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Jun 14, 2016

A Clear Story is Essential for Social Entrepreneurs

In talks with local business people I repeatedly get asked whether a social entrepreneur is serious enough about building a business for an investor or a business advisor to want to become involved.

Part of this hesitation may due to the newness of the term to the public and to the looseness with which social enterprise investment funds are being promoted by national brokerage firms.  Part of this hesitation may also be due to the ambivalence of many social entrepreneurs in how they describe their businesses. And part is due to entrepreneurs’ dual challenge to get into the weeds operationally while focusing on the forest when they communicate to potential investors and customers.

There has been a movement away from 85 page business plans toward leaner descriptions of a business.  Often called a “pitch”, this leaner version is a story without the operational details which dominate the longer business plan.  A pitch is also an excellent way for an entrepreneur to maintain focus on vision and strategy while living in the “weeds” of daily operations.

For a social entrepreneur, the pitch can also be the best way to stay anchored on social impact while promoting the product and its value to the customer.  Solene Pignet of Creators for Good has a very good structure for what makes for a compelling story for customers and investors.  It is quick, simple, and devoid of the detail of a traditional business plan.

The social entrepreneur starts with a quick articulation of the social impact that motivates the enterprise but then quickly moves into the product and what a customer or investor should know in order to make a decision.

•    Why: what are the roots of your vision for change?  What is driving your passion for impact?
•    What: what specific solution do you provide, and what benefits does it provide and pain points it relieves for the customer?
•    Who: who are the people who will want to pay for such solution (= your potential clients)?
•    When: what are the circumstances when a customer will want your product / service?
•    How: what are the characteristics of your product/service that create these benefits or eliminate the customers’ pain points?
•    Where: What is the geographic location of your market and does the customer come to you, you to the customer, or is it entirely on the internet? Compared to today, how do you see this changing as your company grows in the coming years?

In the coming months there will be four opportunities to hear the stories of social entrepreneurs, two in August and two in October.  The first is Positioned to Prosper, August 2 at 5pm at the Columbus Museum of Art.  Come hear the stories and you decide if social entrepreneurs are serious enough about building their businesses for you to want to become involved.  Keep in touch with the latest developments on Twitter and Facebook.  Like us, share us!

Allen Proctor, President

Center for Social Enterprise Development