Social entrepreneurship is a wonderful thing. This term keeps evolving in definition and practice, but that doesn't matter all that much to me--what matters is the spirit behind it. Helping others, improving our planet, and being socially active in a positive way, are what matters.
I am lucky to teach marketing and management at a small university in southeast Ohio named Muskingum University. The school is best known for our most famous alumnus, astronaut and Senator John Glenn. Even before I started working at Muskingum University in 1999, Glenn was a hero of mine, as he is to many Americans.
I want you to consider one of his quotes. In his 2009 keynote address at the Ohio State University commencement, Glenn stated, "We are more fulfilled when we are involved in something bigger than ourselves."
Truer words than this are rarely spoken. Consider the importance of your family and friends, your community, and the world in which we all live. Your fulfillment felt from a business perspective should not just be about revenues, cost cutting, entrepreneurship, networking, and profits.
In my opinion, your individual fulfillment as an entrepreneur or businessperson comes from every positive impact you make or share. What you put out there for the world to see boomerangs back to you--carrying with it on return, fulfillment.
Real fulfillment is not just dollars and cents. Does what you do in business return to you in a way that feels good--really good, deep down in your gut? Is there a positive vibe to that return of fulfillment you get? Do you do things the right way, make your honest living, and sleep well at night, fulfilled?
Creating new businesses, innovations, and techniques that strive to positively affect or solve social, cultural, and environmental problems are at the heart of social entrepreneurship. Accomplishing these things, even in the smallest way, is extremely fulfilling.
There are many successful examples of social entrepreneurship, such as TOMS and their one-for-one model where every shoe sold results in a pair of shoes provided free for needy people. Ashoka, founded by Bill Drayton, provides resources for social entrepreneurs who can be change-makers for our planet and many people's lives.
It's never too late to start making an impact beyond yourself and your company. Giving back and being socially active fits nicely into any existing company's strategic plans. Imagine a business that manufacturers and distributes clutch and brake assemblies to the automobile market--you could integrate into your strategy having company fundraising events and give profit contributions to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).
You'll create goodwill around your brand and a nice promotional tool to build rock-solid relationships with customers. You'll help others who need it, and possibly save lives. Social entrepreneurship surely can be rolled into your business tactics and long term plans. It will lift your spirits, and as we've mentioned, bring you even more fulfillment.
Two years ago, I co-founded an entrepreneurial initiative at Muskingum University called the Ignition Program. In working with student entrepreneurs, I always make sure to instill in them a focus on giving back and embracing social entrepreneurship.
One of our current set of student entrepreneurs is working on a dog-breeding website and app, so that legitimate breeders can connect with each other more easily and safely. The students want to help stop puppy mills and unethical treatment of animals. They've already pledged to donate back a percentage of profits to charities that help to fight this social issue.
Social entrepreneurship in the broadest and best sense should mean the most in business and entrepreneurship. Why? Fulfillment. Remember Glenn's quote: "We are more fulfilled when we are involved with something bigger than ourselves."