There are many resources available for entrepreneurs, and increasingly more for social entrepreneurs. Similarly, just as the path for entrepreneurs is challenging, it can be more so for impact focused start ups where the landscape is uncharted and the structures ambiguous. In this two-part post, we share lessons for social entrepreneurs and their start up:
- Don’t recreate the wheel. Many of the readily available resources and lessons in the for-profit start up space will translate in the social sector. One of those ‘basics’ is that you’ll need to refine your pitch for potential investors. While your focus won’t be on financial returns, you will still highlight the returns, just in the language of bettering the human experience. Utilize the free, online resources to help refine your pitch.
- Understand fit. While many traditional investors might be interested in your work and there is an availability of start up incubators, these are likely not going to be a good fit for an impact focused start up whose priority is solving social ills. While there can be alignment on occasion, it creates challenges when the potential for mission and profits butt heads.
- Experience the cause, live in the community, and engage the constituents. One of the first pieces of constructive feedback we hear from incubators and investors is that the founder has no credibility. They have decided that a community would benefit from a product or service that they don’t intimately know and haven’t been a part of. At a minimum, you should try to experience the lives that you are trying to improve, and when that experience isn’t authentic to your narrative, be sure to bring someone to the decision table whose is.
- Know when to step back to step up. Being the founder is an important role. But it’s not the only role in launching a successful start up. Recognize that you will need help and be willing to step back if you aren’t the best to serve in a specific role – even if that’s leading the start up as it grows. And often building a team of key players with specific expertise is also crucial to success in fundraising and beyond.
Stay tuned for next week’s post with four additional lessons for founders starting (or who have recently started) impact-focused start-ups.
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