Marketing Lessons from Lucky Iron Fish

If You Don’t Know Your Community You’ll Struggle to Create Change

One of the Change Creators featured in our magazine, Makana Eyre, was working on a project in Cairo. The idea was promising: through Ashoka: Innovators for the Public his team would provide local women with entrepreneurship skills training. As the old saying goes: Give a woman a fish, and you feed her for a day. Teach a woman to fish, and you feed her for a lifetime.

So they set up an entrepreneurship training class, reached out to the community, and invited participants to come to a scheduled training class. No one showed up. Why? Turns out that her team never bothered to ask the local women what times would work best for them. The time they had picked for the training session conflicted with bus schedules, local norms, and other factors.

Fortunately, the solution for this problem was pretty straightforward: communicate with the community and find out what times work best. Gather a bit of data, then act on it. However, keep in mind that the consequences can be direr than simply rescheduling a training workshop. Organizations that don’t understand the local community and conditions can waste vast amounts of resources.

Consider the 2004 Asian tsunami, which claimed a quarter million lives and destroyed ocean-side communities across South East Asia and Africa. The devastation sparked one of the largest humanitarian relief efforts in history. Unfortunately, much of the money, resources, and effort was wasted.

For example, companies and organizations sent countless boats to Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere, intended to replace destroyed fishing fleets. Many of the boats simply rotted away on beaches because they were not fit for the South Indian Ocean and other Asian waters. They were too small for fishing and for the local water conditions.

The list of other failures is too long to recount, but the primary source of failure isn’t hard to pick out: many of the organizations trying to help did not understand the local conditions.

Related: 5 Things That Will Kill Your Social Enterprise Startup

Travel to That Community and Submerse Yourself to Get Ideas

So how can you actually get to know a community? Or don’t know which community you want to help? Consider traveling to one. Of course, not everyone has the money or ability to simply pick up and move to a foreign locale. However, communities don’t have to be far away and exotic. There are almost certainly nearby communities that need your help.

Are their local refugee communities? How about soup kitchens, or homeless shelters? The world is full of need. You can find a community to help right in your backyard. Often, it will be a bit easier for you to help these communities because on some level you’re likely familiar with them.

Even if you don’t have an idea right now, as you get to know your community the gears will start turning. You may stumble across ideas on your own, or you might find an organization to team up with. Often, members of the community can share their needs, and even offer solutions to fix them. They might lack resources and skills, but perhaps you can help them find the needed inputs.

Identify Needs and Potential Solutions

By now, you know that the community is important. Consider different communities. Often, it’s best to start with communities that you already know very well. If you’re based in New York City, perhaps it’s best to first focus on the local community rather than a far-flung one that you don’t know or understand.

When it comes to selling in markets, your good or service will need to solve a need or address a want. Many social entrepreneurs focus on “needs” rather than wants. Usually, needs are simply more pressing than wants.

A need can be thought of as a challenge or problem that must be addressed. If left unaddressed, conditions will worsen. So consider the problem you want to address. You can start at the highest level. For example, “I want to help poor communities in New York City.” The challenge is poverty.

Now, ask yourself why? Why are people poor? Why is that a problem? Generally, people are poor because they lack access to a good income.

Maybe they lack the education needed to secure a high-paying job. Maybe they are elderly or handicapped and cannot work? On and on the list goes. How can you address such problems? Community training programs? Educational apps? Assistance for those in need? Where can you get that assistance? Perhaps by taking food that’d be thrown away and delivering it to the doors of the elderly?

After you understand a community, you can identify needs, and then you can come up with solutions. Make sure you talk with community members. They might know of solutions. And they might know of challenges that you haven’t seen yet.

Keep The Market In Mind

The market has proven to be one of the most powerful forces for good in history. Simple economics dictates that good ideas will succeed and bad ideas will fail. Charities sometimes run into trouble because they do not necessarily respond to market forces. Donors can and will fund bad ideas.

Social entrepreneurs, however, can and must embrace the market. If your goods or services are failing to drum up interest, you need to revisit them and make sure they are addressing the local community. Something isn’t working. It might be that your marketing campaign simply isn’t effective. Why? Are you misunderstanding the community? For example, you might be trying to reach out to a Latino community, but your adverts are in English.

On the other hand, the product or service you are selling might simply not be addressing the pains and meeting the wants and needs of the local community. You’ll be able to know by measuring market adoption rates. Are people buying your product or service?

Related: The Most Sacred Gift You Can Give According to Tony Robbins

Look At Existing Products and Identify Social Aspects

The modern market economy has generated a tremendous amount of technologies and solutions. Most of these were driven by a pursuit of profit. As a result, many technologies and solutions lack a true social aspect. Can you take an existing business solution and add a social element? If so, you may be able to launch a social enterprise without needing to reinvent any wheels, and without having to open up new markets.

Further, you might even be able to find businesses will to invest in your social endeavors. Not only that, but you may even be able to draw in some talented private market talent that can provide a lot of skills. Consider microlending programs, including those run by the Grameen Foundation, that provide cash-poor people with access to funds. These funds can help them break the cycle of poverty by allowing them to invest.

The people who started these funds, such as Grameen founder Muhammad Yunus, didn’t do anything overly revolutionary. The idea of lending to people has been around since the earliest days of money, and even before. Yet Yunus and others realized that cash-poor people often lack access to traditional lending institutions.

By offering a new model they were able to extend lending to these communities. In turn, this allowed the communities targeted to invest in and uplift themselves.

