EXPERT VIEWS-Top 10 tips for business on a mission to do good

by Sarah Shearman and Belinda Goldsmith | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 25 October 2019 02:00 GMT

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'If you are trying to run a business for it to make a profit and have social impact then you are doing three or more things than the average business at any time'

By Sarah Shearman and Belinda Goldsmith

SAN FRANCISCO/ADDIS ABABA Oct 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Money, hard work and golden contacts - just three of the ingredients that can turn a startup social enterprise into a success story ploughing big profits into social programmes.

POLL: The best countries to be a social entrepreneur 2019

Social entrepreneurs and impact investors - swapping notes at two industry get-togethers this week - listed their top 10 tips for newcomers to the fast-growing sector.

DAN GREGORY, DIRECTOR OF INTERNATIONAL AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AT SOCIAL ENTERPRISE UK "Hard work. If you are trying to run a business for it to make a profit and have social impact then you are doing three or more things than the average business at any time. It is tough."

IMRAN KHALID, RESEARCH FELLOW AT THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT POLICY INSTITUTE IN PAKISTAN "Getting registered. In Pakistan, people register as a not-for-profit. This can mean problems about accessing financing. If there was a model for social enterprises, this would ease the way to funding."

MAEVE CURTIN, POLICY ADVISOR FOR SOCIAL ENTERPRISE, WORLD FORUM "Accessing high risk capital. Very few organisations will invest at a rate of less than $100,000, or even $500,000, while many social enterprises are after about $5,000. Some fund managers perceive it as high risk as they are unlikely to get the returns they want. We need to change the narrative."

ELLEN CHILEMBA, FOUNDER OF SOCIAL ENTERPRISE TIWALE IN MALAWI "For young entrepreneurs, you start something and have a vision and have to keep up with constant changes in society and innovation around you. It is challenging to work with partners that are not as flexible to change."

THANE KREINER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE MILLER CENTER FOR SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP, SANTA CLARA UNIVERSITY, UNITED STATES "Getting appropriate financial capital is a real challenge for a lot of social entrepreneurs because there is mismatch between the kind of impact the entrepreneurs are generating, and the intention ... of impact investors."

RENE ESPINOZA, CEO OF VISIBILTY APP LAZARILLO, CHILE "The biggest challenges is making [the enterprise] sustainable in the financial sense. Maybe you can provide a good service for your community – or great impact measurements or indicators - but if you are not able to sustain that, doing sales or getting a return, it is impossible to do it to scale and have a team."

AYLA SCHLOSSER, CO-FOUNDER AND BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF RESONATE, UNITED STATES "There's pressure for everyone to fit themselves into the Silicon Valley, rapid, exponential growth model but that doesn't allow for dedicating time and resources to focusing on impact."

AFSHAN KHAN, COFOUNDER OF ETHICAL FASHION BRAND PURPLE IMPRESSION, UNITED STATES "The biggest challenge is people do not understand the environmental or social aspects of the business ... especially when it comes to funding. Rarely do you find an investor who understands there needs to be a triple bottom line. We are not just measuring the profits, but we are measuring the environmental impact and social impact as well."

SYDNEY GRAY, FOUNDING DIRECTOR OF MAMA MAJI, UNITED STATES "Every entrepreneur, whether they're termed social or not, relies heavily on networks for customers and capital. Social entrepreneurs are often solving problems in their own communities, often at the bottom of the pyramid. But the capital and the biggest customers are not in their Rolodex, limiting their ability to grow their business and their impact."

NEVILLE CRAWLEY, CEO ONLINE LENDING PLATFORM KIVA, UNITED STATES "The biggest challenge is, for social enterprises, do they have the model and are they able to fund to really get to scale? It is really hard to have a big impact in the world and particularly do systems change if you don't get to scale."

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith and Sarah Shearman; Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit

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