What Comes First – The Social, or The Enterprise?

I know what you are thinking. They come together. That’s what social enterprise is all about. A business model that ties in social outcomes with the business operations in perfect harmony. The two are inextricably linked; otherwise it would be a charity that trades, or a business that does corporate social responsibility.

I would like to argue that there is another way. The journey to social enterprise can be a process, and we should encourage and celebrate that. When does a charity with a trading arm become a social enterprise? And how much social value does a business have to add before it can be called a social enterprise?

We have some answers for some of these questions. Some people say that a business is a social enterprise when at least 50% of the profits go towards social improvement.

Having coached and supported more than 250 social enterprises for more than half a decade, and through running my own business, I can tell you that in the early months and years, every pound of cash flow is vital. Without adequate cash flow for maintenance of operations and growth, any business, or charity will cease to exist.

I’ve seen many startup social enterprises struggle with this when getting started. It can be extremely hard to give away that much in the early days when you need it for sustenance of your own life and enterprise. The UK has a great social investment sector, but what about those entrepreneurs that don’t want outside investors?

I think there is another path that isn’t talked about enough. That is the path of gradually incorporating social values and benefits in your entire business as you grow.

It is within this category that some of the largest contributors of social value sit. Small social enterprises are great. But if we want growth in the sector, we need large social enterprises.

I don’t mind if you started off as an enterprise, and added the social later, and I don’t think anyone else should either. I believe that if enough socially minded people build businesses, they will eventually put the “social” in their enterprises when they can.

I don’t think we should expect people to build perfect social enterprises from day one. It’s just too hard most of the time. I’ve seen it. People sacrifice salary for social benefit. That’s not sustainable. Build a business that works, and add the social values as you grow. Trying to get everything perfect from day one will kill you.

It’s just too hard for most new bootstrapped businesses to have a completely social supply chain, carbon neutral offices, organic, fair trade and locally sourced everything.

So go out there. Be a business for a bit. Get some money coming in. Know your purpose and your goals, and don’t worry if you are not perfect yet. You can be perfect later. For now, just get started, and keep going. We need your ideas in the world.

My New Brazil Travel Guide is Available Now on Amazon

Do you want to know where you can swim with enormous fish in crystal clear hidden rivers, without harming the ecosystem? Or how you can safely visit the inner city favelas, and help support the people that live there at the same time?

Perhaps you’d like to stay at the most beautiful hotels and guesthouses in Brazil, while knowing that your choice is benefiting the local community and environment?

And if you are not traveling right now, the adventures and stories will entertain and encourage you to get planning and start packing!Tucan

I have published a collection of my travel stories from around Brazil and produced a new type of travel guide. I’m very proud of it, and I’m happy to say that it’s available now everywhere on Amazon.

If you are in the UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01M7RYBBA

Or the USA – https://amzn.com/B01M7RYBBA

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How to raise money for your Social Enterprise

Looking for capital? In collaboration with Impact Hub Westminster, I’m running their first ever Impact Investment Readiness programme. We designed it to help social entrepreneurs find impact investment within the next 12 months. participants-2-500x500

In October 2014, we took our first cohort through the programme (pictured above), and got some great feedback.  If you are a social enterprise based in London, you can apply for the free programme until December 1st 2014.

Below you’ll find just a taste of some of the skills, tips and tricks that the #SocEnt startups were able to learn, and put into practice on the programme.

Play at the right level

You’ve heard of crowdfunding, you’ve watched Dragon’s Den, and you know you could get a loan from the bank. But which is right for you now?

Paul Grant talks about the different levels of the funding game. Continue reading

The Best Social Enterprise Tour of East London

If you are looking for the best free self-guided tour of East London, this is my recommended route. I recently worked with the British Council to guide a group mostly Hong Kong citizens around some of the best social enterprises in London. A great group NGO workers, academics, and social entrepreneurs. Get in touch via the comments if you’d like take this tour with me.

FoodCycle

Bromley By Bow FoodCycle is a charity social enterprise that combines volunteers, surplus food and spare kitchen spaces to create tasty, nutritious meals for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation.

We stopped for a talk from Helena Chouchani to learn more about their growing number of FoodCycle Hubs across the UK, and franchising plans for expansion. Of course we stayed for a yummy lunch too!

