Since leaving my corporate sales role three and half years ago and with no apparent ideas to what I wanted to do next. I am known to my friends for being on a mini MBA in social enterprise. Unfortunately, there are no claims of letters after my name.
However, if one of your top goals in 2018 is to pursue a more purposeful career, I hope my top five learnings that I have gained will help you in your pursuit:
1. Don’t be afraid to start. There is never a right time.
While many of us are familiar with the private, public and third sector. The term social enterprise was relatively new to me. I'd learned Freer Spreckley, defined the first description of a social enterprise in 1978 as a democratically owned and run trading organization, that is financially independent, has social objectives and operates in an environmentally responsible way. What inspired me was a book I read, titled Creating a world without poverty, written by Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, banker, economist, and civil society leader. Yunus first used the term social enterprise in 2009 and pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance with the Grameen Bank and is also known as the founder of the social business model. It doesn’t matter when you start; the fact that you had a made a start is more important.
2. Follow your curiosity and don't get too caught up if it is right or not.
I begun my purposeful career by following my curiosity to uncover what social enterprise is? For me, I wanted to meet and connect with like-minded individuals at the start, so I started a social enterprise meet up in London, this is now a network circa a thousand members. I was also curious and wanted to know what a life of a social entrepreneur is about, so I incorporated my travel adventures into my learning, this included enrolling in a 6-week programme as a business consultant working with grassroots social entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka, and fundraising and visiting social enterprise projects overseas in Uganda and Kenya.
3. Invest in your learning and offer your skills and experiences to others
I found by permitting myself to take time off and allocating a budget for development was essential. It had allowed me to engage with new people and build the relevant networks and contacts. I wanted to understand why and what people were doing. It helped me to see their challenges and identify opportunities where I can offer help. For example I run sales training sessions, hackathons, and facilitated workshops on enterprising ideas. So much so, it gave me the idea to start The Fourth Sector, a service platform where I was able to apply my corporate events and commercial experience to connect and support social entrepreneurs to start and deliver their social impact and grow their business more sustainably. So far we have supported over 350 social entrepreneurs through our social enterprise conferences, workshops, coaching and training programmes.
4. It takes time to evolve and opportunities to develop.
By serving others, it also helped me to identify and seek opportunities within myself. This year, I have co-founded a social business called Y.O.U underwear. Y.O.U is your own underwear, offering ethically manufactured, 100% organic cotton underwear for men and women. For every purchase we provide underwear to people in need. The company follows a similar concept to the one for one movement, a business model driven by the founder and Chief Shoe Giver at TOMs, Blake Mycoskie.
5. Be kind to yourself
It is a journey, as much as going forward it is fundamental to look back and just see how far you have come and the decisions you have made to pursue a more fulfilling and meaningful career. Ensure you surround yourself with the right people and yes, there will be up and downs, uncertainties, so stay kind to yourself as you are build something that matters.
I hope you will find this useful, if you like to find out more about starting a social business or working in social enterprise, please drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are a freelancer, side-hustlers or full-time entrepreneurs ready to take focused action on making your business more financially sustainable, I will be co-hosting a Get **it Done Weekend in March. Check out the details and registered your interest here, we will be in contact with more information.
Have a prosperous 2018 and impactful year.
The Fourth Sector