Why You Should Start a Social Enterprise in College
…Yet we became a team when our class was assigned to present a business idea in a five-minute YouTube video. We had a variety of skill-sets, interests and experiences, ranging from the Silicon Valley tech scene to microfinance programs in Tanzania. But we realized that we shared a common passion in our mutual Indian heritage and the desire to address the vast challenges that exist in India. Armed with an abstract concept, a handmade greeting card prototype, and an excess of enthusiasm, we ‘pitched’ the idea to classmates, retail workers, browsers at the local bookstore, and unsuspecting customers in frozen yogurt shops. As we heard ourselves and each other pitch the idea as our own, it grew from an assignment to a dream.
Working on My Card My Story (MCMS) on campus had a way of pushing open doors we had never even imagined. Danner encouraged us to apply to Princeton’s business competition, TigerLaunch. With a few tweaks, we submitted our final project. After a whirlwind day of pitching to investors and judges, we came in second place in the Social Track, securing $2,000 in seed capital. It was the vote of confidence we needed to take our business model from paper to product.
As college students we were old enough to design something sensible yet young enough to dream big. We hunched over laptops with shared Google Docs and worked late into the night on business plans and website designs, relegating assignments, exams, and thesis chapters to the early morning. We attended public lectures with entrepreneurial speakers and waited by the door to ambush the panelists for help and advice. Conversations with friends, family, and strangers turned into “Do you know anybody who…” brainstorming sessions. Every time a spontaneous conversation yielded a new contact or a potential order of cards for their company, we shot off enthusiastic emails to each other.
Butare launched her Kinazi Dairy Cooperative in 2012 to help Rwandan
genocide survivors, who had been given cows under a government
assistance program, but who were struggling to sell and market their
milk. The initiative now serves more than 3,200 farmers, and supplies
markets in Rwanda and Burundi.
Fact: More and more consumers are demanding socially responsible products.
Since 1993, Americans’ enthusiasm to shop with a conscience has sky-rocketed. Increasing more than 20 percentage points during the last 20 years, U.S. consumer likelihood to opt for brands associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality, has jumped from two-thirds of the population in 1993 to nearly the entire population in 2013.
This trend will undoubtedly continue with the coming of age of Millenials, the first generation of Americans who have grown up alongside cause marketing. Numbering more than 80 million Americans, they are the largest cohort the U.S. has ever seen – and an undeniable force. Millennials are hyperaware of, and have high expectations for, corporate social responsibility efforts to make the world a better place – for themselves and broader society.
Source: Cone Communications, 2013 Social Impact Report
What happens when a social enterprise and an oil giant join forces?
By Astrid Zweynert, Reuters, September 27, 2013
San Francisco-based social enterprise d.light used to produce between 20,000 and 30,000 of its solar-powered lamps a month, selling them to people in rural Africa and India with limited access to electricity.
Today, it makes more than 500,000 per month, thanks to a very big customer: the French oil and gas company Total, which sells d.light’s products as part of “Access to Energy Program” throughout Africa on a business-to-consumer basis.
The program brought challenges for both sides, according to Donn Tice, d.light’s chairman and CEO, and Robinson Alazraki, head of products development and purchase at Total’s “Access to Energy Program,” who discussed their collaboration during a September panel at SOCAP, a conference that aims to increase the flow of capital towards social good.
But the partnership worked because d.light and Total have a shared purpose: to get solar appliances into the hands of customers at an affordable price, Tice said.
To meet Total’s standards, the for-profit social enterprise had to increase its production and the quality of its lamps, which charge on their own during the daytime, shine for at least four hours at night, and are designed to last more than five years.
Two years ago the company conducted a significant product recall, one that required a “seven-figure” commitment to make right, Tice said.
“If it goes wrong … it goes wrong on a large scale,” he said.
Asked for his advice on partnering with a multinational, Tice said: “Fasten your seat belt low and tight around your waist and prepare for turbulence.”
The standard model d.light lamp costs $30, a significant investment for d.light’s core customers. But the company has sold about 3 million lamps in the last five years after it found out that people–even if they only earn a few dollars per day–are willing to pay for a product that improves their lives.
Solar lamps aren’t new but they will have a growing role to play in providing inexpensive and safe evening lights in parts of the world without the money or grid access for electricity, or in places looking for more sustainable sources of light, experts said.
Kerosene lamps, still in use in many parts of the developing world, can cost at least $10 to run, produce toxic fumes, and can cause burns if knocked over.
It was a kerosene lamp accident that gave birth to d.light.
In 2004, when d.light co-founder Sam Goldman was in Benin on a Peace Corps mission, his neighbor’s son was badly burned by an overturned kerosene lamp. This incident, along with the knowledge that 2.3 billion people in the world still do not have access to reliable electricity, inspired him to learn more about affordable design solutions and to develop his first prototype lamp with co-founder Ned Tozun.
“ Serendipity (n) – the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneificial way.
-The Oxford Dictionary “
Thus says the Oxford dictionary.
We named ourselves Serendipity because we find it an apt description of the events that have since unfolded. In January this year, Serendipity started as a mere seed of an idea over dinner. My husband, W and I were looking for ways to meld our passion for enterprise, and philanthrophy. We also had an excellent business expert who volunteered free advice. Our common denominator ? All three of us were professionals, but all three were hungry. Hungry for fulfillment, and fueled on passion.