Bikeworks

Bethnal Green Bikeworks runs a variety of community cycling programmes including employability for disadvantaged groups, all ability cycling, bicycle reuse and recycling, school cycle training and more. As a business it provides cycling services to consumers and organisations – so buy your next bike from here!

We were lucky to have a private tour from co-founder Jim Blakemore. He talked about the entrepreneurial journey, and how their social outcomes can continue to grow as the business grows.

Hackney Pirates

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Wharton Business School, irresponsible travel, and how you can have fun and do good at the same time.

Recently I was interviewed for the Wharton Business Radio Show, Dollars and Change.

It’s great to see a leading, Ivy League University putting resources into developing social impact initiatives like this.

As it’s a paid-for service, I can’t link to the actual 30 minute interview, but I’ve put details at the bottom of this article as to how you can sign up for a free trial if you’d like to listen.

What I can do is share four interesting points that came up from the interview.

Question: We’ve heard about your Beer-to-Beer Social Enterprise Learning Journey. This sounds amazing. We want to join. Can you tell us a bit more about it?

Answer: As I’ve said before, your friends are amazing, but you don’t always have the chance to learn from them.  Sure, you can go out with them for a beer on a Friday night, but why not go out on a fun journey with them, and actually learn something new at the same time?

That’s what the Impact Hub Crawl is all about. Not just peer-to-peer learning, but Beer-to-Beer learning!  Here’s a video to explain more from my last Impact Hub Crawl, Beer-to-Beer social enterprise learning experience:

Question: Surely, some people just want “irresponsible” experiences. Are people really interested in responsible travel experiences? 

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Join the Award Winning Impact Hub Crawl this month and #SparkSomeGood

I want to help you get started in Good Business. In work that makes the world better.

And if you’ve already started in good business, I want to support you to learn from your friends and peers. Some call this peer-to-peer learning. But this is Inspiring Adventures, and we call it beer-to-beer learning*!

And so, on Friday June 27th, you can:

Join the Impact Hub Crawl – The CoWorking, CoWalking, Social Adventure!

 

I’m very happy to announce that I’ve been given the social enterprise Spark Award by a fantastic organisation called UnLtd. It’s their mission to support social entrepreneurs too.

UnLtd Award Winner

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How to Start a Social Enterprise You Love

This post has my top three tips for starting something that matters. This is how I started, and it can work for you too.

1) Subscribe to blogs

No one likes unwanted spam. But newsletters and emails from interesting people have poked me into action more times than I can remember.  And it’s a great way to make sure you don’t miss the posts from people you like, and from people like you.

  • For business, I love to read the Four Hour Work Week blog by Tim Ferriss. It’s full of interesting posts on lifestyle design, health, new books and online business. I’ve learned a lot from his work. I like to read it with a social entrepreneurship lens. What would a social Tim Ferriss do?
  • For travel, I love This Battered Suitcase by Brenna Holeman. She writes wonderful stories of her adventures around the world, and also around my back garden here in East London.  I love it when she writes about causes she is passionate about, like Femme International, or questions irresponsible tourist practices like chumming for sharks.
  • For social impact, I always read The Impact Hub London Newsletter, and not just because I work here creating Hubcademy.  It’s great, and important, to hear about all the relevant, local events going on near you.  If you live in London, and you’re interested in making an impact with your life and work, join this list.

You can get all my blog posts in your email too – just enter details on the right at the top of the page. Never miss an Inspiring Adventures post!

I also have a newsletter, and I’d love to know what you’d like to read more about.  Answer my 17 second two question questionnaire, so that I can give you more of exactly what you want.

Thanks so much.

2) Write down ideas

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How to Start a Social Enterprise From Anywhere in the World

You want to start a company that makes the world a better place. How are you going to do that, then? I’ll tell you how. And I won’t just tell you how to start one in the UK, I’ll tell you how to do it in Myanmar too. And if you can do it in Myanmar, I’m pretty sure you can do it anywhere in the world.

1. Join a community.

I love coworking spaces. I love to visit and work from new ones in new countries. In London, I spend most of my time in Impact Hub Westminster, and I’m even on their website as a coworking lifeguard.

Joining a supportive community is a vital ingredient in your start-up success, so do it! Where else are you going to make friends that get you through your hard times, and help you celebrate your wins?  Check what’s around you and go for a look, or join a tour of coworking spaces in London.

