Blog | Entrepreneurship

You Don’t Have To Be Poor To Save The World

Social Entrepreneurship is the best of both worlds

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Social entrepreneurship has been around for a long time. It stemmed from the idea that people can get paid AND solve social issues at the same time. Some of the earliest social entrepreneurs included people like:

  • Susan B. Anthony, who spearheaded the fight for women’s rights and the adoption of the 19th amendment
  • John Muir, a naturalist, conservationist, and writer who fought to protect Yosemite National Park, and helped establish the National Park System, and founded the Sierra Club
  • Dr. Maria Montessori, who developed the Montessori School approach to children’s education; Florence Nightingale, who is considered the founder of modern nursing

These days, some of the most noteworthy, innovative, and beloved companies that partake in social entrepreneurship include:

  • Tom’s Shoes, with its “One for One” business model of providing a pair of shoes to a child in need for every new pair of shoes purchased
  • Patagonia, the outdoor apparel retailer that vigorously protects and polices the environment
  • Ben & Jerry’s, maker of premium ice cream that supports a broad range of environmental, local grower and humanitarian causes

Social entrepreneurship is alive and well. But for my husband Josh and I, it didn't always seem achievable.

Like most people, we initially believed that people who gave back to the community had to be poor. Either you had to work multiple jobs to pay for kindness or live off other people’s donations.

Both scenarios were not an option for either of us. I was working for the Las Vegas Police Department as an officer and Josh was managing night clubs. Both of us were on night shifts. There was no way either of us could get a second or third job, or sacrifice our pay. As bad as that sounds, it was our reality.

On top of that, our marriage was not stable. Our relationship was hanging on by a thread. He was battling his alcohol addiction while I battled addiction on the streets. I saw firsthand that there was a rehabilitation need for people who were suffering from substance and alcohol abuse.

Night after night, I was pulling addicts off the streets. But that’s where it ended. Those people were sent to jail to serve their time and as soon as they were released, they were back at it again. I wasn’t helping attack the root of the problem: the addiction.

When Josh came to his breaking point, it was a sign. It was his addiction, and the hundreds of addicts around me, that made me feel like I was destined for a greater purpose. After Josh got out of rehab we both knew that we had a chance to help others.

We found that addiction doesn’t discriminate. It affects every culture and every socioeconomic class; every age and every gender. This was a mission that was deeply personal for us.

We both had our own experiences around addiction. It was our “why” for building a business to fight this social cancer. From that passion grew a series of steps that we believe to be the foundation of a social entrepreneurship business:

  1. Discover your “why”
    Your “why” is your purpose. It is your driving force and passion. For Josh and I, our “why” wasn’t instantly clear to us. But after going through the process of rehab, it became clear to us. Our “why” was all we had. It made us get up every morning and kept us focused on the business. It still drives us forward today. If you develop a strong “why”, it’ll keep you going when times get tough.
  2. Make and clarify your commitment We made the commitment to open a treatment center. We then clarified our commitment through research, both from friends and data we collected on our own. All this research made our commitment solid and clear to both us, and investors.
  3. Find the right support system, mentors, and coaches Starting out, we had one friend in our corner who was the perfect mentor. Over time, we gained more mentors and supporters who were invaluable for us. The right support system, mentor, and coach will push you. This is a sign of a great support system. They’re supposed to push you to be your greatest. If they’re not, you deserve better.
  4. Dedicate and invest in yourself Josh and I invested a tremendous amount of time, money, and energy into personal development. We are firm believers that your business and your life will be a reflection of you. A business will only grow as much as the ability of the owner. So, you can either suppress the growth of your business or you can lead it to success. It is built into our business plan to continue personal development because we know how important it is for our company to succeed.
  5. Get a financial education
    Both Josh and I knew very little about money and how it worked when we started out. The key to our financial education began with the book Choose To Be Rich, by Robert Kiyosaki. It became clear early on that regardless of your social mission, you can’t run a successful business without respecting the power of financial education. If you want to be successful, continue to learn as the business grows.
  6. Build a business plan
    Think of a business plan as a map to success. No one will give you capital to build your business if you cannot show that you have invested time, energy, and resources into thinking through your business. This is where the rubber meets the road in terms of a social enterprise’s viability.

Social entrepreneurship can be the best of both worlds. You can own a lucrative business and help the community. The idea that you have to be poor to do it is outdated and misleading.

For Josh and I, we were able to take a social problem that was dear to us, and turn it into a business and legacy that we hope will be around for a very long time.

We get the opportunity to wake up every day and pursue our passion of helping people. And we don’t have to be poor to do it.

Learn more about how Josh and I created our business in our book, The Social Capitalist. Get your copy now.

Original publish date: August 13, 2018

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