If you care about solving problems, chances are social business entrepreneurship is for you. But what are the keys to ensuring that your problem-solving efforts are not in vain? A great idea can be a great idea, but to see it tested, validated, and implemented is another thing entirely. Here are seven questions that we have seen, from across our network of social business entrepreneurs, both inside and outside the sports sector.
1. What are your values?
Having these established at the outset is important. They will be the guiding lines along your track, helping to prevent you from veering or drifting. They will also be the fabric that connects you to your team and guides your mutual decision-making.
2. Are you prepared for the lifestyle?
The road to getting a business to be self-sustaining takes time and being okay with trial and error as you refine and grow. There are lifestyle choices that implicate the successful launch and longevity of your social business. Stress management, time away from family, and finances are amongst the few considerations to take into account.
3. Why are you doing this?
A social business is a business that solves one or more social and/or environmental problems. Inherent in getting one going is knowing “why” — “what problem are you trying to solve?” needs to be answered, but beyond that, we also encourage answer “why does solving the problem matter to you?”, and “how much?” Clarity of purpose and the degree to which it motivates you are essential to keep you going and realize the solution you set out to achieve.
4. Have you talked to the people for whom you want to create a solution?
In traditional business and social business alike, you are not designing a product, service, or experience for you. You’re designing it to solve a problem for someone. Whether that is a commercial or lifestyle problem (as with many traditional businesses), or a social or environmental challenge (as with social businesses, there is an end-user. And in the case of social business, it means a customer and a beneficiary, sometimes mutually exclusive. Before starting a social business, talk to the people most impacted by the problem you’ve identified. They’ll help validate the degree to which a solution you imagine is needed, and should help shape the design of your unique value proposition.
5. What will it take to really solve the problem?
Another way to approach this question is to pose to yourself, what will “success” look like for my social business? If money comes to mind before the solution, pause, and re-evaluate. Does it need to be financially sustainable? And is money important? Unquestionably. In addition, mapping the resources is a big part of the equation. But success should mean solutions. The money is a means to a problem-solving end.
6. What are the things that you cannot do alone, yet are required to achieve success?
Conducting a personal SWOT analysis is a great approach here. What are your strengths, the things you know you can do, or reasonably develop a skillset in to achieve a solution? And what are you not able to do? If I see that a social problem is a lack of access to affordable healthcare, and my solution entails making such a service available to low-income people, I would not be able to administer the healthcare support myself, nor would I really go about obtaining a medical degree to do so. Rather, I’d identify operating partners to build with me. These questions are important to bear in mind because they determine the type of teammates you need to bring on board.
7. Do you have a support network?
We’ve made it clear above: entrepreneurship is no easy feat, but it can be incredibly rewarding and replete with joy, especially when done in service to a greater social cause. To make that happen, a support system helps. Having a network of fellow social entrepreneurs arm-in-arm with you who are likewise trialing-and-erroring; people with whom to exchange resources, opportunities, ideas; a group to celebrate successes with and who will advocate for your brand through their own channels; people passionate about and working towards the same goals whose experience you too can learn from. This is the type of support that can keep you motivated and on-track, even when you feel like throwing in the towel.
How is it for you to answer these questions? Did one or any leave you asking yourself more questions?
If so, there’s a community to help with that.
At YEH, we believe that everyone can be an entrepreneur and can make a difference. A dedicated community can help make it happen. Connect with fellow social business entrepreneurs in the Yunus Environment Hub’s Social Business community.