Social entrepreneurs are people who start a business with the intent to donate profits to a social cause, create a new product, service, or a new approach to a social problem. In other words, any time an entrepreneur engages in work specifically to help a community problem, organization or the world at large.
One of the biggest comments I hear from you is that you want to make a difference in your world. You have the heart. You have the drive. You just don’t know how to get started.
There are several ways you might become interested in social entrepreneurship. Your personal experiences often reveal problems and injustices. Maybe someone in your life has gotten ill and it sparked a passion in you to do something to help. Sometimes in school, you learn about problems in the world. Maybe in doing research for your school projects or essays, you come up with what you think is an idea on how to solve a problem in your local community. Let’s see a couple of examples.
A young girl in Girl Scouts that I know struggled with adjusting to high school. So, she has decided that for her Gold Award project (the highest honor in Girl Scouts and one that requires many hours devoted to addressing community problems) she would like to create a peer mentor program in her high school that matches mentors with students who are struggling to fit in as she did.
A local boy noticed that his community had many homeless people. He loved gardening with his parents and with their help he created a plan for a community garden co-op that would grow their own food to help feed the homeless in his community. People sign up each summer to tend to their own personal garden within the cooperative. The food that is grown is harvested and donated to local shelters that help feed the homeless.
Social Entrepreneurship doesn’t necessarily have to be as extensive as these projects mentioned though. It can be simply starting a business and donating some of your profits to a charity or cause you believe in. If you are a crafty person, you can make a product to sell at local vendor fairs or even in online shops such as Etsy.
If you are a teen (or a parent of a teen), a great place to start when it comes to social entrepreneurship is to start volunteering locally. Look around your community for places you can volunteer. Elementary schools often need volunteers to help young kids learning to read. Libraries usually need volunteers to reshelve books. Nursing homes love having teens come and spend time with their residents.
There are many community organizations that are looking for volunteers. Look at websites such as Volunteen Nation, which was actually founded by teenager Simone Bernstein. Sites like Simone’s list volunteer opportunities for adults as well as teens. Try to find volunteer opportunities where you have the most interest. If you love gardening, as the boy in my example above does, see if you can find a nursing home where you can help plant flowers or a vegetable garden. If your family is very sports-minded, maybe you can find a community organization that donates sports equipment to low-income schools. You could volunteer to collect equipment and make repairs before donating. Use your imagination. Anything you have interest in can be turned into volunteering.
It’s important to volunteer within your community before you start a socially conscious business. It will give you great insight into the issues happening in your community. It’s also a great way to network with experts who mentor you and give you great information to help you in your future work. Another benefit of volunteering in your community is that you will get front line access to the people who need your help. Talk to them. Find out what they need most. Find out where the gaps are in services currently available and fill that gap.
I know that many of you feel like a teen can’t make much of a difference, but I encourage you to look around the internet. There are lots of examples of teens making a difference. From donating profits to starting non-profits, you can, with supportive parents and mentors, do a whole lot more than you might think.
Mission Possible is a new course coming soon that takes you step by step through the process of starting a business that can make a difference in your community or world!