In a world fraught with intractable social ills and brittle global stability, Social Entrepreneurism (SE) is the practice of starting a business to make money, while simultaneously addressing social problems.
It is a trend that’s heating up and for those OnTrendpreneurs™ — our term for innovative thinkers who are more than entrepreneurs, they find unique, profitable opportunities by staying on top of the trends as they emerge – opportunities are abundant.
For example, film and TV star Mary Stuart Masterson is building a classic SE enterprise called Stockade Works in New York’s Hudson Valley. It melds a for-profit studio production facility with a nonprofit arm, attracting film-related businesses to the area while training locals for film industry jobs.
Co-founder Beth Davenport said: “It’s important that the arts create socially innovative programs, attracting businesses to replace those that left….Our worker-first model has gotten local buy-in because people understand the job creation and training element. Politicians are buying-in, joining with educators and business people to make this happen. We’re making money and training an under-employed workforce.”
MILLENNIALS ARE KEY
Social Entrepreneurism is an emerging on-trend business sector in which savvy, creative thinkers can make their mark as true OnTrendpreneurs™, especially as they serve the interests and needs of millennials.
In the 1800s, idealistic businessmen embraced novel approaches to combine money-making with socially transformative foods. Among these trailblazers were cereal makers J.H. Kellogg and C.W. Post, nutritionist James Jackson (inventor of granula, now known of granola), and Sylvester Graham, inventor of the Graham cracker.
These men sought new foods to feed nutritionally (and they believed morally) starved workers caught up in the Industrial Revolution.
INNOVATIVE FINANCING, TRADE
Today, the concept has bounced from mankind-saving cereal right into the corporate suite. There is a culture emerging from within the SE community that supports itself through innovative, largely self-governed financing, trade and sales practices.
For example, Muhammad Yunus developed his Grameen Bank micro-loan concept, winning the Nobel Prize in 2006. Loaning small amounts to village craft makers in cash-starved East Asia, the idea resulted in sustainable economic development, consistently earning the Bank a 97 percent loan repayment rate.
Fair trade is another branch of SE, now accounting for 2 percent of global sales of major agricultural commodities (€7.88 billion) including coffee, cocoa, tea, fruit, sugar, flowers and handicrafts.
Identified as “fair trade” by certification entities like Fairtrade International, it involves nearly 2 million farmers and workers in 73 countries. They trade with corporations like Nestle, Starbucks, Hershey, and major nonprofit commodity trading entities.
SE fair trade provides higher prices and consistent markets for co-ops and includes vital non-monetary goals: creating better working conditions, financial transparency, encouraging ecologically sustainable production.
Despite small market share, fair trade has been expanding, averaging 20 percent annual growth rates in sales for each year since 2000. Hip boutique shops everywhere sell Fair Trade goods.
Corporate philanthropy looms large in SE, using direct funding, investment or charitable platforms to disrupt social ills.
Paul Newman’s Own Foundation sends millions to other philanthropies and SE organizations as matching grants used to combat social problems.
Newman’s Own Director of Communications Ms. Jan Schaefer said, “For 35 years, we have been giving 100 percent of our profits to charity; we’re considered a pioneer in the social enterprise world. Several organizations have followed our model, donating 100 percent of their profits as part of the growing movement of what we call Philanthropic Enterprises”
SCHOOLS NOW TEACH SE
Harvard University’s prestigious School of Business has developed several MBA-level programs teaching SE best practices in just the last few years, reflecting the pace of growth in the SE world.
The university also holds major conferences on SE and has published more than 300 books and case studies on the topic.
Oxford University’s Saïd Business School offers MBA courses and fellowships at its Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. Classy.org, an online fundraising platform, lists 19 universities offering SE degrees, certifications and courses.
One higher-education innovator, the nonprofit Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship Network (GCSEN Foundation), encourages colleges to offer SE courses and degrees by offering plug and play curricula and support.
Founder Michael Caslin said his organization’s goal in 10 years “…is to have SE courses and degrees in at least 10 more colleges. No one doubts the value of SE, so we’ve created Base Camps and programs which can be absorbed into existing curricula.”
ONTRENDPRENEURS AND SE
An essential quality of becoming an OnTrendpreneur™ is spotting and capitalizing on emerging trends.
SE, while not a new trend, is an evolving and strengthening trend, gaining momentum as it becomes more accepted, benefitting from accelerated collaboration among public, private and university sectors.
SE practitioners we know include a business making prosthetic devices in Rwanda, one building Latino community centers in the US, and one bringing wireless Internet to Nepal.
Touting SE’s youth movement is Forbes’ article “Meet the 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs Bringing Change”, highlighting “organizations that have helped millions, their impacts wrap around the globe. In 2017, leading 30 different social ventures, we honor young people who are all working tirelessly to creatively solve some of the world’s toughest problems.” TJ
OnTrendpreneurs™ will seize emerging opportunities across academic, public and private sectors. As corporate America continues to consolidate, offering fewer choices to consumers, SE presents great opportunities in new markets.
Some emerging trends where SE will thrive include:
Marijuana and hemp: Widespread acceptance of the herb for medical, industrial and recreational uses have led to explosive growth. Watch for opportunities with growers, processers, manufacturers, retailers and the financial sector, which is struggling to legally absorb profits. Cannabis can be a replacement for opioids; hemp can be a replacement for plastics.
Rise of Main Street: As malls fail, new retail opportunities abound. Main Street shopping is making a comeback, especially with millennials. Craft breweries, fair-trade boutiques and niche SE ventures contribute to a renewed sense of community and social consciousness.
Longevity centers: As senior populations increase, these community-based operations promote “artful aging” by combining the arts and holistic living, enhancing commercially resilient neighborhoods.
Industry-specific opportunities: The film and entertainment industry, the arts, fitness gyms, niche-food manufacturers, information technology, nonprofits and even the robotics sector offer opportunities to the rush of hungry social entrepreneurs. Yearning to create a world with both social justice and financial profit, new SEs will deliver innovative products and services to a discerning public.