Learning about Earning: lessons 7 and 8 from a social enterprise start-up

Top down vs bottom up

I have a problem with reconciling the character of many entrepreneurs (energetic, impatient and confident, even to the point of arrogance) with the idea of a social enterprise as a cooperative and collaborative enterprise. To my mind, users should be involved, as far as possible, in the design of the business (co-production) but this, of course, takes time and patience.

But I also accept that the entrepreneur is the one with the vision to mobilise resources and take the idea to a stage where (hopefully) others can take over – leading from behind. This frees up the entrepreneur to move on with a new idea (or new location if replication is the name of the game). Starters are not always good finishers…

Further related reading: 20 social enterprise leadership tips http://bit.ly/1rpFhQD Do you have the character of a social entrepreneur? http://bit.ly/ZdJ1hH Can you take people with you/ sell the vision? http://bit.ly/1BkU9qJ Are you accountable to others – even when you’re spending your own money? http://bit.ly/1nAA8Yx

 Cash in hand vs gifts in kind

“In year 1 you pay the business, in year 2 the business pays itself, in year 3 the business pays you”

 Whatever kind of business you’re starting (unless you’ve got a ready-made cohort of paying customers from day one) you’re likely to need a couple of year’s support before the business takes off. The social enterprise model is not an easy route to go down so you may need longer.

Traditionally, start-up support comes from ‘family, friends and fools’ and in the social enterprise sector there’s a growing supply of social investment (although there currently seems to be a mismatch between supply and demand). But alongside the need for some cash (you can’t run a business entirely on fresh air and goodwill) there’s a generous supply of free, non-cash support.

Alongside what’s available online…

  • Social Enterprise Start-up support – School for Social Entrepreneurs in Ipswich, Wenta Business Incubation in Herts and Beds (free for first three months), Social Incubator East in Cambridge, Inspire 2 Enterprise, and UnLtd.
  • Partners that are willing to help if there’s minimal direct cost to the organisation (Community Action Dacorum and Sunnyside Rural Trust in the case of The Repair Shed)
  • Company sponsorship – Triton Tools as official supplier of tools to the UK Men’s Sheds Association. More on The Repair Shed funding mix at http://bit.ly/1wdmgp3

If you’re interested in exploring ways to turn ideas into action, join Chris Lee for a day-long workshop on December 4 in Chelmsford Details at www.voluntarysectortraining.org.uk/courses/event/70/Ideas-Into-Action

 

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