Thinking about launching your Social Enterprise?
Shannon French, co-founder of Wild Timor Coffee, Lospalos Coconut Oil and Rhino Horn Coffee, shares some inside tips.
1. Don't be scared of earning a profit.
"If you're not making a profit, how will you be motivated when you're broke?" Shannon emphasises. (Example: Wild Timor Coffee operates on a "Profit-for-Purpose" model - we give back out of generated profit from a business that can stand on its own feet rather than relying solely on the support and generosity of others.)
2. Don't be afraid of failure.
Take ownership of failures and learn from them. Success is being able to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm. Some mistakes might be irreparable, but most will be good learning tools. "It's going to be hard- if you aren't prepared to take hits, and lots of them, then don't do it."
3. Don't give handouts.
"Give a man a fish..."
Surprising though it may seem, turning up to a developing community and giving away things for free is not always the best solution. It's more helpful and sustainable to teach others new skills that will enable them to succeed. "Be fair, but firm. If you go in and you let everyone walk all over you, it will never end. It's important to be aware of how things work differently in other circles, especially in another culture. I thought in the past, if I do something nice for someone they will treat me well in return; but not everyone operates on the same value system."
Educating a community about how to keep a business running so that they can do it themselves, rather than doing it for them, saves a lot of time- and everyone learns something.
4. Have financial backup.
"We had saved up money from the army, and I had my Dad's business I could fall back on. You do need money."
It may take your social enterprise some time to get off the ground and start turning over a profit. Don't be discouraged- but be prepared.
5. Learn to network.
You might need to change your attitude if you aren't a "people person". Making connections is key to getting your business out there to the people that have a genuine desire to help.
"The person sitting next to you at the bar might be someone involved in the shipping industry that can help you out! (true story.)"