Another great example is Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. Chouinard realized that his steel pitons were damaging rock-climbing surfaces. So Chouinard decided to create sustainable climbing gear, and thus Patagonia was born. You can learn more about Chouinard on the Patagonia website.

Addressing “Small” Problems Can Make a Big Difference

The challenges you take on don’t have to be grand. Environmentally friendly climbing gear is the type of idea you’re likely only to discover if you’re part of the mountain climbing community. The average person might not even be aware of the challenges posed by gear that isn’t environmentally friendly.

Just the same, you might find solutions to seemingly small or niche problems. That’s a fantastic place to start. By taking on smaller problems, you might tackle issues that people aren’t even aware of, or don’t think is worth their time to address. However, if you’re solving a challenge and making the world a better place, it’s worth the effort.

Next Steps: Getting Your Ideas Off The Ground

Rather than concluding with the usual summary, let’s consider how you can bring your ideas to life. Makana Eyre outlined “Five Things That Could Kill Your Startup Social Enterprise”. Along the way, he also outlined some great tips for getting your social enterprise rolling.

First, get your idea down on paper.

If you followed the above steps, you have hopefully identified needs and potential solutions. Now it’s time to start refining your ideas, considering concrete solutions, challenges, and other factors.

Next, start building a team.

As Makana notes, it needs to be balanced. You need both visionaries and business experts and people with technical skills. From there, you have to check your assumptions. I can’t do Makana’s work justice in a few sentences, so make sure you check out his article. Point is, coming up with an idea is great, but once you have an idea you have to get it rolling, or it’ll just waste away.

Listen to examples of others you can learn from.

There’s nothing quite like the learning that comes from others who are on the ground, doing what you want to do. If you are just starting your journey, you need to learn all that you can from others who have been there, done that. That’s why we created the Change Creator Podcast series. Adam Force goes deep into how these amazing Change Creators started their companies, where they discovered their ideas and many, many lessons on how they grew their companies as well. I strongly encourage you to get listening! Podcasts are great on long drives, or Sunday afternoons, just fyi!

Read more in-depth examples of social impact leaders in Change Creator Magazine!

The Role of Empathy in Social Enterprise: Why it’s Vital to Your Success!

Empathy is a powerful emotion, allowing us to understand other people, their position, and their needs. For anyone looking to start a social enterprise, empathy will be vital. If you want to make a difference, you need to understand the communities you will be working in and how your efforts will impact them. What is the role of empathy in social enterprise? What about other kinds of business models? Let’s examine this!

What is empathy? Why is it so important in social enterprise?

In the past, charity and international development agencies had a habit of blindly (and sometimes condescendingly) charging into communities and launching projects will little to no feedback from the local community. Funded by donors, many of these projects continued even as local communities rejected them. These efforts lacked empathy. The result -unsurprisingly- was a lot of waste and projects that ultimately failed.

Now, many social enterprises are forging their own unique path. They are beholden to the market.  If they fail to listen to and incorporate local communities, their risk of failure is higher as money will dry up. The market is a powerful force for choosing winners and losers, and in the case of social enterprises, it helps keep them on task.

However, markets will not always ensure that a social enterprise remains true to its social aims. Markets ensure profit, not the well-being of people, communities, and the environment. That’s where empathy comes in. By embracing empathy, social enterprises can ensure that they stay true to their community and causes.

Related: How the Kind Foundation is Connecting Youth, Spreading Kindness and Creating Future Social Entrepreneurs

Putting Employees First Makes Business Sense

Of course, some might wonder why they should bother to pursue empathy or social entrepreneurship at all? Ultimately, most social entrepreneurs don’t have to grapple with that question, they already know the answer and it’s personal. However, companies that ignore communities and higher causes put themselves at risk. As Imran Anwar put it in his article “Why Putting People Before Profit Is Good Business:

“Companies that put profit before people can face the wrath of dissatisfied customers on social media. People may ditch a profit-centered brand the moment they find a better alternative.”

Beyond bad publicity on social media, Anwar also outlines how companies like Costco make money by playing their employees more. Why? Higher retention rates. Meanwhile, low wage companies, like Sam’s Club, struggle with low productivity and constant turnover.

Personally, I don’t need any incentives to want to build good companies or to put profits before people. However, for those businesses that do go with profits first, it’s important to ask if the short-term drive to produce profits is resulting in lost opportunities and higher long-term costs.  Perhaps empathy offers a path towards a profitable and sustainable future.

What is the role of empathy in social enterprise?

Interestingly enough, empathy is a relatively modern concept. Philosophers and psychologists only started grappling with empathy directly in the 19th century.  Of course, humans have almost certainly possessed empathy for thousands of years. Now, social entrepreneurs are using empathy to build enterprises that both produce a profit and address important social issues.

Empathy also plays an important role in “prosocial” behaviors. A prosocial behavior refers to putting someone else interests before your own. In the world of social enterprises, this can be expressed as putting people before profits. These prosocial tendencies are ultimately what distinguishes a social enterprise from a normal enterprise.

Related: The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Social Business

Empathy Has Greek Roots But is a Modern Concept

The word “empathy” is relatively modern, especially by philosophical standards. Ethics, politics, and other concepts have been debated and examined for thousands of years. Often, these intellectual debates can be drawn directly from ancient Greece and other philosophically-inclined ancient civilizations right up until modern times. However, the Greek root of empathy, “empatheia”, actually meant “physical affection or passion”.

