Succeed in social enterprise

Following our Introducing Social Enterprise event on 26 March, Sinéad Mc Brearty (far left) and Virginia Gardiner (far right) and have put together their top tips for Social Entrepreneurs including guidance on funding, and recommended reading. They are shown above with event Chair Laura-Jane Silverman (centre).

From Virginia...

  • Consider your motivation. Whatever it is, you’ll need a lot. Another way to think about this, consider what sustains your mind. It has to be a sustaining motivation, the kind that stays interesting. If your business is not built around complex systems and challenges, you might get bored and run out of steam.
  • Do something worthwhile. Try to pursue projects that will have a positive impact on the world, and evaluate this regularly. Don’t let people steer you away from what you think fulfills this. If people do try, don’t listen to them. If your project isn’t doing some good, you’re likely lose motivation.
  • Don’t be naïve. If you are at the Royal College of Art, and/or spend most of your time with artists, makers, engineers, or ‘ideas people,’ you probably don’t think the world is full of people who will try to take advantage of you. It is. Be very careful of who you engage with your work and how you engage them, and don’t sign anything without consulting a lawyer who has your best interests at heart.
  • Find a good team. Work with people who share your values and your motivation. In a small startup, everyone needs to be self-starters, to have a broad range of skills, and be prepared to make sacrifices. In a small group, you probably should not just be a boss who delegates tasks, but work in a team where everyone has roles and responsibilities.
  • Be ready to try everything. Don’t fall into the idea that it’s easier to outsource your business plan or your company structuring or your money management—“boring stuff”—to experts. Those things are all much easier to learn than having passion, drive or a good idea. Believe that you can do it, and dive into those tasks as soon

And from Sinéad...

  • Think about all the aspects of your business model, including the cost structure, which  channels you can use to reach your customers, your pricing structure and your key partners.
  • Try to (yawn) understand at least the basics of financial management.
  • Hardwire your social mission to every aspect of your business model…it’s much easier to do this before you start generating lots of revenue.
  • Think about involving a ‘non-executive’ point of view: either formally as a non-exec director, or informally as a trusted mentor. This is a really important relationship, so choose someone you trust.

Listen to a Podcast from Fuel's Introducing Social Enterprise seminar, RCA 26 March 2012 (1 hour, 7 minutes)

Download Fuel's File Note from the event (pdf).

Reading list

Finance & advice

Read about Loowatt's waterless toilet at the Latitude Festival