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Business With A Purpose: Three Things I’ve Learned As A Social Impact Entrepreneur

As a corporate lawyer, I’d always been fascinated by entrepreneurship.  The process of starting a company seemed – at least, from my perspective – an incredibly creative act: looking for a problem, and then designing an idea to solve it.  But it wasn’t until I moved into the field of social impact that I discovered a genuine, personal passion for entrepreneurship.  Here’s why – and why the next generation of entrepreneurs should consider a social impact mission for their own business ventures.

Social impact is a way to blend business expertise with a meaningful mission

In many ways, social entrepreneurs get the best of both worlds.  They’re able to use their business skill-set (for example, market identification and validation; marketing and design; scaling and fundraising), but they’re also able to identify a particular focus – one that has real meaning and importance.  For many entrepreneurs, this social impact focus gives rise to new energy, persistence and determination.  Knowing there’s a strong purpose behind your work can inspire you to continue, even when the journey gets tough.

Social impact ventures also benefit from enhanced community and customer support, if they’re able to communicate their social mission effectively.  In a world that increasingly focuses on social issues, a new market opportunity is opening up for companies that are ready to take it.

Focusing on social value can produce more sustainable business models

Instead of responding to passing trends, or trying to maximise profits as rapidly as possible, social entrepreneurs have an opportunity to reflect on their choice of business model.  For many social impact businesses, the pursuit of profit is secondary to the actual community value, or the socially-driven mission.  In the long term, this shift in focus can work in favour of social impact ventures.  While other businesses are at risk of fast market changes or industry disruption, businesses with a social purpose have a chance to work on longer-lasting problems in a more gradual, sustainable way.

Value metrics become more important

Instead of traditional metrics – focusing on units sold, or user engagement, or revenue growth – social impact entrepreneurs might focus on impact, community benefits, or long-term change.  Although value metrics of this nature can be a little more difficult to measure (at least from a traditional corporate perspective), they can actually indicate social development on a long-term basis.

In addition, a growing number of companies are adopting CSR targets, or making binding commitments to social impact (demonstrated by initiatives like the growing B Corp movement).  Social entrepreneurs have an opportunity to lead this movement towards a new way of doing business, one in which all corporations are encouraged to consider their social impact from the very beginning.  And, personally, this is a change I’m excited to be a part of.

Eloise Skinner is an entrepreneur, author and writer.  She is the founder of social impact consultancy The Purpose Workshop, and ed-tech start-up One Typical Day.  Find her on her website here, or on LinkedIn here.

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