Learning about Earning: lessons 9 and 10 from a social enterprise start-up  

Working on the business vs working in the business

If you’re starting a social enterprise, how are you going to fund yourself over the first few years? Being employed in a part-time job running alongside your start-up is not without problems – conflicts of interest and time management (at work and home) being two of them. Are you disciplined enough to let others get on with the operational ‘fun parts’ (in my case – making, mending and learning) while you do the less creative form-filling, finance and legal aspects?  http://bit.ly/1An23gR

 Success vs failure

“Assume it will take twice as long as you think it will, cost twice as much, and generate half the income”

Passion, self-belief and eternal optimism are the hallmarks of someone setting up a social enterprise (otherwise why would anyone do it?) But it’s good to stir a little realism into the mix. Be open to advice from advisers and seek out the wisdom of the ‘experts by experience’ who’ve been, done it, and got the cardigan.

Be realistic about time and costs (however painful). The three CRI-supported social enterprises in Hertfordshire have been given a couple of years to break even. Olive Quinton of Lofty Heights in Ipswich (www.lofty-heights.org) wisely observed ‘Your timetable is not other people’s timetable – you’ll need to be patient and do a lot of chasing and waiting’.

As well as having someone with entrepreneurial tendencies leading, is the rest of the enterprise (assuming it’s not just one person operating in isolation) also entrepreneurial? Do you have at least some of these characteristics? http://bit.ly/1w4E7kD

And if all else fails… and your start-up doesn’t take off – probably for very good, unavoidable, reasons – console yourself with the insights of David Robinson founder of (and now senior advisor to) Community Links in east London. He is a man with a declared passion for failure. He says

“If we don’t fail, it means we’re not taking risks. If we’re not taking risks, it means we’re not trying to do things differently. And if we’re not trying to do things differently, why are we here?”

And maybe learn a lesson or two by reading this blog post http://bit.ly/1rVPVTp?

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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