Only later on would empathy evolve into understanding how other people feel. As a word, empathy entered the English language in 1909 when German philosopher Edward Titchener adapted “empathy” from the German word “Einfühlung”, which means “feeling into.” Yet even the Germans had only begun grappling with “Einfühlung” in the second half of the 18th century.

While empathy is a relatively new topic of study, the emotion has undoubtedly played an important and long-standing role in the evolution of human society. However, our understanding of empathy remains relatively weak compared to other human emotions and concepts.

The Pros of Empathy in Social Enterprise

These days, empathy is important for social enterprises, which themselves are a relatively new concept. A social enterprise puts people, communities, and the environment before producing profits. Empathy is vital because it helps the social entrepreneur understand these communities, people, and causes. Without empathy, even the best of intentions can fail to produce any real results.

That doesn’t mean that social enterprises don’t pursue profits. They do. In fact, one of the key distinguishing features of a social enterprise is that pursue profits and operate in markets. However, profits aren’t enough for the social entrepreneur. Instead, they’re driven by something “higher”.

As Change Creator Founder Adam Force puts it:

“The motivation they have is not spawned by the idea of money. No, it’s from something bigger: A cause — it’s a mission in their life that they become obsessed with. Nothing can derail them from pursuing it. Their vision is clear.”

What is this Higher Purpose and What Does Empathy Have to Do With It?

There is no one universal “higher purpose” that will drive every social entrepreneur. If we were going to take a stab at defining such a universal it’d probably be something like “making the world a better place.”

Let’s be honest, that sounds nice but it doesn’t say much. What does it mean to make the world a better place? Less pollution? No more cruelty towards animals? The end of warfare? Global access to adequate health care? There’s no single answer.

Interestingly, those philosophers who first started grappling with empathy were faced with a similar challenge. They wanted to know what was going on in other people’s heads. What makes people tick? Why do we care about one another?

Just as there is no one answer for a “higher purpose”, there is no one definition of what empathy is. However, the Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation.”

We can think of it in layman terms as putting ourselves in another’s shoes. What is another person experiencing? What challenges might they face? Once one understands these questions the social entrepreneur can start to ponder “how can I make a difference in this community? How can I be a positive force for change?”

Related: Social Entrepreneurship: A Higher Calling With Ilaina Rabbat

Without empathy, a social entrepreneur is blind.

Profits on their own can drive business success. For the social entrepreneur, however, profits are not enough. Making a difference is what gets most social entrepreneurs out of bed in the morning. Profits keep the business sustainable and allow it to grow. Profits are necessary but not sufficient conditions for success.

High-minded causes need to be grounded, however. In general, you can approach social entrepreneurship as either community-grounded, meaning people, animals, etc. Or you can approach it as cause-grounded, i.e. reducing carbon emissions. The distinction is itself arbitrary. If you reduce carbon emissions you are going to impact communities. If you help a community become more sustainable, likewise you will be impacting a cause.

Empathy, or understanding these communities and causes and why your own efforts will be important, is a great start. However, you need to ground your empathy in more concrete measurements. Key performance indicators and other metrics are vital for tracking your progress and shortcomings.

A Case Study: Setbacks Happen but Empathy Can Right the Ship

We can learn as much from our failures as we can from our successes, if not more. Consider Mailafiya, an eHealth service program in Nigeria. The program was started due to a severe lack of access to health care facilities in rural areas. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) tools were a major component of Mailafiya’s efforts.

Mailafiya launched an aggressive effort to send 24 field teams into rural areas to collect data and provide services. The initial roll-out saw a 270% increase in patients seen and a 900% increase in diseases reported. Then, the program failed. A lack of access to the Internet, a lack of basic computer literacy among local health care workers, weak governance, and a poor local ICT infrastructure led to its collapse.

Mailafiya had plenty of passion, but not enough empathy. They didn’t understand the local conditions well enough to ensure success. The program didn’t fail, however. Instead, the program’s leaders doubled down on efforts to understand the local community and build empathy.

Putting Communities Before Causes Can Produce Results

Let’s wrap this discussion by discussing how putting people and causes before profits can be beneficial. Many social entrepreneurs find their empathy challenged when they are faced with business challenges and when profits are so tantalizing close. Meanwhile, many entrepreneurs who lack empathy never give anything besides the pursuit of profits a second thought.

This is a mistake. As Anwar Amran puts it:

“Putting people before everything else, including people, can make you lose focus on the things you do best. It diverts resources from your core business to what seems profitable in the short term.”

The Case of Southwest Airlines

Consider the fate of Pacific Southwest Airlines. Once one of the most successful airliners, the company tried to expand into car rentals and hotel business. These sectors offered enticing profit potential at the time but were outside of the company’s expertise. You’ve likely never heard of Pacific Southwest. That’s because the company went bankrupt. However, you’ve probably heard of the airliner that emerged from this bankruptcy: Southwest Airlines.

There are countless other examples of profits over all else failing. More recently, General Motors went through a bankruptcy after the company focused on building large (and very profitable) gas guzzlers, including SUVs and pickup trucks. When oil prices spiked from 2004 to 2008, people slowed their purchases of big trucks. When the economy crashed in 2007, even more, people stopped buying.GM had produced fantastic profits through the 90’s. By 2009, General Motors was bankrupt.

