Starting a business can be one of the most exciting ventures anyone can undertake. You get to watch something that starts out as scribbles in a notebook or an idea batted around between friends, form into a viable and life-changing business. If you’re a social entrepreneur, as your social enterprise starts to take off, you’ll get to reap the rewards of seeing the real and lasting impact that your idea has on the people you’re aiming to support.
However, as fulfilling as starting a social enterprise is working tirelessly on setting up a not-for-profit business can be isolating. Most people work long hours on their social enterprise from their home, which means they don’t have as much free time to socialise or have a team of colleagues around them to sound ideas off of. This is especially the case at the start of launching a social enterprise when you won’t have the money or resources to hire a team, as most early-stage social entrepreneurs are one-man bands who take on everything from logistics and business planning to marketing and pitching.
As well as being a lonely process, setting up a social enterprise is also extremely overwhelming. Even the most seasoned social entrepreneurs need support from other people, whether that’s getting feedback on a pitch, finding where local investment opportunities are or just sense-checking areas of the business that you may have neglected to focus your time on.
We’ve put together a guide on where social entrepreneurs can go to find support with their business, including help with the practical sides of running a social enterprise and places you can go to find a community of like-minded individuals. You’ll never feel like you’re alone in your social enterprise journey again!
Find your tribe
It can be easy to slip into a trap of feeling like you’re alone in your mission and that there’s no one to turn to for help. Although friends and family members can offer moral support, unless they’re also a budding social entrepreneur, they’re less likely to be able to provide the practical advice on running a social enterprise that you need.
This is where finding a local network of social entrepreneurs comes in. Searching for meetup groups, local collectives and networking opportunities in your area will not only give you opportunities to ask questions of others and learn about where you can access funding and pitching events, but you’ll also get to meet people who are in the same situation as you and can empathise with the hard parts of starting a social enterprise. We recommend starting to build your network by looking for local groups on Meetup or Facebook, local networking events on Eventbrite or social enterprise communities on Reddit.
Online guides and resources
Unless you studied a relevant course at college, you won’t have been taught about social enterprises at school so everything you need to learn about how to set up a social enterprise, you’ll have to find out for yourself. Luckily, there’s a richness of content available to help you learn everything you need to get started with your enterprise, build on your early success and expand your idea into a full-blown change-making phenomenon.
One of the best places to start is with online guides you can download and refer back to. Some of the best ones we’ve found are from Moving Worlds, a global platform that connects people from all sectors to build a more sustainable planet and Net Impact, a platform that encourages social investment leaders.
As we’ve already mentioned, you are definitely not on your own in starting a social enterprise. There are social enterprise enthusiasts from across the globe who are willing to share their wisdom with the world. Starting with YouTube, content creator Amber Melanie Smith runs a channel that looks specifically at issues facing people who are starting out creating a social enterprise or not-for-profit and Silicon Valley Girl creates videos about starting businesses which are also applicable for social entrepreneurs.
While some advice on social media shouldn’t be taken as gospel, social media apps can be one of the quickest ways to find advice or more information about how to build on your social enterprise. On TikTok, #socialentrepreneurship has 12.3 million views and #socialenterprise has 32.1 million views, so if you want to find out more about something relating to starting a social enterprise, it’s likely you’ll be able to find one.
Funding and mentoring support
There are times when nothing can replace face-to-face mentoring and support. As the number of social enterprises grows and the impact that they’re having on the world becomes more apparent, more funding sources emerge as organisations are keen to invest in the next big social enterprise. There’s a collection of around 40 funding sources you can pitch to on the Social Impact Guide or you can apply for Accelerator programmes like Clean Tech Open (specifically for technology focussed enterprises), Conscious Venture Lab or our own programme at Her Me Now, which provides specific support for female-owned social enterprises. Accelerator programmes offer a combination of funding opportunities and mentoring, so if you’re after longer-term help then an Accelerator might be the option for you.
Or maybe you’re a fully-funded social entrepreneur but what you need is someone to guide you through the tricky parts of starting a social enterprise. One of the amazing things about the social enterprise community is the lack of gatekeeping. Anyone who has set up a social enterprise knows how tough it can be, and are only too happy to help the next generation of social entrepreneurs. The Mentoring Club has mentors based all over the world who each have different areas of expertise. Whether you’re looking for support with marketing and communications, refining your USP or just need someone to hold you accountable, they’ll likely be someone in their network who can help.