Could your business work for social good?
By TRISOFT team
Usually, the world of business revolves around one thing: profit. Most entrepreneurs start off from an idea, expand it and work toward achieving their end goal — selling enough of their product to make a decent, if not luxurious living.
But then, there are the so-called social businesses, which focus more on people rather than profitability. They are born from a desire to solve a social problem, to help those in need or save the planet, while reinvesting at least half of the income into this chosen charitable cause. Instead of maximizing profits for shareholders and owners, they contribute to the welfare of the community in general or the underprivileged in particular.
Charity and non-profit organizations also strive to do good and help people, but social businesses are different from charities through the fact that they rely on selling products or services in order to make money, and not on donations, contributions and volunteering. Traditional companies can also stem from the desire to address a social need, but the difference is the motivation behind the idea — financial profitability versus social and environmental profitability, namely making an impact or a dramatic social change.
Creating a business to help others is an admirable endeavor, yet it’s neither easy, nor straightforward. But if you are determined to try and make a difference in this world through an unconventional method such as this, here are some tips that can help you get going:
1. Find the „why”
First of all, find the motivation that drives you forward and can fill a gap in the market. Follow your passion, since it’s a lot more fun to do something you enjoy, but also examine areas in your community that can be improved and could use your magic touch. Investigate the domain and research potential customers, your target audience and its preferences, seek ways to engage the community and use all the knowledge you gain to your advantage. Make a thorough plan and put it into action, launching the business and deciding where the initial funding will come from: self-funding, community participation (co-ops), crowdfunding or loans. The results should cover the initial investment and then make enough income to keep the business going. Request feedback and assess the impact you are making regularly, and as the company grows, identify the manner in which it will affect you and your objectives.
2. Be open to pro bono
One way in which you can help people through your business is accepting a number or a percentage of pro bono clients: if you are a lawyer and usually represent people for a substantial fee, consider offering your services to poor women trying to get restraint orders against their abusers, parents fighting for custody of their children, people trying to get their houses back from the bank, etc. It also works in the field of medicine, consultancy, education, almost anything you can think of.
3. The right kind of marketing
Market your product or service to people with the means to buy them, but tell them that the cost they are paying helps you offer that service for free to others who cannot afford it. A priest in Romania built a bakery where he sells bread to the local community, but for every bread that the townsmen buy, he gives another one for free to families with many children, who barely have food to put on the table. The business is thriving, without ensuring any profit for the priest — anything he gains from the sold breads goes into the ingredients for the donated ones. The priest is fulfilling a lifelong desire and the ultimate purpose of his existence, and people prefer to buy from his bakery, because they know that in this small manner, they too have helped those in need.
4. Provide employment
Another manner of helping your community is providing employment for challenged groups, such as troubled teenagers, former drug addicts, ex-convicts or people with handicap, who would otherwise have a hard time finding work and thus providing for themselves or their families. Thus, you are also helping them by building skills they will use for the rest of their lives, maybe even in other workplaces, and while they are with you, you can use the profit brought by their work toward paying their salary, offering them training courses or social betterment programs.
5. Find food
Here’s another one: open a social store — conclude contracts with large companies, take the food they cannot otherwise sell, for various reasons (approaching expiration dates, dented cans, product mislabeling) and offer it to low-income community members for free or at a discounted price. In western countries, supermarkets and large businesses are required by law to donate these products to the impoverished.
6. Find water
Convince a third world community to donate their time and energy into water purification or rendering a territory ecologically sound. The initial funds can be obtained through traditional charitable methods or the community can be partial owner of the equipment/tools/entire enterprise. Ongoing costs for maintaining and staffing the water station or land cleaning team will come from the sale of purified water to other beneficiaries, through agriculture based on clean water and land, or even tourism.
7. Encourage local producers
Start an online marketplace where small artists and artisans can sell their products to the world. A simple platform that allows them to manage their products directly will help the craftsmen come into direct contact with their customers. Revenue can be acquired by charging a fee from the artist, via a commission on the goods sold, or a premium fee from the buyer who wants to browse and explore what the creators have to offer. The generated profit can be used for the benefit of the artisan communities.
Be a better inhabitant of our planet
As you can see, there are oh so many ways in which social enterprises actively improve the lives of people and can sustain the welfare of our planet. Their aim is to have a social mission and make a social impact. This model of doing business is rapidly growing worldwide, with necessities ever increasing and people’s awareness being heightened and called to action.
At TRISOFT, we encourage you to get started on helping the world become a better place, find your passion, your calling, the thing that spurs you to proceed and react, make a plan and turn it into reality. The planet will owe you one.