The company would emerge from the ashes, this time with a newfound understanding that short-term profits aren’t everything. While GM still sells trucks and SUV’s they’ve diversified. Now, GM offers a variety of higher-quality small cars and crossovers. Not only that, but GM offers the all-electric Chevrolet Volt, and plugin Hybrid the Chevrolet Volt.

GM, among other automakers, recently announced that they’d go all-electric. GM has also become a leader in climate change action. Frequently, when GM’s leaders speak to the public, you can hear their empathy. They have a newfound concern for producing environmentally-friendly technologies. GM’s also been doing much better as a company over the past decade. Coincidence? I think not.

Over the long run, is empathy in business better?

This adds an interesting foil to the debate around empathy and profits before people. Could the short-term drive to produce profits at the expense of people, communities, and causes hurt companies in the long run? Meanwhile, could empathy and embracing “higher” motives generate long-term results? Perhaps being sustainable can produce companies that are actually sustainable? And perhaps empathy will result in companies that perform better over the long run.



Get Funding! What Early Stage Investors Really Look For in a Social Enterprise Startup

So you’re looking for investors for your social enterprise? Fantastic! Here’s what early stage investors really look for in a social enterprise or startup idea.

Do you have what it takes to get funding? Keep reading!

Many investors are now considering the social and environmental benefits (or drawbacks) of potential investment opportunities.

Some funds and investors have even been set up specifically to fund social entrepreneurs, such as the TOMS Social Entrepreneurship Fund.

Other organizations, such as Investor’s Circle, will support any entrepreneur but will give socially and environmentally business special consideration.

It can be difficult for startups to get started without some initial capital. Sometimes, social entrepreneurs can fund their own efforts. Other times, they may have friends and family who are interested in investing. However, it’s often necessary to reach outside of personal networks to find funding. Good news is: angel investors, seed funds, and accelerators are willing to invest in startups and ideas.

Related: The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Social Business

Consider the Investor’s Point of View

Every time you want to work with or pitch anyone about anything, consider the audience and their point of view.

What is an investor looking for?

The primary concern for most investors is producing a profit. They invest and assume risk in anticipation of making money. Some investments will go sour, that’s a fact of life. Other investments will go on to make money. Early round investors will “take gambles” and assume high amounts of risk.

However, no investor wants to lose money. Early round investors accept that they are investing in high-risk ventures. They will accept that risk if the long-term pay off looks big. Many young companies fail, but those that succeed and eventually reach either an IPO or a buyout can produce massive profits.

Data suggests that angel investors average returns of 2.5X their initial investments. However, while some savvy angel investors manage to turn a large profit, many fail to make much if any. In fact, angel investors are actually more likely to lose money than making money on a deal. When they do make money, they tend to make a lot.

Of course, investors who invest in social enterprises are looking for more than profits. Just like social entrepreneurs themselves, social enterprise investors looking to make a positive impact. Some investors will favor certain types of change. Bill Gates, for example, just announced a $2 billion investment in sustainable energy.

Related: How to know which type of investment to seek

What Early Stage Investors Look For In Social Enterprises?

Early stage investors in the social entrepreneurship space will look at the same things as other investors.

  • How does the team look?
  • How about the chosen leader or leaders?
  • What is their vision?
  • Any financial plans, projections, revenues, or other numbers?

However, for investors looking to invest in social enterprises, these numbers won’t be enough. And sometimes, they might overlook gaps in the business plan, product, or team if they believe in the potential to make a positive impact.

The most committed social enterprise funders will go even further and prioritize social and environmental benefits. These funders are more concerned with making a positive impact rather than producing profits. If the enterprise produces small profits but generates a lot of change, that’s not only acceptable but great.

Many social enterprise investors are looking for a mix of making an impact and producing a profit. Profits are important for two reasons. First, yes most investors are looking to generate a return.

Secondly, profits will help the business sustain itself and expand. Self-sustainability is one of the key differences between a social enterprise and a charity. Charities rely on donors. They have to run donation drives, find big money donors, or convince corporations to give them funding. A social enterprise can rely on funds revenues generated by selling products and services.

Understanding What “Early Stage” Investment Means

Investors look at different factors at different stages.

The earliest round of funding is usually called either “seed” or “angel” funding. Angel investors may not expect to see revenues and sales. In some cases, early-stage seed funders will even provide funding when the product itself hasn’t been clearly defined.

One accelerator, Startup Bootcamp, “simply” wants you to have identified your market and the “why” behind what you’re trying to create.

Of course, having sales or at least a defined product certainly helps. Yet early stage investors will invest in entrepreneurs and teams that they believe have potential. The more proof that your product or service will be a smash success, the better. Often, it makes sense to “bootstrap” and produce some results before you even look for funding. A pilot test or soft launch can go a long way towards providing that your business will be a success.

Let’s look at a case study.

Pilot Projects Are Fantastic For Proving Viability

Talk is great. Business plans are fantastic. A strong team and a great vision can go a long way. But do you know what gets investors really excited? Results. Of course, it can be hard to produce results without funding. However, you may be able to set up a pilot project, even a small-scale one on a tight budget or just plain old sweat. If so, you should get that rolling before you even approach investors.

Take Blue Ventures, for example. The company rebuilds tropical fisheries in coastal communities. Many fisheries have been overexploited, and either has collapsed or are at risk of collapsing. The environment itself is damaged and communities that rely on those fisheries have been adversely affected.

Blue Ventures started in one small village in Madagascar. The company ran an experiment, closing off a small section of an octopus fishery to see if it would rejuvenate. It was a small test project, the type of thing angel investors might fund even if the risks are high.

