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Beyond Good Karma: Starting Out with a Socially Responsible Business


So perhaps you have this dream to start a business and you want it to embrace a socially responsible bottom line.

Where do you even begin?

Just as with any entrepreneurial venture, there is no special formula or roadmap that guarantees your success. One place you might start is by taking a course in social entrepreneurship as a part of a business degree program.

It wasn’t until taking one such course through San Diego State that I began to grasp what the concept of social entrepreneurship actually is (business ventures whose main objective is to help alleviate a social ailment such as poverty or homelessness, NOT social media driven businesses as I originally assumed).

Still a bit confused? This video sums it up pretty well.

There are tons other ways that you can explore this exciting, new field of business on your own.

One of the best resources I’ve found so far is the website ashoka.org. It offers you an immediate connection to the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs, access to start-up financing, and professional support services. Here you can explore a variety of social ventures in various stages of development as well as the opportunity to get involved in these ventures.

What better way to learn about social ventures than to be a part of one?

The Skoll Foundation website is another great online resource that offers funding opportunities. You can also check out established companies with a strong commitment to making a social impact that you’ve probably heard of, such as Toms Shoes and Nika Water.

There is some debate over the “purity” of some social ventures when it comes to whether or not anyone should profit from them and to what degree.

Social entrepreneurship author and pioneer of microfinance, Muhammed Yunis, says that there are only two real forms of social ventures: Type One “focuses on businesses dealing with social objectives only,” and Type Two can be any profitable business “so long as is owned by the poor and disadvantaged” (more about this here).

In contrast to that line of thought, it can be argued that there must be some incentive besides just good karma or the satisfaction of doing good to get people to start social ventures. The COO of Unilever makes a clear and motivated case for social responsibility in this great TED talk.

In my next post, I’ll talk about the importance in social ventures of putting the social mission before the product and strategies for sustainability.

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About Sat Wilensky

Sat Wilensky is a San Diego mom who created the San Diego Mompreneurs group. She attempts to juggle her entrepreneurial dreams whilst raising two kids under the age of 4.

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