How to Become a Successful Social Entrepreneur

June 7, 2020
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There is a growing focus on the topic of social entrepreneurship due to its crucial element of civic commitment and volunteerism. This cause gives the money-making venture a heart and noble appeal. Social entrepreneurs, therefore, do more than just make profits – they help others by, for instance, creating opportunities, bringing resources, and offering training to the needy.

Social entrepreneurship refers to the recognition of social problems and deriving social change by implementing entrepreneurial operations, processes, and principles. Your objective is to research and define a particular social issue and then conduct a social venture to derive a specific change. The change may not eliminate the social problem, but it can focus on a lifetime process towards improving the existing situation.

The popularity of social entrepreneurship is on the rise because, among other reasons, people find entrepreneurs interesting and appealing. Their ability to succeed in creating sustainable businesses to actively transform the market is intriguing.

Now that you understand what social entrepreneurship is, let’s dive into theory and application.

The social entrepreneurship theory

The concept of social entrepreneurship was introduced in the 1970s to address social problems sustainably. The model studies the development of organizational types and motivations around these categories – the objective is to understand how social organizations evolve and how they create sustainable social impact.

The application of the social entrepreneurship theory took off in the 1980s with Ashoka being the first organization to support global social entrepreneurship.

What differentiates social entrepreneurship from other forms of entrepreneurship? As a social entrepreneur, your overriding goal or driving force is to achieve a social mission. Any outcomes derived from this venture should produce and sustain social benefits.

You don’t measure this type of venture in terms of profit or monetary returns, but rather, by social capital gains, which you can use to fund and create positive change in society.

What makes you a good social entrepreneur?

A group of social entrepreneurs
A group of social entrepreneurs – Image Credit:

Social entrepreneurs are known for their drive to pursue new methods of solving community-based problems. Their initiatives can be risky, but their efforts focus on creating positive changes in society.

Do you want to become a social entrepreneur? Here are the common success characteristics to possess:

  • Community-driven – have a desire to improve the lives of people in your community and to bring positive change.
  • Innovative – View problems as opportunities to get creative, to convert them into a service or product.
  • Business acumen – Have a practical approach to transform your brilliant ideas into reality.
  • Network – Link up with others in the field, including mentors, funders, and community leaders.
  • Consistency & determination – Have the drive to keep working on your goals, irrespective of the challenges.

Also Read: A Useful Guide to Entrepreneurship

Why does the world need social entrepreneurs?

A group of social entrepreneurs
A group of social entrepreneurs – Image Credit:

The public sector in poorly educated countries or those with a chronically-ill population can be ineffective in its operations, due to inadequate funding. While the government may provide essential services, they extend contracts to abusive, inefficient service providers. The gap left behind by these entities is best filled by social entrepreneurs

What is the role of a social entrepreneur?

Social entrepreneurs play essential roles, including:

  • Implementing missions to create social value, as opposed to private value. 

They focus on environmental problems, women empowerment, waste product treatment, and child rights.

  • Consistently seeking new opportunities to achieve their goal.
  • Inventing, adapting, and learning continuously.
  • Using resources at their disposal to sustain their projects.
  • Being accountable to the stakeholders (communities) for the outcomes of their social ventures.

Which are the top 5 social entrepreneurship companies?

A graph portraying social entrepreneurship companies
Image Credit:

There are notable social entrepreneurs with significant influence on our society today. The top 5 social entrepreneur organizations include:

  1. ME to WE 

Me to We provides fair-trade products and voluntary trips to millennials across the globe. It was started by two Canadian brothers in 2006.

2. Ashoka 

It supports social enterprises on the globe, such as those focusing on the youth.

Ashoka collaborates with change leaders to transform cultures and institutions for good. It was founded in 1981 by Bill Drayton.

3. Grameen Bank 

Grameen Bank focuses on providing business solutions to issues, to alleviate the causes of poverty. It does so by extending small loans and banking services to small businesses. It was launched in 1976 by Muhammad Yunus.

4. Babban Gona (Hausa word for “Great Farmer”) 

It is a Nigerian-based social enterprise whose primary focus is to support small-scale farmers to increase their agricultural produce. It was started in 2012 by Kola Masha.

5. Goodwill

It creates employment opportunities, job training, and other programs for people from under-risk communities who would otherwise be left out of job openings. Goodwill was founded in 1902 by Reverend Edgar J. Helms.

