To me, growing and scaling a social venture is similar to scaling a traditional venture. It takes quality talent and resources to make a difference. Some people think that if an organization has a purpose that is clear and articulated that they will not have problems attracting the pieces that they need to succeed. We’ll explore a few of the forces at work and see if we can discuss some alternative considerations.
Starting with communication, social entrepreneurs do have some advantages in this department. Most social enterprises have a niche and they are sitting on a lot of insight. It pays to share this insight and develop personal brand where necessary. Some common applications of this that I’ve seen success with include getting involved with panel discussions, blogging, and to leverage social media.
For example, at first glance someone might look at my product and think that it is the same as some of my competitors. I make it a priority to spend time explaining the differences and advantages of our bags. A couple of good ways to leverage social media is to use the story features of Instagram and Snapchat as a social entrepreneur. It helps you stand out and gives you plenty of room to create content that help you educate your customers and potential customers about what makes you special.
While there are lots of certification to choose from it is good to know the ones that will matter in terms of your company values. Think about what your customers would want. Importantly think about the type of talent you hope to attract. If you know what outcomes you want to happen then a certification can help you get there. Having a vision always helps you get others to help you build it.
In my case, I knew that the Certified B Corp certification would be very important to helping us scale the types of work that we ultimately wanted to do. It was worth the investment to pursue the certification and in the end it allows us to do more than we could without it. We were already doing a lot of the things that made us a good fit for the certification but it helped us organize ourselves in a way to have a greater impact. The takeaway is that by doing the right thing you’ll attract like minds and strengthen your social enterprise’s growth prospect in the process.
A great move to attract resources is to collaborate. It is not uncommon that any entrepreneur might want to spend time with their product or service, not engaging with other enterprises or like-minded individuals. The reality is that there are groups and organizations (formal and informal) that can allow you to show what you are working on and that can get you some opportunities to attract some of the things you are looking for. Looking in communities that you are apart of is a great place to start. When you reach out you already have something in common and you can build rapport from there.
I found a lot of opportunities by reaching out to like-minded companies that I had advice or content creation ideas for. This lead to countless business results and gives a wonderful opportunity to engage in the community. When you engage with communities you also build your influence and thought leadership. This can be a great way to leverage personal brand to help make things happen for your social enterprise.
Taking a lot of pictures and videos of your journey can prove to be invaluable. The pace of the internet today let’s everyone join the digital conversation where relationships can be scaled. Taking pictures of where your social enterprise is on a daily routine gives you a wonderful resource to attract attention. If you are looking for interns, executives, or partners, having a strong presence that includes photography or video will help personalize your company.
I was not comfortable in the beginning sharing what seemed to be simple business tasks or everyday views into my world. I learned that these were the content pillars that are most appropriate for a company like mine. There’s no greater time to make your own show or journal online. You can use apps like Medium, Instagram, or Twitter to link your work or portfolio. You can break this content down into native pieces of content that is respectful to the individual communities where you are sharing it. Engage with the community and it will give you a lot back in return for your social entrepreneurship goals.
A lot of entrepreneurs are spending time waiting for opportunities instead of inspiring them. Sometimes it takes a handshake or introduction to get things going. Don’t be afraid to be told no. It’s a great way to find out if people are looking for opportunities that you can offer. Whether it is an investment opportunity for an impact investment or a product that solves a problem for a larger enterprise business you can make a lot happen by reaching out.
I spent time mapping out companies that were in my industry or around my industry and I reached out to get them to know who I was. For everyone that actually knew what I was doing I knew I had a good chance of making something happen. Do this enough and exciting opportunities will find you. The trick is to still chase down opportunities and to set a time of day for doing this collaborative work.
If you can be an example of a practitioner for audiences that you want to inspire do it by taking the action. Spend time organizing events and meet ups that allow you to position your social enterprise as the host. You will be able to make better outcomes as a result. If you can speak to people be a keynote speaker or give a guest lecture. Share your knowledge on things you did.
I speak and give workshops to give value. I know that this is the right thing to do. Not only does it feel good it is a great way to get inbound leads for tons of help and resources that I would have never been able to tap if I hadn’t put myself in a position to give and receive.
Last thing you want to do is audit. What do you do well? How can you be of value? Do you have time, dollars, both? Look for ways that you can give and be proactive. Do things that will allow you to be your best version of yourself. You’ll get a lot of introductions to the types of people that might be in to your product or service naturally. You’ll find yourself serving in organizations and sharing hobbies. This can lead to serendipity and getting more leverage for you in the long run.
I often play to my strengths. I don’t spend a lot of time trying to solve problems I’m not good at or that I’m not uniquely qualified to solve. I stick to the basics. I try to do the simple things well. The bags we make from recycled plastic bottles are not the most difficult things in the world to create but I realize the supply chain and impact is not so easy. To me it comes natural so I’m comfortable working in the space. You have to do what’s right for you.
We talked about the advantages that we have as social entrepreneurs to attract and retain talent. The window for opportunity is getting wider for social enterprises. Young people with experience are seeking to get involved and to even start their own thing. Take some time to get your vision in front of more people and you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish. For every bag we sell we reduce waste, cut carbon emissions, conserve water – and create jobs. Don’t worry, we’ll do all the hard work. If you found any value in this post I’d invite you to follow our journey at hamiltonperkins.com.
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Hamilton Perkins is the founder and President of Hamilton Perkins Collection, a certified B Corporation, offering designer travel bags at an affordable price, while holding the highest standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.