I’ve been meaning to get my thoughts down on this subject for a while and now that I have one month left at work and two months left in India, it seems like it’s now or never.
One of my biggest take aways from my experience in India and working at Unitus Seed Fund is the fallacy of the ‘social enterprise’. Through my work I’ve had the chance to look at a lot of ventures and I’ve been able to understand which of these ventures are winners and why.
The ventures that are really going to make it, that will scale, make money, and also impact the Base of the Economic Pyramid, are those that have found a legitimate market opportunity. Their founder wants and intends on making money.
The problem today is that the concept of blending profit and purpose resonates with so many people that aspiring entrepreneurs are looking at social problems first and then trying to figure out how to make a for-profit business to solve said problem. I think this is inevitably going to build a crappy (read: unviable) business. If starting a for-profit venture is your objective, focus on the market opportunity (how you’re going to make money) first. If you want to start a business, figure out what your passionate about. What gets you excited. Be broad— education, technology, cleaning products.
For me, it’s food (literally everything about it). Are there a ton of social problems around food? Yes. Are there also a lot of market opportunities and ways to make money? Yes. I’m going to try to solve B before I solve for A. If you’re a person why gives a damn, I’m guessing the market opportunities you’re going to find, might just have some impact baked in. And those ventures are the most likely to actually make a profit and an impact.
Ina Garten is practically a social entrepreneur.
It’s like the old saying, “do what you love and the money will come”, except I’m changing it to “pursue your passion, look for market opportunities, and the impact will come”. Okay, that may not be written over an instagram’d picture anytime soon, but you catch my drift.
If you are impact first, don’t for get about the good old nonprofits. That will be a blog post for another time, titled: “Why everyone be hatin’ on nonprofits?”