Addressing Felt Needs With Your Startup

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The lines continue to blur between for-profit business and non-profit work. The assumption is that for-profit businesses are simply about the bottom line … money, whereas non-profits are created to meet some kind of need. However, both need money to function and grow. Also, for-profits can be just as giving as non-profits. Maybe the most important question is … “what need(s) will you address?”

You could be starting a cafe, web development company, marketing firm, cycling apparel company, or food cart … again, what need(s) will you address? Years ago I was getting advice and counseling from an economics professor about a new business venture I was starting. My question to this man who taught much about economics in grad school to Master’s and PhD students actually was whether I should start a non-profit or for-profit. He began steering me towards a for-profit business rather than a non-profit. He ended up plainly saying, “why don’t you simply be a generous for-profit business?” Meaning, his point was that just because I would eventually start it as an LLC didn’t mean we couldn’t be giving or generous. Quite the opposite.

I suppose this then gets into the realm of social entrepreneurialism. While there is a myriad of definitions out there, a quick perusal online reveals a lot of overlap and commonalities. Here are two for discussion sake:

  1. What is a ‘Social Entrepreneur’ – A person who pursues an innovative idea with the potential to solve a community problem. These individuals are willing to take on the risk and effort to create positive changes in society through their initiatives.[1]

  2. Social entrepreneurship is the use of the techniques by start-up companies and other entrepreneurs to develop, fund and implement solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues.[2]

As we’re launching our startups why don’t we wrestle with and begin deciding where and how we’ll also be generous? This doesn’t have to be grandiose nor even self-serving. It could be as simple as paying your workers beyond minimum wage or a living wage. It could mean diving into some local need that you’ve identified in your community. It could be tied to building community, healthcare, food scarcity, economic development, and so much more. We’re often only limited by our own imaginations. What is even more amazing is you don’t have to turn this into some marketing gimmick so people think your brand is amazing. You can do it with no hype or pretense. Let your good works do the talking and if rumors spread of your generosity then all the better. Just be faithful and attentive to needs inside and outside your community.

It’s as simple as that. What will needs will you address?

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  1. Investopia, LLC, “Social Entrepreneur,” para. 1.

  2. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, “Social entrepreneurship,” para. 1.