An entrepreneur lifestyle that continues to gain in popularity these days is being a “social entrepreneur.” In the simplest of terms, these are people who seek to generate “social value”, rather than profits, and use traditional business principles to provide solutions to social issues
On the surface, this sounds like entrepreneurs who want to build a non-profit organization. Yet the term seems to be more often associated with people who intend to make a profit, but whose work is targeted toward long-term socio-economic change. Think Bill Gates, with his current investments, or Blake Mycoskie with Toms Shoes, as opposed to the leaders of the American Cancer Society or Goodwill Industries.
Whether the objective is to generate profits or social capital, the common element for all entrepreneurs is the recognition that there is a problem which needs solving, or there is an opportunity to improve the status quo.
The vision is always to be a change agent, to invent and popularize new approaches, and to persuade people to take a leap forward. In every case this requires a committed ultimate realist with the determination to persist in the face of daunting odds.
Another way to distinguish between the two types of entrepreneurship is by identifying what social entrepreneurship is not:
In all types of entrepreneurship, an entrepreneur rather than an administrator is required. This is someone who is willing and able to create a new enterprise, based on an innovative idea, and is willing to assume total accountability for the inherent risks and outcome.
So, if you are an entrepreneur at heart, but you are driven by a higher cause than making a profit, social entrepreneurship may be for you. It is an emerging field with diverse and shifting interpretations, but most agree it’s really about making the world a better place. There is certainly plenty of opportunity in that space.
Martin Zwilling is the Founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, a company that provides services to startup founders around the world. See more details at www.startupprofessionals.com