Related: Funding your social enterprise: first stop – grants

The experiment worked. The local fishery became far more productive. As news spread among other villages, Blue Vision found itself in hot demand. The market already proved that their idea would work. These early results helped Blue Ventures expand its efforts locally. It also attracted funding and resources. Blue Ventures went on to win the Tusk Conservation Award, a Skoll award, and other accolades.

Now, the Blue Venture’s impact has reached a viral phase.

Investors Invest in People (But That Probably Means Something Different Than What You Think)

There’s a common saying among venture capital firms: they invest in people, not ideas or even businesses.

This saying is very nuanced, and quite frankly, many aspiring tech geniuses and would-be social entrepreneurs misinterpret it. Venture capital firms don’t invest simply in “people”, nor do they invest in savvy salesmen who make great pitches. Venture Capital firms invest in people who they believe can get sh** done. Potential investors will spend a considerable amount of time evaluating management teams.

A savvy investor isn’t going to be convinced by a great smile or wowed by the most intricate investment proposal. Sure, these factors can make a great first impression; however, the world is full of savvy people and fantastic ideas. In the long run what separates titans of industry from intellectual tinkerers is the ability to execute.

Investors also prefer to invest in established and skilled teams. A lone entrepreneur can’t build a company on his or her own. Sometimes, seed funders will provide resources to a lone founder. However, it is important to build a team.

This team needs to be balanced. Let’s look at a quick excerpt from our magazine:

“The social enterprise startup is unique because it requires both social development and business acumen to be successful. In my experience very few people are experts at both. Some are development visionaries- they can see what needs changing and which ideas would help. Others are business gurus who can find the perfect price point, financial model, and business development strategy.”

In addition to having a social development expert and a business whiz, it also helps to have the technical/skilled staff on the team already. If you’re looking to launch an app, it’ll help if you have the app developer already on board.

Great Ideas Are Great But Not Enough

Here’s a fact: the word is full of great ideas. If you head to a conference, incubator, hackathon, or other event packed with bright, ambitious minds, and you get everyone to open up, you’ll hear tons of great ideas. I’ve been to quite a few of these events, and without exception, I’ve come across a ton of great ideas.

So what will make your social enterprise startup idea attract the big fish in silicon valley? You will need more than just a great idea if want to attract what early-stage investors really look for — a great idea and a great investment.

Here’s another fact: accurate, reliable futurologists are hard to come by. The brightest analysts at the best Venture Capitalist firms, the biggest banks, and the most elite consulting firms don’t know what the future holds. Sure, they might publish confident reports predicting future “certainties”. However, if you go and dig up past reports, you’ll find that the experts themselves are often wrong.

The inherent uncertainty of the future is one of the several reasons that early stage investors will invest in people rather than businesses or even ideas. The future might change, markets may not react the way that you think. However,  great business leaders will adjust. They will anticipate markets, look for opportunities, and when necessary, abandon or change ideas up.

No one can predict the future. Further, an idea that seems like a sure-fire could flop once it hits the market. And that’s assuming that the product ever reaches the market. Fact is, many startup ideas remain ideas and never become actual products.

As Lowercase Capital puts it “ideas are cheap and execution is the cat’s pajamas.”  A great team will bring great ideas to life. A proactive team will adjust when products are failing. The wrong team, however, will simply waste money.

Scaling Up: Every Early Stage Investor Wants to Go Big

Early stage investors know they are taking on risks. However, they also want to go big. Scalability is very important for every investor. They don’t just want to hear buzzwords about how you’re going to change the world or save the fish in the sea. They want to see an actual plan with steps and considerations.

Your plan to achieve scale doesn’t have to be micro-detailed. You don’t have to know every person or organization you will reach out to, or the exact structure of projects you haven’t even started working on. However, you do have to prove that you’re serious and that you’re thinking ahead.

You need to have a clear vision for how you plan to scale, and you need to have a general idea of who you’re going to contact and who can help you achieve your plans. For social enterprises, that often means the local community. Take Blue Ventures, for an example. The company rebuilds aquatic habitats, working with local fishers to make local fisheries sustainable.

A Quick Case Study: Using Profits to Drive Change

A social enterprise can rely on the products and services it sells to fund its operations. Often, simply the act of selling a good is creating impact. Consider Patagonia, a company that sells active lifestyle gear, including rock climbing equipment. When founder Yvon Chouinard founded the company he wanted to do more than just produce profits. In fact, he was already producing profits but realized that the steel pitons he was manufacturing were permanently damaging rock faces. So he started producing climbing equipment that wouldn’t hurt the environment.

Patagonia grew, and every time the company sold a product, that meant that customers were choosing a sustainable product that wouldn’t damage the environment. At the same time, the company was producing profits, which it could then reinvest in new product lines. Now Patagonia produces over a half billion dollars a year in revenues. Patagonia now produces a lot more than climbing gear. It is a full lifestyle company that produces a range of products. However, it has never lost sight of its social ambitions.

Patagonia was a stunning success, but it started small. The company reached its tremendous heights by utilizing the market and turning profits into sustainable change.

So Where Can I Actually Find Resources?

Enough talk. It’s time for action.

There are many opportunities for finding resources.

Consider your own social and family network. Do you have a “rich uncle” who might be willing to provide some funding? Do you have friends who could contribute some free sweat labor?

Explore these opportunities first, because if you can get the ball rolling now, it’ll help you when you apply for external funding.