Other influential social entrepreneurs include Blake Mycoskie, Scott Harrison, Jeffery Hollender, Akhtar Khan, Willie Smits, Ibrahim Abouleish, and Bunker Roy.

How can I become a social entrepreneur?

Social entrepreneurship project
Social entrepreneurship project – Image Credit:

You don’t have to be a genius to become a social entrepreneur. You only need to have a vision, milestones, and a specific set of directions to kick-start your idea.

Here are a few ideas for social entrepreneurship to get you started:

  • Find your passion 

Examine what values guide you, what bothers you, and what keeps you awake more than anything else.

  • Create a team culture

Influence your first follower to share your movement to get more followers. Cultivate good leadership by working with your followers, having them take responsibility, and building trust. This approach will empower your team to work towards your mission.

  • Launch the venture

Start with your ideas, however small they are. Keep dreaming big by solving one social problem after another. Tackle issues by applying and remodeling existing solutions in the world rather than developing new ones.

Perform root cause analysis to understand the problem, get feedback from people (project designers, stakeholders, etc.), and develop solutions suited to meeting their needs.

Do appropriate research from the community to learn the various ways to solve the problem sustainably then develop a solution. You should also research the social business landscape to understand how other players are changing the world. Make Google your friend or use trade networks, such as the Social Enterprise Alliance.

Once you implement the solution, collect feedback and reflections from the beneficiaries.

Document all the details of the project scope for future reference.

  • Stay motivated, persevere 

Believe in your idea, your team, and the community. Take risks, learn your sources of motivation, compare your past failures and successes to draw conclusions, and surround yourself with supportive people.

Consult mentors for inspiration – since these people have experienced familiar ups and downs in the same field. They will motivate you to take action.

  • Keep your venture afloat

Start small and local by focusing on easy and doable social projects. Once successful, you will know which solutions work, and from there, you can consult the community and funders on how to sustain your solution.

Be open, patient, and persistent by seeking growth and funding opportunities from appropriate sources.

Depending on your business model, you can raise capital by, for instance, charging interest on loans or selling products and services to beneficiaries of your social enterprise. Micro-lending ventures remain afloat by employing these tactics.

  • Grow over time

Once you identify solutions to shared problems, scale your social enterprise into a social movement of change. 

The goal is to create sustainable solutions to serve the needs of the community today and tomorrow. 

Types of social entrepreneurship ideas

Wondering where to start? Below is a collection of a few programs you can run as a social entrepreneur:

  1. Crowdfunding – see more details here
  2. Technology or electricity projects targeting developing countries – see more details here
  3. Fair-trade commodities – see more details here
  4. Employment services – see more details here
  5. Micro-lending – see more details here and here
  6. Sustainable housing projects – see more details here
  7. Education travel – see more details here

Do social entrepreneurs make money?

A social entrepreneur's business outlook
A social entrepreneur’s business outlook – Image Credit:

Successful social entrepreneurs have to balance between doing good and making money. This dualist nature of social entrepreneurship requires that you balance between social strategies and commercial value.

If you are running a commercial operation together with social projects, you will be on your way to making money.

Social entrepreneurs make money because their entities don’t always operate like non-profit organizations (NPOs). On the contrary, social enterprises are self-sustaining as they need to pay bills, salaries, loans, and other costs, as opposed to relying on donations and volunteers.

You can earn money by running a hybrid non-profit venture. This model includes the sale of quality goods and services to cover operating costs.

Statistics by a 2017 report by Norwich University Online show that US-based social enterprises make an income of about $1 million per year, while 25 percent of these ventures earn less than $100,000 over the same period.

These figures confirm that you can make a living out of running a social venture. You only have to start and don’t quit.


Social enterprises are driven more by a philanthropic desire to address social problems while making money to cover costs.

To run a successful social enterprise, you should be innovative, have the passion and the desire to solve the community’s needs, be a team player, and pursue your ideas persistently. To operate profitably or to break even, launch a hybrid non-profit venture. 

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Victoria Munyi
Victoria Munyi
Victoria is a seasoned SEO content writer and copywriter with proven experience in creating unique, insightful, and engaging content for a wide range of audiences that ranks high on search engines.

She is also a personal finance coach who will help you manage your money better by reducing wastage and identifying opportunities to grow your income. Follow her on her social media pages where she talks about personal finance and business growth strategies.
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