Looking for a way to make money — and a difference! Yes! That’s the beauty of being a social entrepreneur but where do you find these entrepreneurial ideas? Let’s explore!
It can be excruciatingly tough to get a new business moving, especially if you’re thinking of doing something that will bring forth a positive change in a community.
You first have to deal with the struggles within self on whether or not the society will take up your idea. After that comes the naysayers who will want you to focus on what they consider conventional. Let’s not even mention the challenges of getting funding.
However, it’s very doable for anyone who wants to make a difference and work hard for it. You simply need to align your values with the different opportunities that are out there.
Who is the social entrepreneur?
The social entrepreneur is a different kind of business person. They are saturated with a burning desire to create sustainable solutions to issues ailing the society. Although the stages of creating a thriving social enterprise can be identical to building a conventional business, they vary in certain aspects.
The inspiration and motivation behind a social enterprise business model arise from the desire to see the community have a better experience. As a result, entrepreneurs embark on a journey to provide facilities and resources that safeguard the interests of the community without seeking to put personal interest first.
That’s the key difference between a normal business and a social business; the fact that instead of solving a problem for financial gain, you focus on using the business as a means to solve pressing matters in a society.
Here, social, economic, and environmental gains are equally important. Below are some examples of entrepreneurial opportunities that exist out there in the social enterprise:
Waste management to make things clean, green and pure in a creative way
Waste management is an important stepping stone to a green and clean neighborhood. An effective model should always be put in place to ensure there is proper solid and liquid waste management.
The conventional methods don’t always work everywhere, and smart social entrepreneurs are now coming up with very creative ways to handle this challenge. Some are using awesome integrated systems that end up killing two birds with one stone.
For instance, waste has been turned into agricultural inputs. It has also been used to generate power as biofuel. In a nutshell, you need to find something that can be sustainable. Solve a single problem by creating multiple benefits: This stops the struggle with the business model because it creates a model that powers itself to the next level.
Businesses in this sector require the right infrastructure to be efficient. A closer look also reveals that most people and governments have focused on infrastructure-based solutions. To some extent, it has led to the belief that heavy investments in infrastructure are necessary, but this is not necessarily true.
If you take some time to reflect and let your imagination roll, you could come up with a better option rather than trying to catch-up with existing innovations.
One example of a company that has literally been able to convert trash to treasure is Green Collect. Would you consider buying back your own waste? No? Green Collect, a Melbourne social enterprise does exactly that.
Companies pay it to remove waste that’s hard to recycle. Green Collect then hires people who are socially disadvantaged to create something useful from that waste. They then sell those newly created items back to the same companies that had thrown them out. Well, how creative is that?
That pesky hard-to-recycle waste
When agricultural waste is turned into packaging material
Renewable energy innovations to counter one of the biggest man-made challenges
With the current debates about climate change becoming a mainstream conversation, the world is waking up to the reality. The population has experienced an exponential growth over the years and this has led to the overstretching of natural resources.
In short, humans have been exploiting the earth’s resources at a higher rate than they can regenerate in nature.
The rampant felling of trees has led to deforestation thanks to the insatiable appetite for wood and its products. As a result, huge tracts of land that had been previously covered by thriving forests and ecosystems have been destroyed.
Today, you’d be surprised to realize some of these areas have either become deserts or are on the verge of desertification. And this is all man-made.
Who doesn’t know the pollution caused by oil and its products? In urban areas, automobiles have contributed to the accumulation of carbon which has an adverse effect on the climate. Similarly, industrial areas are notorious contributors to the carbon menace since many are still powered by combustion engines.
This sector has experienced some innovative ideas that are trying to fix this miserable mess caused by man’s actions. With heavy weight companies like Tesla tapping into the solar power generation, it is a true indication that this is a stable and promising sector.
Although this company may be using a different approach, their participation in the renewable energy sector shows the stability of the industry as well as the potential that can be tapped.
A Renewable Energy Example: d.light scores big with solar power
When we talked with Ned Tozun from d.light a while ago for Change Creator Magazine, we talked about the huge market potential for d.light’s solar-powered lighting solution — a renewable energy source that impacts billions of people.
The market potential for d.light’s solar-powered lighting solutions was massive, with 2 billion people in the developing world without access to reliable energy, and 1.2 billion of those people without electricity at all. As Tozun explains,
“People in these countries were already spending huge amounts of money on kerosene lamps. The market was vast.”
Not only could d.light create an affordable solution for these people, but they were also creating a much safer one as well.
Today, d.light has impacted over 65 million people’s lives with their solution.
d.light is brightening up the world
Kerosene lamps are potentially dangerous sources of light, as the fumes can be the equivalent of smoking two packs a day, and in India alone, 2.5 million people suffer burns (many of these children) from Kerosene lamps. These are the real market stats that propelled d.light to continue, as Tozun says,
“You’ve got to be absolutely passionate about what you are doing, not just worry about the return on investment.”