If your company is very young, then you should consider accelerator programs. Resource and funding packages vary from accelerator to accelerator, however, most will offer somewhere around $120,000 dollars in exchange for 6% of your company. Most will also offer office space, mentorship, and business advice. They may also be able to link you up with venture capital firms.

Many angel investors are also very active. In 2011 angel investors seeded some 65,000 different startups with roughly $22 billion dollars. Finding angel investors can be tricky. Often, it takes a personal connection. By attending trade shows, conferences, and hackathons you might rub shoulders with potential angel investors.

Crowdfunding is also growing in popularity. However, securing funding is a bit of a crapshoot. Some projects stick and go viral, many simply fade away. If you go for crowdfunding on Kickstarter or another platform, make sure you explain the value of your project, why it’s different, and why people should care.

Final Words

No matter who you approach for funding, remember to consider their perspective.

What are their motives? Profits, sure. But what else? How can your business generate both profit and good for the world?

Put your presentation in terms that your audience will understand and relate to. There’s no way to guarantee that you will secure an investment, but aiming your pitch at your audience will help.

Want To Change the World? You Need to Read This First!

A lot of people want to change the world and make a difference. Perhaps you’re a recently graduated college student. You’ve had the opportunity to learn about many of the world’s problems and you want to do something about them. Problem is, you’ve got student loans payments, bills, and all the rest.

Or maybe you’re in the middle of your career, and you’ve been doing some volunteer work on the side. You love the causes you’re working on as a volunteer and to do it full-time, but you need to cash some checks as well.

Dreaming about a better future is easier than actually making it happen. So how can you become a social entrepreneur or a self-sustaining change creator? People who change the world don’t get up one morning and suddenly become a social enterprise leader. It takes step by step choices every day, a lot of heart, and tenacity to change the world and that starts with you!

What are some things you can do to make yourself a more effective change creator and increase the likelihood of success? Or maybe you’re already changing the world for the better. How can you maximize impact?

We field these questions and topics all the time. Often, the answers can be found in our magazine.

Today, we’re going to grab the bull by the horn and jump right in. Let’s talk about why creating change is important. And let’s talk about how you can get the ball rolling and start pursuing your social entrepreneurial ambitions. We’ll also share some tips and insights on how you can constantly improve your ambitions and business.

Along the way, we’re going to go over some high-minded concepts, and also examine some real-world examples. A lot of people have already changed the world for better, but just as a business can constantly improve, so too can the world. And you can be a part of the movement to build a better world and more sustainable future.

Why Should You Bother Creating Change At All?

What’s the meaning of life? Philosophers have been asking that question for millennia, and we’re not going to be able to answer it here. Perhaps there is no one answer. Or maybe the answer is different for each of us. But we can still ponder. From a biological point of view, the meaning of life is to reproduce and pass on your genetics.

A lot of us tend to embrace higher meanings, and that’s great. But when it comes to giving a sh**, basic biology remains relevant. That’s true even if basic biology doesn’t yield all the answers. What we do today will echo throughout our lifetimes and beyond. Those of us living in the present are custodians of the future.

Change Your Mind. Change the Future. How to Approach our Resources.

When we consume non-renewable resources in the present, we deprive those resources of future generations. Forget about oil, gasoline, and the other non-renewable resources that often come to mind. Think about the many reefs around the world that are dying and can never be replaced. Think about our forests or parks. Or think about it in human terms. Every child who dies from a preventable disease is a squandered resource. That child might have gone on to do extraordinary things. Become a doctor,  a fantastic parent, or a life-changing teacher. Or anyone else who could have contributed to society. People like you are tired of the status quo and are ready to do something about it!

Related: Why Social Entrepreneurship is Picking Up Steam

Dream of a Better Future, Then Make It Happen

People love to dream about the future, spending as much as one hour of every eight thinking about it. Many of the dreamers that fill the pages of Change Creator have spent even more time pondering what could be. Many other social entrepreneurs also like to spend time with their head “in the clouds.” The future makes for a potent driving force. That’s true for both for our personal ambitions, and the potential to make an impact on the world.

There are countless different ways you can make a difference, and put giving a sh** into action. You could change your personal habits, consuming less, recycling more, and embracing a sustainable lifestyle. You could donate to charities and volunteer in your free time. Or you could become a social entrepreneur, putting the market to work. You can produce a profit for yourself and your company while also building a better future. That might mean developing sustainable technologies and alternatives. Or using technology to provide education to those who otherwise lack access.  There are many ways to pursue positive change.

Business Can Be a Force For Building a Better Future

Change Creator is a business, we don’t deny it. We care about business measurables, including advertising revenues, readership, subscriptions, and all the rest.  We must care about those things so that we can make a difference. Without money and readership, the lights go out and the mission dies.

The mission to make an impact by inspiring more social entrepreneurs to shape a better future is what drives us day-to-day. If we cared only about revenues and all that, we would have chosen a more profitable topic. But there are already tons of “money first” publications out there. Of course, money can and must be made in the social entrepreneur space.

Many of the entrepreneurs we’ve interviewed have built successful, even thriving companies. Still, if you want to be a true “Change Creator“, you have to think beyond dollars and cents. You need a driving motivation to make the world a better place and to preserve what we have for the future.

We are all driven by different things. Our Founder, Adam Force, is passionate about finding solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. He’s also passionate about empowering others so that they can find solutions. If Change Creator can inspire even one person to go out and make a big difference, it’ll all be worth it. But we’re aiming much bigger and our vision is to inspire one million Change Creators.