From the get go, Serendipity was founded out of a vision to create a brand that values fashion, with a conscience. A portion of every purchase made from Serendipity goes towards supporting a cause that is dear to our hearts, and yours. As consumers ourselves, we fully understand the doubts and distrust that arise from companies that use the philantrophical carrot as a way to attract customers. And that is exactly why we’ll be transparent with you. At the end of each period, we will publish exactly how much we’ve donated to the cause, along with proofs of receipt.
We started with very little funds, from whatever savings we could scrape up. I remember vividly our first batch of supplies, experimenting on designs way into the night , throwing away botched ideas and starting over. I remember the frustration of pricked fingers and beads strewn all over the bedroom floor. But sweeter yet, I remember the day we listed our first item on Etsy, getting our first follower, and finally, our first purchase and first review. Things have grown since then, perhaps not tremendously, but we’ve learnt to celebrate the baby steps, to revel in the little changes that might go unnoticed, but means the world to us.
And that is how Serendipity came about to be our happy coincidence. However, we can only continue to make it so with your support. You don’t necessarily have to get anything from us, but helping us spread the word for this mission will go miles to create more serendipitious beginnings. Thank you for reading.
In the next Serendipity Diary installment, I’ll tell you more about the adventures that we’ve been able to be a part of.
Want to help changemakers around the world dream big, raise funds and do good? We're looking for a Crowdfunding Support team member!
We areStartSomeGood, the crowdfunding platform for social change. We enable and support anyone with an idea to create positive social impact to raise the funds and mobilize the community they need to bring their dreams to life. StartSomeGood was founded by social entrepreneurs, for social entrepreneurs, and we are dedicated to creating a world where anyone can be a changemaker.
We are looking for a motivated and talented intern to join our small and hard-working team as we grow this innovative and global social enterprise.
You are: eager to be involved with and learn more about the social change world. You are mission driven, a creative thinker, and have a keen eye for detail. You understand the importance of great customer service and are excited to make people’s days a bit brighter by providing excellent support. You are looking for a chance to grow professionally, learn a ton, and have a little fun in the process. Finally, you are professional, articulate, and able to work independently as part of a virtual team. Ideally, you will be located in one of the following regions: United States, SE Asia, Australia, or Western Europe.
The Role: This is a chance for you to dive in and get directly involved with the global changemaker community. In your role, you will support individuals and organizations with customized guidance as they create powerful crowdfunding campaigns and build new futures for their communities. You will take ownership of your projects, and in doing so, you will manage relationships, brainstorm, advise and motivate the changemakers using StartSomeGood to ensure their experience is top-notch. You will give them the tools and advice they need to run a successful fundraising campaign, and you’ll be there to celebrate with them when they do. You may also have the opportunity to create content for the StartSomeGood blog, specifically regarding topics pertaining to venture support.
This position is a great opportunity to get excellent experience with crowdfunding and learn first hand what works best for social enterprises and non-profits alike. You will receive hands-on experience (no coffee-making errands here!) and experience the energy of a rapidly growing, virtual social enterprise startup. You’ll build great contacts with changemakers of all kinds and develop crucial communication and problem-solving skills that will last long after the internship has finished.
This unpaid, part time internship is designed to last a minimum of four months, with expectations of approximately 8 - 10 hours of work per week. You can be based anywhere in the world so long as you have access to a computer and a reliable internet connection. You will be joining a virtual team with team-members in the United States, Australia, SE Asia, and the United Kingdom.
Review and approve new ventures
Support new ventures to help them create and manage fantastic and successful campaigns;
Advise on specific aspects of a campaign, from videos to rewards;
Brainstorm and implement ways to make our venture support process even more efficient and effective;
Create content for the StartSomeGood blog;
Work on special research projects with other team members.
Excellent written and spoken communication skills
Access to a computer and a reliable internet connection
The ability to work independently
A passion for social entrepreneurship
Superb organizational skills and a demonstrated attention to detail
Empathy and strong interpersonal skills
Fluency in English
A hunger to change the world
How to apply
Send a cover letter stating your interest and suitability for the role and resume including references to firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ve just made some new friends at Chic Entrepreneur Enterprise who mentioned a great book for you all to check out, it’s called: “the girls guide to building a million dollar business” by Susan Wilson Solovic…check out her other books too on amazon.com
'Creative Capitalism' and future business strategy?
I participated in a radio panel on ‘creative capitalism’ - which Bill Gates introduced at a WEF event in 2008 as “Profits + Philanthropy”.
Got me thinking and here is where I’ve got to:
“It isn’t about corporate philanthropy anymore. What you do with your profits is not as important as how you earn them. The successful businesses of the future will create shared value for their suppliers and supplier communities and their customers and customer communities, as well as their staff. The new game is creating wealth for the world, not only for a small group of shareholders”.
Someone I knew in my life BB (before Burundi) once told me that I’d be doing better by the world if I were starting a business (as of course he was) than I would be by working at a clinic in the developing world. His argument involved something about job stimulus, classism and xenophobia… I forget the finer points.
Well, happy news! I’ve been promoted. I’m now leading our Economic Development programs. Effectively, I’m helping to start four new businesses that will benefit more than 100 women (victims of gender based violence, specifically) and their families, not to mention aid in developing a naissent economy in the world’s 4th poorest country. We’re using a co-op model that will pay everyone fair wage and then reinvesting any additional profits into business training and micro insurance.
I’ll end there because I’m on the edge of my ability to remain civil. I’ll just close with a great big, “How'ya like them apples?"