As social entrepreneurs, we not only have to find these renewable energy problems to solve, we must also find market opportunities to make money so we can have the greatest impact.
As a social entrepreneur, you might want to join the bandwagon with a business model that has been adjusted and tailored to directly benefit the society. Simply try to match your innermost values with the myriad of opportunities out there.
In communities where deforestation is negatively impacting their lifestyle, a solution that tackles the root cause can work. Providing solar energy not only solves the chief cause of climate change but also deals with clean energy.
Of course, there are many third world countries that still use wood as a source of household energy and this messes up the environment. To people like these, solar energy safeguards their livelihood and provides a better, cleaner alternative.
Social entrepreneurs have also come up with alternatives for third world countries. For example, efficient wood stoves have been introduced to minimize tree felling and occurrence of respiratory diseases.
Using information technology to remove barriers and limits
We are in the information age and the potential that comes with embracing that fact is huge. But there are communities that are disadvantaged because they have no way of tapping into the industry.
With almost every business integrating daily operations with online platforms, some communities are being left out. A remote village with no capacity to provide or access IT infrastructure will have a lower rate of bringing in business when compared to a well-connected area.
Today, innovative social entrepreneurs have developed business models that are set to improve business in remote villages. For instance, custom internet services are being created and owned by the community, with the aim of attracting businesses to the area.
Facebook’s satellite internet
Using tablets with the internet to make teaching effective
How do you discover entrepreneurial opportunities?
Entrepreneurial opportunities are always there. But it takes a keen eye to notice them. Discovering an entrepreneurial opportunity is the first step towards tapping into an exciting and challenging career.
You should have the right mindset; one that helps you dissect the opportunity and determine the best approach to turn it into something that matters.
Some people are said to be born with this quality while others have developed it over time. To both types, practice and constant learning will hone the skills for a better and efficient approach.
Let’s look at some of the ways of discovering profitable opportunities across the industries.
The Technological Evolution: Get Your Ideas Into the World So Much Faster
The most important determinant of an entrepreneurial opportunity is the level of technology in use in the industry.
If you are keen to observe, you will realize that young industries tend to have several undefined needs. Therefore, the opportunities that lie in young markets are more compared to the ones you’d find in well-established markets.
One of the best times to hunt for opportunities in any sector is before any design or way of doing things has become widely accepted. Once your venture dominates the market, you can now focus on scaling and ensuring lean operations.
In addition, industries tend to have lucrative opportunities when a big industry player is involved. The reputation and track record of a respected company works towards improving the public perception of the technology involved.
As such, it is better to venture into an emerging market when a big player is involved because they will validate the business. However, the timing must be perfect because the competition will be stiff as more companies join. For instance, when IBM joined the PC industry people found it easy to trust the innovation and technology used.
Organizational environment of an industry
The number and potential rewards of opportunities will depend on the current structure of an industry.
When you are the first to offer a certain product or service in a market, you face perception problems. In this case, both consumers and investors are not accustomed to your products and may not realize their importance.
The best option is to settle on an industry with operating businesses in the same sector. However, overcrowding will also contribute to business failure for new entries. But if you can identify a sector with complementary businesses, you can benefit from their presence.
Besides profiting from the social relationships established by the businesses, you stand a better chance of building a better service.
For instance, if you are opening a day care service in a neighborhood with several daycares, you could easily fail. But if you focus on a complimentary day care service that focuses on a different age bracket, success can come quickly.
Demand: You Better Figure This Out First!
Demand is influenced by two main approaches, the first is conformity and the other is a distinction. Conformity seeks to address the segment that wants standard goods but distinction serves those that seek unique and personalized goods. However, most markets have many segments and there will always be parts that are underserved.
It’s also good to note the trends in the market and realize the changes in demand patterns. Because most of these patterns are predictable, it is easy to anticipate the next move for an industry. As a good entrepreneur, it’s better to play where the ball will be as opposed to where current affairs are.
Understand Legal Frameworks
Most businesses are regulated by the law and all interested players are required to be licensed. Therefore, some alterations in the legal aspects of an industry will affect the opportunities present.
When laws are clear on what an entrepreneur can claim intellectual rights or patents, the approaches to business are different. Most entrepreneurs will dedicate time and resources towards what the legal framework protects because the benefits are guaranteed.
Now It’s Your Time to Join the Mission
Entrepreneurial opportunities can be found in any sector. But it takes determination and courage to make something out of it.
If you are to succeed with any business model, you need to focus on the journey and not the destination.
When you restrain yourself from focusing on a mirage, you can find the energy to take action and experiment with different ideas.
When it comes to social enterprises, never lose your focus. Here, you’re not just another entrepreneur trying to dominate the market. Instead, you’re the light to that society. You’re using your values, intellect, and resources to bring about a greater good to a disadvantaged people.
Go ahead and shine brightly.
The joy, pleasure, and satisfaction of creating real change in people’s lives is something that is just too great to be quantified.
“Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.” (Bill Drayton)