Millennials Find Their Passion First. Then Make Money and a Difference.

Or how about Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. We’ll dive into his story later, but early on he was faced with a choice. Short-term profits, or sustainability. Chouinard is passionate about outdoor activities. He also has a deep respect for nature and sustainability. When founding Patagonia 1973, Chouinard focused on producing gear that was environmentally friendly. Now, Chouinard is a billionaire, and his company is one of the most respected and sustainable businesses around. It also generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues each year. Chouinard himself is also one of the most respected and lauded people on Earth.

Now, Chouinard is a billionaire, and his company is one of the most respected and sustainable businesses around. It also generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues each year. Chouinard himself is also one of the most respected and lauded people on Earth.

Titans of industry come and go, yet their names are often forgotten in the annals of history. Do you remember who was the shipping giant in 15th century Venice? We don’t. Wealth and power are fleeting, but striving to make the world a better place? That’s something that history remembers. We remember the Mart Luther Kings, Gandhis, Benjamin Franklins, and all the rest. Even yesteryear’s titans of industries, such as Carnegie Mellon, are now remembered more for their philanthropy than their businesses.

Change Creator is Serious About Creating Change to the Status Quo

We’re not talkers. We’re doers. Our magazine is very much about making a difference.

Contributing to the world is something that Change Creator takes seriously. Words can inspire action and impact.

The printing press ushered in the age of enlightenment, allowing for the diffusion of ideas and spurring intellectual debate. More recently, the Internet has given birth to the modern “Knowledge Economy”, shrinking the world. Now, researchers and thinkers from around the world can share their ideas and insights instantaneously.

For Change Creator, we want to support social entrepreneurs, do-gooders, and thought leaders who give a sh**. We want to inspire people to become social entrepreneurs as well. That can mean a lot of different things. Readers will see that in the diversity of our stories and the accomplishment of various social entrepreneurs.

When it comes to making a difference, there’s no one-size fits all approach. You have to figure out what’s most important for you, and what you can do to make a difference. What motivates to you as well. Just remember, we’ve only got one world so we’d better take care of it. We have to think not only of ourselves but those who have yet to come. We can’t offer you a simple blueprint to follow for creating change. However, we can share some lessons that we’ve learned along the way.

Related: 5 Ways to Stay Highly Productive and On Top Of Your Game

Get Sh** Done: Putting Talk Into Action

Talk is great, but without action, you won’t be making much of a difference. It’s the same with writing. At Change Creator, we don’t want to ink the prettiest words, we want to craft content that drives people to action. We want to inspire people, quite simply, to get sh** done.

Dreams and ambitions are beautiful, but without action they are meaningless. At some point, you have to stop dreaming and starting doing.

How you should get started depends on what you want to achieve. You need to educate yourself in the industry, community, and area you want to work. Education means more than reading (though reading is great!). Gain experience.

If you want to sell more sustainable fruits and vegetables, start a garden or go work on a farm. Work at grocery stories as well, and study how companies sell food. You can’t gain experience in every area, but the more experience and education you have, the better. Pursue your ideas. You might not have the funds to start up a grocery store right away or to establish a big farm. However, you may be able to grow vegetables on the land you have. You can sell your products at the nearby farmer’s markets, or by setting up a stand. Many great entrepreneurs come from humble beginnings.

You (Probably) Can’t Go It Alone

Share your ideas, try to find people who can help you in your efforts. Lone individuals often don’t accomplish very much. Humans are social creatures. It’s through organizations, society, and combined effort that most great things are accomplished. Steve Jobs had Joanna Hoffman, Steve Wozniak, and others.

These days, Bill Gates is known for his philanthropy. Can you name the wealth manager who helped Gates become one of the richest people in the world?  His name is Michael Larson, and he’s regarded by many as being one of the best investors on the planet. Point is, both business and creating change are team efforts more often than not. As you strive to establish your business and make an impact in the community, you need to identify and reach out to potential team members.

Persist and then Persist Again

Creating change, building a business or movement, and establishing yourself as a leader won’t be easy. And chances are, you’re not going to be an immediate, smashing success. Quite likely, you’ll suffer some setbacks and failures along the way. Those failures might be personal. You might lose track of friends and family, or come to blows with business partners. Your failures might be abject.

Your first social enterprise could fall flat because you didn’t understand the market, the community, or another factor. Doesn’t matter. Persist and then persist again. People like to dream, and along the way, many people come to believe that their business will be a smashing success the day they launch it. You have a great idea, right? The world’s going to see that immediately, right?

As Dale Partridge, founder of StartUpCamp and millennial superhero says when entrepreneurs first start their company:

“People think it’s the Super Bowl. It’s really the first game of the season.”

You might have a smashing idea, but it’s not likely to be a smashing success, at least not right away. Persistence may be the biggest difference between would-be change creators who fizzle out, and those who go on to change the world. Try and try again. Failures don’t have to be losses. They can be learning experiences that inform your future efforts and ambitions.

If you’re serious about accomplishing anything, consistency is likely going to be the key. That’s why it’s important to find something you’re passionate about.

Whatever you’re trying to accomplish, you’re going to have to do it again, and again, and again. If you want to build a sustainable mountain climbing gear company or a thoughtful publication, you’re going to have to wake up day after day, making gear, writing and editing articles, whatever.

