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The Fight of a Social Entrepreneur

Social entrepreneurship isn’t for lightweights. If you’re looking to start a business, you might want to pick a fight

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For us, we started our addiction and rehabilitation treatment centers out of a desire to help those in need, just as we once were.

Unfortunately for us to realize our mission, we had to hit rock bottom. And for me specifically, rock bottom was only discovered after Lisa had threatened to leave me if I didn’t enter rehab for my drinking.

So I did.

A fight for my life

I’ve covered in detail how my upbringing in the nightlife bar scene greatly impacted my late teens and early twenties living in Hawaii and then later in Las Vegas. What began as a great way to make money and live life in the fastlane, quickly grew into full on fight with alcoholism.

After attending an alcoholic treatment program and beginning the road to sobriety, Lisa and I discovered what our mission in life was going to be.

In my previous posts, I’ve covered how we decided on alcohol and addiction treatment centers as the path to fulfill our mission; I’ve discussed how we struggled mightily to get funding (but how persistence paid off); and I’ve even covered how the growing pains to become profitable were found through working for free.

Now I want to stress the importance yet again of your why.

Robert and Kim often discuss your why with regards to the mission found at the base of the B-I Triangle.

image of b-i triangle

The mission for either yourself or your business is at the root of your why. Knowing your mission becomes especially important when you are in business as a social entrepreneur. Lisa and I didn’t start our social entrepreneurship business because it was the new hip, trendy type of business to start. We did it because helping people with addiction in their lives was our reason for getting up in the morning. It was something we were willing to fight for.

What’s your fight?

In our book The Social Capitalist, Lisa and I tell the story of Julie Smolyansky. She emigrated with her parents to Illinois from Russia in the late 1970’s. Her father found work as a mechanical engineer and her mother helped contribute to the family finances with money she made as a manicurist. Less than two years after their arrival, they opened a Russian delicatessen offering Eastern European foods to the area’s Russian population.

About a decade later, on a food-buying trip to Germany in 1985, they discovered kefir, a fermented milk drink what was a staple in their former home of the Soviet Union. Upon returning to the United States they began Lifeway Foods, which is now the country’s leading manufacturer of kefir. After the company went public in 1988, Julie’s father unexpectedly passed in 2002, leaving Julie as the CEO at just 27 years old. This left her as the youngest female CEO of a publicly traded company.

After visiting Bangladesh in the summer of 2011 as part of a Every Mother Counts (Christy Turlington Burn’s advocacy for global maternal health), Julie has lent her voice to help women rise up out of poverty and violence through marketing, advocacy, awareness campaigns, fundraising events, and leadership, in addition to charitable donations.

Julie believes that it was the hard earned lessons from her childhood and experiences growing a small family-owned business into a Fortune 500 company that has given her the platform and responsibility to help those in need. 

“As a matter of fact, I think much of my past, including the most difficult of times, has fueled my passions, drive, work ethic, and fighter spirit. It has also helped create a forever positive, optimistic spirit and personal ideology that ‘this too shall pass’ on my hardest of days,” Julie says.

If you are struggling to pin-point they why underneath your mission, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What injustice have you encountered makes you mad?

  • What gets under your skin to much that there’s no end to the energy you can find to fight it?

  • What are you passionate about that you feel you have to do something about it?

If you want to read more about our story, grab a copy of our book The Social Capitalist.

Original publish date: August 12, 2019

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