5 Steps to Starting a Social Enterprise for Extreme Affordability
Social entrepreneurship is defined by Skoll Center for Social Entrepreneurship as “the practice of combining innovation, resourcefulness and opportunity to address critical social and environmental challenges.” Paul Polak goes even further and postulates how business solutions are necessary to solving the issue of poverty. He believes that if you innovate with the population who lives on less than 1$ a day, you can empower them and help reduce poverty. We have taken ideas from his book The Business Solutions to Poverty by Paul Polak and Mal Warwick that can help any social entrepreneur begin their venture.
1. Identify a Problem: The first step to business entrepreneurship also holds true to social entrepreneurship. You must clearly identify the problem you see, to effectively brainstorm solutions. If you wish to be a social entrepreneur this problem should be a social problem that you’re looking to solve. Bridge for Billions entrepreneur, Adeloye Olanrewaju of Safermom, noticed that Nigeria was one of the countries with the highest case of maternal and newborn deaths in the world, and he set out to solve this problem. Anup Som, of Clozin, identified regions such as India, Africa, China and the Middle East, that do not hold universal address and location systems, incapacitating their ability to be located by emergency services and integrated into globalised society.
2. Interview your Client Base- It is imperative to fully understand your customers in order to implement a truly effective social enterprise. This requires many hours of research and interaction with your supposed client base. You have to be equipped to understand exactly their needs are, and why they’re not satisfied by the current options available to them. Having a clear view of who your customers are and more importantly knowing what exactly they need in order to solve this problem, are necessary steps in developing your social enterprise. You must understand what they’re willing to pay, and why, as well as the key features that have drawn them into this price bracket.
3. Start Designing- It is only after you have this clear vision of the problem you’re trying to solve that you can begin to develop your product. When designing your product or service you must keep in mind the information you have gathered from your research. Make sure to keep in mind all the different requirements that your customers have outlined.
4. Ruthless Affordability- It is necessary for you to keep affordability at the top of your priority list when designing your product. If you really want to solve a social problem, you have to make your idea available to those who need it most and are disenfranchised with the alternatives. Remember, there are times where it is acceptable to sacrifice things such as aesthetics and design if doing so would save you significant amounts of money and give you a greater competitive advantage. You must keep the resources available to your customers at the forefront of your mind.
5. Last-Mile Distribution- One of the biggest difficulties especially when working in developing countries is reaching your intended audience. In many places around the world there is no FedEX or UPS to get your product to its more remote areas. So you must consider this when considering how to distribute your product or service to your intended audience. You have to figure out how to get your product as close to your intended customers as possible, which is another challenge you can face when trying to reach those who need your services the most.
At Bridge for Billions, we identified the problem of the lack of support and access to resources for most of the world’s entrepreneurs. There are only 9000 business incubators globally for 136 million new entrepreneurs every year, they are mostly located in big cities and can be overly competitive or unaffordable for many. We developed a solution to this problem by designing a three-month incubation program, affordable and online. We provide entrepreneurs with the business tools to create a solid business plans and the mentoring necessary to improve upon their ideas. To learn more about how we can help you, check us out on at bridgeforbillions.org, Facebook, and Twitter!