What is Social Entrepreneurship?

33% of Millennials today are entrepreneurs. 19% of this group categorizes their business as their main source of income. This is revolutionary, considering only 12% of Gen Xers (the generation before Millennials) have pursued a similar track. If this trend continues, we are sure to see more Gen Zers working for themselves than in a traditional corporate setting. Will this set up our newest workforce for long-term fulfillment and a sustainable workflow?

94% of Millennials are interested in using their skills to benefit a cause. This is made easier when working directly for a nonprofit or company that emphasizes giving back to the community in some capacity. Not every business needs to be a non-profit to make a difference. Entrepreneurs can achieve a high level of purpose, community engagement, and fulfillment with a practice called social entrepreneurship.

Social Entrepreneurship Definition 

You may be wondering, “What is social entrepreneurship?” Social entrepreneurship offers increased business value and personal fulfillment. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says that “social entrepreneurship is the process by which individuals, startups and entrepreneurs develop and fund solutions that directly address social issues. A social entrepreneur, therefore, is a person who explores business opportunities that have a positive impact on their community, in society or the world.”

So, when high school and college students begin their businesses, it is necessary to put social entrepreneurship in the high-priority list.

Examples of Social Entrepreneurship

The world’s most notable social entrepreneurs include Shiza Shahid, the co-founder and global ambassador of the Malala Fund, who created the fund after being inspired by Malala Yousafzai to empower women and girls by advocating for and providing access to education.

Another example is Water to Thrive, the popular organization among colleges and universities that was founded by Dick Moeller after he worked with a church group that raised enough money to build 12 wells and transform the lives of multiple African communities. Now, Water to Thrive has brought clean and safe drinking water to over 675,000 people.

These two organizations have notoriety throughout the world. While this level can be something to strive toward, it might be best to start with considering how social entrepreneurship can work for a 17-year-old photographer or a 24-year-old landscaper in Iowa.

It comes back to basics: the business you are passionate about.

How You Can Incorporate Social Entrepreneurship Into Your Business

A photographer might volunteer a couple of hours each week at the public library’s after-school technology literacy program or tutor a younger student who is interested in photography. The landscaper might spend time with the Tallgrass Prairie Center at the University of Northern Iowa to help restore Iowa’s natural grasses, learn more about different vegetation and meet others interested in creating beauty in and with nature.

There are plenty of opportunities to give back in any community. Give some time to research and connect with the people who run those programs. If that sounds like too much work, consider the benefits it will have for a start-up business in the long term.

Rethinking Barriers to a Successful Business

It is difficult to manage a work-life balance as a young entrepreneur. Add in school and perhaps an additional job, and maybe social entrepreneurship starts to sound like more than one person can handle. It involves energy and time that business owners might rather spend working directly with clients, doing paperwork, or taking some down time. However, it is imperative to reframe this thought process. Today’s customers are more focused on spending their money for goods and services that align with their values.

“As consumers, we have redefined ourselves as citizens of the world,” said Eve Blossom, Founder and CEO of WE’VE, which provides a global marketplace for artisans from Cambodia, India and the U.S. who create eco-friendly products and get support from WE’VE in return. “We are considering our purchases in a holistic sense, examining the price of products not only in terms of the amount paid at the register, but also the total cost of production along the way, including pesticides and poisons used, sweatshops employed, and other, broader human consequences. A whole industry has grown around this revelation, as businesses are being built on a smarter framework of ecological, economic and social sustainability. The most fulfilling goods and services are those that connect us in relevant ways to other people and help us live in concert with our values.”

Get Started

It is time to make social entrepreneurship a significant focus of your business. Share your efforts on your social media, or invite friends and clients (when appropriate) to volunteer with you. You can also add a section about this work to your website—it costs nothing but time and the reward will be significant in the long run.