Project Hub Yangon

What do you do if no community exists? You start one. That’s exactly what Allison Morris (pictured above), and Pete Silvester did with Project Hub Yangon. The space launched in 2013, but the community building work really began when the pair hosted Global Entrepreneurship Week in Myanmar in 2012. They hoped that Project Hub Yangon would become a place for like-minded people to discuss ideas, work on projects and create businesses. That’s exactly what’s happened.

Finding new members, and managing the space are the daily battles of every coworking space, but their vision has become a reality. In their first year, as well as hosting the space for members with local space manager Zar Chi, they supported 5 local start-ups through a sponsored incubation program.

“It’s still a lot of work, but it’s worth it to support the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.” Allison Morris, Co-founder.

When I got there, they’d just installed their third independent internet connection, to deal with Myanmar’s notoriously unpredictable service. It was one of the fastest I found in Yangon. They’ve even got a an emergency battery that keeps the wi-fi going even when all the other electricity goes out!

If you’ve got some work or research to do while you are in Yangon, definitely check it out.

2. Get Support.

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3 Social Enterprises You Will Love In Myanmar

When you go to Myanmar, definitely visit these places.  You’ll get great food and souvenirs, and you’ll truly be helping the local people who need it.  The amazing power of social enterprise – do what you love and make the world a better place at the same time!

As I mentioned in my previous post “5 Fun Things More People Should Do In Myanmar“, there are three great social enterprises that I recommend you visit on your stay.  Here’s a bit more information about each of them:

For your lunch – Yangon Bakehouse

As a customer, what you see when you walk into Yangon Bakehouse (YBH), is a small bustling cafe with a delicious looking menu, and mouth-watering baked goods on display. I ordered a chicken wrap with fresh salad, fresh juice, and had a brownie and coffee for dessert.  If I’d have been passing by, that might have been all I’d have noticed. Freshly prepared, high quality food.  But behind the scenes there is another world going on, that sets this cafe apart from the rest in Yangon. The next day, a came back and met co-founder Cavelle Dove, who explained more.

“YBH runs an apprentice training programme for local women that have come from difficult circumstances” Says co-founder Cavelle Dove. “All women that join the apprenticeships are referred from specialist agencies that work with women in need.”

“The program sees the women training with YBH for 10 months. They become part of a family. During the apprenticeship, they are paid for their work, and often for the first time they feel a sense of security. They are able to access healthcare, and plan for their children’s education. By the end of the program, the women have key skills that can be transferred to other restaurants and bakeries around Yangon, and will be especially well suited to the high value work in the growing tourism sector. ”

The Yangon Bakehouse shop front maybe small, but the dreams and plans are big. New partnerships and locations were being put into place when I visited, so have a look at the Yangon Bakehouse website for the latest information on new locations, and more beautiful photos.

For your souvenirs – Pomelo Yangon Continue reading

5 Fun Things More People Should Do In Myanmar

In this post, I’ll take you through 5 things I think more people should do in Myanmar, and why. If you haven’t already, be sure to read my previous post – 5 Beautiful Things Everybody Gets To See in Myanmar.

Sometimes it seems that every tourist in Myanmar is trying to do things that no one is doing. There are some great things to see and do, but if you yearn for  experiences that are a little more rare, try a few of these.

1) Sunrise from anywhere, in Mandalay

Everyone is pretty much obsessed with sunset in Myanmar. For good reason – it’s beautiful. But don’t forget about the equally beautiful sunrise.

On my first morning in my lovely guesthouse (Ma Ma’s Guesthouse) in Mandalay, I went up to the roof balcony at about 6am.  By 6.30am, the sun was starting to peak over the hills, giving me my first daylight view of the city.  I also managed to accidentally give a good scare to one of the guesthouse staff. She came up to sweep the floor, and wasn’t expecting a foreigner behind the door taking pictures. So I took a picture of her too.

They say Mandalay Hill is an excellent place for sunrise and sunset. I didn’t make it there that early. For me, it was a fine, deserted walk up in the middle of the day. Occasionally I was stopped and asked to pose for photos. To be back in Asia is to be a mini-celebrity again!

2) A Scooter Trek from Hsipaw Continue reading