Merriam-Webster defines an entrepreneur as “one who organizes, manages and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” Even before an organization is launched, the entrepreneur is engaged in each of these activities in support of his or her vision.
As we have spent the past weeks, and perhaps in some cases months or even years, organizing our ideas for changing the world into clear, articulable plans, we have experienced the challenging sensation of imagining WHY we want to engage in enterprise, HOW we will do so, and WHAT activities we will undertake in support of the WHY and HOW. The contemplation and planning that go into creating a business that previously existed only in the brain of the entrepreneur can be overwhelming. In addition to internal organizing (of one’s thoughts and ideas), the entrepreneur is also charged with creating an organization, an entity that will function to effectively and efficiently serve its stated purposes. We have had much discussion about differing forms of organization; for-profit corporation, non-profit corporation, etc, but rather than focus on the legal and financial composition of the organization, the social entrepreneur focuses on the driving force, the ethical impetus for doing what it is he or she does; not the “how” but the “why.
Moving from idea to implementation requires a social entrepreneur to manage their time, energy, and resources (financial, mental, physical, emotional). As we delve deeper into what it will take to make our visions come to life, we have to be able to assess what investments are worthwhile and which are irrelevant to our overall goals or guiding principles. David Bornstein speaks of designing real solutions for real people; that is, ensuring that the enterprise actually meets the needs of the intended population. He advises social entrepreneurs to listen to the needs of their intended customers/clients/constituents and craft solutions to the real observable needs, not those that the entrepreneurs may have imagined to be of most importance.
Attempting to embark on any business endeavor is a daunting task. How will I support myself while I’m trying to get this thing off the ground? Who will join me on this adventure? If we build it, will they, in fact, come? What happens when it’s time to transition from start-up to sustainability? All independent business ventures involve inherent risk, but what sets the social entrepreneur, and each of us, apart, is the strength of conviction and the willingness to embrace the risks, because the pressing nature of the need in society feels not only important, but also URGENT. The process of developing a social enterprise: the tackling of the finite tasks of writing a mission statement, establishing specific measurable goals, researching those who have attempted to tackle the problem before, planning for fiscal health and sustainability, anticipating challenges, only serves to strengthen a true social entrepreneur’s resolve. The process has served to further illuminate the need…the more you delve into the details of a problem, the more moved you MUST be to take bold action.