As some beautifully warm September sunshine gave way to the evening, an invited audience at the British Library settled down with a glass of wine to hear how four social entrepreneurs got their organisations going. On the panel were:
- Christoph Warrack, founder of Open Cinema, which enables any community to have a cinema or make a film, and builds pathways to education and employment. It started in central London with a group of homeless people.
- Erika Brodnock of Karisma Kidz, which offers children online superheroes, toys and games to improve their self esteem and emotional intelligence.
- Blaise Singh, founder of Made A Difference Entertainment (MADE) which works with marginalised groups to create content that empowers them to communicate their stories and contribute to reducing prejudices that may exist about those communities.
- Tom Tapper of Nice and Serious, a creative agency that aims to make the world a better place by helping communicate messages that are good for people and planet.
Here are their top tips when starting a social enterprise.
- Think about something that you are passionate about; an abiding life long passion. Then think about a problem that you would like to solve. Then think about where your passion and your skills might meet an urgent problem in the world. That’s where your social enterprise might come from – Christoph.
- Don’t think about it, just do it. I spent so long thinking about things it gave me anxiety and all that negative self talk – you don’t have the right experience, you are from a single parent family, you are working class – that may be the case but I used that to my advantage and I created my business from that. I created the business from the essence of who I was to try and inspire other people to do the same – Blaise.
- Get a copy of Business Model Generation, download it, print it off at AO size and put it on your wall – Christoph.
- As a social entrepreneur you need to be wedded to the mission and not the solution – Christoph.
- When you are going for funding try not to mission drift and think you can shape your project into that fund. Sometimes that can take you away from what you originally set out to do – Blaise.
- You need to take the leap of faith. Back yourself, regardless of if you feel an imposter. You’ve got to take the big order that you can’t fulfil – they are the key moments – Tom.
- Business is all about relationships. Make sure you are somebody that does what you say you are going to do, that you are trustworthy, that you are a pleasure to be around – Erika.
- A good tactic if you have a group of competitors is to ask a very close friend to do a bit of mystery shopping amongst them for you. That really helped us in terms of how we should be charging Tom.
- Your product needs to be better than the alternative. If its not better, you’re going to have a hard time making it succeed – Tom.
- Find yourself a mentor. There are all sorts of resources out there. Make use of Expert Impact and all the wonderful services that are available – Erika.
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