Originally posted at Michipreneur.com. Michipreneur is an online publication built to empower entrepreneurs, encourage investment, strengthen small business, and foster talent retention in Michigan. We publish news, resources, events, funding information and more for Michigan startups and businesses.
I will preface the next section with encouragement for any aspiring entrepreneur: tap into the experiences of other entrepreneurs before making the big leap into founding an enterprise – social or otherwise. As an entrepreneur, you will find that talking to people is one of the most essential of your responsibilities. You will be the social butterfly you never thought or wanted to be. So begin your journey by living vicariously through as many people as you can and reflect on how their lessons apply to your life. If you are struggling to find such individuals in your social circle, then get online and read articles (there are thousands) on how/when/why to start a business and then reach out to the authors, post comments, etc., just be proactive.
Now, here are some thoughts on what to consider before launching your social enterprise.
1. What are you passionate about and why?
Spending time reflecting on your answers to these questions is not an exercise in futility and existentialism. By exploring the depths of your responses, you will begin to reposition your perspective closer to the problem you are passionate about.
An actionable way to dig into these questions is by getting out of your brain and onto paper. Create an outline, a mind map, flowchart, or a SWOT matrix – all of which are easily searchable online and incredibly user-friendly. Once you have brain dumped on a topic, you can dig deeper on certain aspects of the map, but this exercise is also a great point of reference as you move forward in your business.
2. Is this passion an actual problem for people? If so, who?
Often we lose sight of the essence of a problem simply because our passion blinds us and life experience or privilege can alter our perspectives and assumptions.
Two things here:
You do not have to be a part of your target market to understand the problem you are trying to solve.
Point 1, however, is not a pass on doing the hard work to understand your target market and validate your assumptions about them, the problem you are trying to solve for them, and, most importantly, if they want and need this help.
At this point, consider pairing down your mind map into a few actionable problem statements (or even hypothesis/assumptions about problems that exist). From there you can jump online and do some preliminary research. Again, get good at talking to people – soak up the opinions of others and begin to broaden your perspective.
3. What experience do you have around your passion, the problem you are trying to solve, or the group you seek to help?
You don’t have to be a female artisan in India to understand their challenges with access to micro-finance and a broader market (only naming two here…). But you might have experience with e-commerce platforms and a familiarity with global markets. Pair your passion with your talents. Which is also a great way to vet your mind map and identify actionable ideas for which you can develop to solve a problem.
Note: There is a difference between capacity and experience. Your capacity to do something – i.e. the resources you have at your disposal and the reality of your situation – is much different than your ability to do something – all things considered. I will save capacity for another discussion, but to get in front of it is to ground your thought process in a practical appreciation for the magnitude of what you are trying to accomplish.
4. Do you expect to make a lot of money?
While profit and mission are not mutually exclusive, you should know the primary purpose of a social enterprise is to deliver a social benefit through a sustainable business model. This often means that decisions are made with careful consideration to how such decision will impact the bottom line and the mission – they go hand in hand. All of which means that business decisions will likely never be made with a sole purpose of maximizing profit.