Why Consumers Need Social Entrepreneurs to Act on Identified Social Problems
The world is full of all kinds of problems and I believe that it should be in the best interest of any individual to help solve a problem. Social entrepreneurship ideas have enabled me to see the more important side of the business that not only concerns myself but the well-being of potential consumers. To me, starting a business is more than making profits.
While enrolled in Dr. Justis’s UGBA 192E Social Entrepreneurship class here at UC Berkeley, I have learned about why I want to set out and start a social enterprise. From the many assigned readings to the interaction and hearing of ideas with fellow classmates, I have expanded my thought process about putting ideas out in the public and hearing all types of criticism and feedback. In this article, I will convey what I think “success” is within a business and why having a mission and a social purpose is the most ideal version of pursuing profits.
Business is more than a profit for one of many reasons — there are social ends that need to be met in this world. An entrepreneur should not be entirely concerned with profits, instead, they should be promoting social ends with a business-like discipline. Pursuing and promoting a social purpose means having a mission statement and revolving a business model around your purpose. While pursuing a goal to make ends meet, you must engage with the problem you are trying to solve and you must hear what your potential customers require — essentially finding a new and better way to do things. Filling in the missing piece or building on a good product to make it a great product. Innovating something new that draws the attention of one or a few people who can recognize the potential in your idea beyond what has already been done. Although there are many successful social enterprises, I wanted to put the spotlight on a few companies to show you how missions have led to worldwide social impacts.
In this post, I will be elaborating on my thoughts on why the future of solving social issues is more than earning a profit.
In this first case, I will be discussing the brilliance in placing light and renewable energy in parts of the world that need social entrepreneurs help.
According to a 2012 CNN article about solar lamps replacing kerosene, 20% “at least 20% of the planet’s inhabitants are still without the simple luxury of a light-switch.”. According to a 2012 CNN article about solar lamps replacing kerosene, 20% “at least 20% of the planet’s inhabitants are still without the simple luxury of a light-switch.”. As of 2017, an estimated 500 million households are still using kerosene.
MPOWERD, a solar light company, recognized that there are over three billion living without access to clean, reliable, or affordable energy, and in doing something about this epidemic, they developed a product to help solve the scarcity of resources and the economic differences when using lanterns instead of kerosene. In response to this worldwide issue, MPOWERD developed Luci Solar Lights to combat deficiency of lighting in predominantly underdeveloped parts of the world such as Africa, Asia, Europe, North, Central, and South America.
The important aspect of MPOWERD to recognize is the fact that as a business they do sell their products but they are also combating social issues on top of selling their product. While innovating a product, MPOWERD has considered surrounding environments as well. Their purpose is more than just selling a product but also giving children light so that they can study, give women light so they can walk outside at night, prevent air pollution by reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and also inspiring others to take action and make the right decision.
Spreading the word and informing others to identify a problem and a potential issue is what I believe creates social wellness in any entrepreneur. Being able to inspire and inform others to take on a social problem is what social entrepreneurship does for today’s society. If more people sought out to help others and have an impact on society, environment, or atmosphere, investors may find interests in your mission. Getting your ideas heard and hearing what potential like-minded individuals may think about your idea can get the ball rolling on your business. If you spread your ideas and talk to others about your concerns, there may be other individuals who may be attracted to your idea. Being vocal and accepting other ideas is something that I have found to be very important when planning my social enterprise.
As part of its mission, MPOWERD has focused on gender equality, education, entrepreneurship, safety, health, economic empowerment, disaster relief, and community. What MPOWERD has done is covered many social issues in their business which is an important factor of how they have scaled their business. Having focused on many social issues, MPOWERD has taken an idea that has existed and expanded its innovation across different spectrums of business.
MPOWERD observes the direct effects of their products by enhancing the lives of people who live in poverty. Now families feel a sense of security.
In this next case, I will analyze the great effect of social media and technology as a way of spreading new ideas that solve a social problem.
Color blindness occurs in 1 in every 12 men and 1 in every 200 women across the world.
Take Enchroma, a company that makes eyewear for color-blind individuals. Although EnChroma is a for-profit social enterprise, whose mission is “to make a meaningful contribution to the human experience through boundary-breaking color vision science and technologies”, by social media posts and videos, EnChroma has proved to non-users how their products have impacted customers, dramatically.
Through social media and news outlets, EnChroma has shown millions on the internet how their customers react to their product by testing them out for a video clip. The amount of exposure and internet attention that videos have created for EnCrhoma’s business may be why some people like myself may know about EnChroma’s mission. The many product reaction videos that have surfaced the internet has not only made people aware of EnChroma’s products but also their social impacts. EnChroma has proved that they have enhanced a social problem by also identifying the need for their product.
Social entrepreneurial success can be defined by social impact, but how can one measure social impact? Being that today’s marketing and advertising counts on technology, I find media attention to be a huge component of measuring the success of a social enterprise. Whether it’s any news outlet news, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube or other social media platforms, people can be informed about social enterprise success through customers’ reactions or feedback on a product.
As seen in the image above, millions and millions of people have viewed footage of how EnCrhoma’s products have affected their customer’s eyesight. EnChroma has proven that their products are successful in taking one step closer to enhancing eyesight for color-blind individuals. EnChroma has based its research and development around what potential customers would want in eyewear. Focusing your business strategies and mission around your potential customers is an important factor of success in your social enterprise. You will learn more than what you know in your research when hearing feedback and thoughts from customers — engaging with consumers and making them a part of your strategy is what will help build a great product for the masses.
Creating a product or service for the great masses is about targeting the right problem and putting your idea into a solution. Another company that I find incorporates its customers into its business model as an attribute to its success is Revolution Foods.
Founded by Kirsten Tobey and Kristin Richmond, Revolution Foods opened up the world to a new source of healthier school lunches. While Revolution Foods sought new food types and ingredients, they also needed to interact with local schools and survey students and potential clientele. While there is so much to note about Revolution Foods, it is important to note their engagement and understanding of student culture is what contributed to their success.
Engaging with customers and the demographics of people that you want to see change as a result of your enterprise is what I believe can benefit individuals in need. As seen with Revolution Foods’ founder, Kirsten Tobey, she emphasizes that a lot of her business plans and marketing strategies rely on engaging with customers want and the feedback that they provide on a product. In regards to her customer interaction and engagement, Tobey says, “The impact that we have on our customers and our communities is closely integrated with our financial success. We measure impact by seeking aggressive growth in the number of customers, partners, and products in our portfolios, and we hope to build lifelong healthy eaters. We also seek improvements in the overall health of the children we serve over the long-term, increased engagement among school communities on issues related to health, nutrition, and sustainability, and the creation of good jobs for low-income individuals.” (Tyson).
In the end, what I have learned about social entrepreneurship is that there are aspects of a business that must be a priority to you to achieve “success”. Success can be wealth to some but placing a purpose and mission in front of your business is what I find to value success. Being able to complement a social problem that has been identified is what will proceed with your business to move forward.