 The Social Entrepreneur’s “Secret” Weapon: The Market

In the past, “do-gooders” and business-minded folks often lived in two different worlds. The business-minded folks would build a company, produce a lot of money, and then become rich. Along the way, some of them would give their money to charities and other do-gooders. Or some business folks would go ahead and start their own charity. Still, their business efforts and charitable endeavors were often distinct and separate.

Bill Gates is a great example of this. First, he built his company, Microsoft. Over time, he acquired billions of dollars. Then started his own charity, the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation. Gates isn’t overly active in the business world these days. He was relinquished many of his duties at Microsoft. Meanwhile, his wealth is managed by professional investors.

However, Gates is actively pursuing various charitable endeavors, including global public health and education reform. Mr. Gates should be applauded and lauded for his efforts. However, “social entrepreneurs” are pursuing ambitions and changes that could produce even bigger changes in the long run. Social entrepreneurs seek to combine market forces with the “kind heart” of do-gooders.

It’s Good to Produce Profit and Change — At the Same Time.

A social entrepreneur wants to change the world and produce a profit at the same time. The secret to a social entrepreneur isn’t the profits themselves.  Instead, it’s the power of markets and their ability to allocate resources. The market has proven to be the most efficient resource allocation system known to man. Perhaps a bit ironically, the power of the market is derived as much from its failures as its successes. Markets allow bad businesses and ideas to fail. Markets also allow great ideas to succeed and reward such ideas with more money and resources.

There are many great, efficient charities that allocate resources effectively and efficiently. These charities operate in a quasi-market where donors will often choose the most effective and efficient charities to donate to. However, this market isn’t as efficient and effective as the private sector where the ability to make profits determines whether a company will sink or swim. Social entrepreneurs compete in the private market. Either their ideas will succeed and they will produce profits, or they will go out of business. This means that effective, efficient, and well-managed companies with good ideas will succeed. Inefficient companies will go the way of the dinosaur and go out of business.

Staying True to Your Community

One of the challenges many social entrepreneurs face is creating positive change. The market is great for allocating resources to successful, profitable business ideas. However, the market can’t necessarily ensure that ideas and businesses do good. That’s up to you as a social entrepreneur. Are you willing to set aside short-term profits for the sake of grander, more holistic goals?

Remember Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia? Before founding his company, Chouinard was faced with a difficult choice: he could have pursued short-term profits, continuing to manufacture high-quality steel pitons, but doing so was going to damage the environment. After more than a decade of success, Chouinard came to find that the steel pitons that provided the bulk of his income were also damaging Yosemite’s rock faces. It turned out that the steel pitons he was making, were damaging the natural wonders in Yosemite and elsewhere.

Chouinard could have just kept his head low, continuing to sell his pitons. He would have made money, he would have paid his bills and supported his lifestyle, even if it damaged the environment. But Chouinard decided to stay true to his community. The environment is a precious resource, and the old way of doing business would have destroyed rock faces, ruining them for future generations. He chose instead to embrace “clean climbing” and sustainability, seeing it not as a hindrance, but a way to distinguish his company in the marketplace and to offer competitive advantages. Patagonia was born, and his new company wasn’t going to simply sell climbing equipment and outdoor gear.

Chouinard incorporated sustainability into his business model, making it a part of his company’s DNA. Producing profits wasn’t enough. Patagonia would produce profits while also acting as a custodian for the environment. His company grew, and now produces hundreds of millions of dollars per year in revenues.

Measure. Learn. Adjust. Repeat.

When it comes to being a social entrepreneur, it’s not just about profits. You already know that, and that’s why you’re reading this article. High-minded goals like saving the world and ending the poverty are great. Embrace them. Let them drive you. But you need smaller, more measurable goals as well.

Consider Change Creator. We worry about advertising and subscription like any other publication. Publications also worry about readership. How much time are people spending on an article, website or app? Are they reading the entire article? Are they acting on what they are reading by signing up for a newsletter, paying for a subscription, or sharing on social media? We obsess over these statistics because it helps us measure how many people we are reaching.

For Change Creator, we want our audience to be as large as possible, and it’s not just about the bottom line, it’s about expanding our reach and inspiring as many people as possible.

How can you measure your impact? How can you track how many lives you’re impacting?

Data is important because it informs you and allows you to measure your success. Intricate data, such as how long a person spends reading an article, provide a lot more insight than a simple bottom-line analysis. Even if your company is profitable, are you really maximizing success? Your data can help you find out. You can discover what’s working and what’s under-performing.

For example, we can crunch data to find out what articles people are reading and what topics are performing well. We can also see what topics aren’t gaining traction. Then we can adjust our publishing calendar to key in on the topics that are performing well. This should yield even more success.

What data you collect is going to depend on your business and your goals. When it comes to social entrepreneurship it’s important to remember your community and your altruistic aims. Many companies lose sight of their “do-good” ambitions by failing to keep track of their in-community impact. Don’t lose track, and don’t let profits become your sole focus. Always remember that you have higher ambitions. Make sure that those ambitions are coded into your company’s DNA. Blast them on your “About Us” page, codify them into your official company values, and track them with data, constantly and incessantly.

It’s Time To Get To Work

You know what? Enough talk. We could go on about this forever. It’s our passion. But the first step to creating positive change is to put ideas, dreams, and ambitions into action. So get to work. Pursue your dreams. Make the world a better place. We’re going to be right there with you trying to create a better present, and building towards a better future. We hope you’ll join us on our wild ride.