Social entrepreneurs use entrepreneurial methods to create social ventures that provide solutions to social issues. Social entrepreneurs work to create social change by generating profit along with creating social capital in creative and innovative ways.
Social entrepreneurs’ work is not limited to the for-profit sector, non-profit sector, or the public sector. Instead it is inter-disciplinary, cross-sector, and fast-paced. Social entrepreneurship is a new and growing industry with many social ventures having been started within just the past decade.
If you look to be a catalyst for social change by being innovative, on the cutting-edge, and opportunity seeking, continue to explore this section where you can learn more about social entrepreneurship and find some of the preliminary research and resources you will need.
Some famous examples includes TOMS Shoes, a company that donates a pair of shoes to children in the developing world for every pair of shoes purchased, and Kiva, a non-profit that facilitates microloans from donors to entrepreneurs in the developing world.
FAQ about Social Entrepreneurship
How is Social Entrepreneurship Different from Traditional Non-Profits?
Social entrepreneurship can happen at any sector, not just in the non-profit sector, and often works across sectors. It is different from traditional charities because social entrepreneurs look to create sustainable revenue sources and rely less heavily on donors.
What Skills Do I Need to Pursue Social Entrepreneurship?
Social entrepreneurs need to be motivated, innovative, flexible, and creative. Working together in teams with diverse skill sets will be crucial to making any idea or prototype a success. Finally, social entrepreneurs want to use these skills to be a catalyst for social change with a passion for a cause.
How Can I Start as a Social Entrepreneur?
There are resources below on how you can start as a social entrepreneur from brainstorming ideas, developing a prototype, and establishing a network and funding. However you could start right now if you have a great idea or want to create social change by talking with others who could help you brainstorm or lead you to different resources and/or networks.
Resources At Columbia for Social Entrepreneurship
Columbia offers a wide array of services to entrepreneurs through various extracurricular and curricular clubs, seminars, and classes. Also if you are interested in social entrepreneurship, stay tuned for potential workshops, seminars, and speaker series for interested students from the CCE.
CORE Columbia Organization for Rising Entrepreneurs (CORE) (Website currently under construction)
Columbia Venture Lab Predominately geared as a resource for members of the Columbia community to start up tech companies
Columbia Venture Community MeetUp Group MeetUp group with members of the Columbia community to network and share ideas
New York Small Business Development Center: Columbia A free service provided by the New York Small Business Development Center to help new businesses create business plans, marketing strategies, and comply with licensing and regulations. Their office is in Mudd.
Existing Ideas/Ideas in the Making
There are many social ventures in various sectors. Some of the most prominent ones are listed below along with links to social entrepreneurship ideas in the making (mostly created by college students).
Social ventures are distinct from traditional non-profits as they look to offer services to customers in order to become profitable and self-sustaining. They are also distinct from companies in that their services, profits, and energy are devoted to addressing and bettering a social problem.
Save Our Planet Collection of Social Enterprises created in various sectors compiled by
Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs, to empower, encourage and catalyze
to facilitate progressive change in areas of social justice and ecological restoration.
Unite for Sight Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship and how it relates to professional opportunities from Unite for Sight, a not-for-profit serving people worldwide to provide access to eyecare.
Kiva International microfinancing organization working to empower entrepreneurs worldwide
SocialPakt Newly created social venture company founded by two Columbia alums to empower non-profits and local artists
Acumen Fund Investment firm that looks to fund social entrepreneurs across the world to create sustainable social change with a global network of investors and consultants
Toms Shoes Company that donates a pair of shoes to children in the developing world for every pair of shoes purchased
What Other Students are Doing
At NYU, students can participate to be a part of the Reynolds Changemaker Challenge where teams of students develop and prototype socially entrepreneurial ideas. Teams of students can receive funding up to $10,000 to enact/further their ideas. To get an idea of what other students are designing,
How To Pursue Social Entrepreneurship
Social ventures start when a social entrepreneur looks to address a social need or problem using for-profit business methods. You can browse and download these resources to help you identify, create, and implement any socially minded entrepreneurship ideas you have.
Below is an abridged guide for how to start in becoming a social entrepreneur, for more comprehensive information check out the resources on how to create a social enterprise.
Find a Cause
First, think of the social change you want to enact. Some examples include providing eye care for all people, providing electricity in refugee camps, or picking up litter in the local park.
Learn More about the Cause
Once you have identified what you are passionate about, learn more about it. In addition to doing research on your own, it will be beneficial to reach out to friends, professors, and those working in that field. Interview the people you want to help and find what more you can do/learn. It will also help you develop ideas.
Find Partners and Develop a Team
As you are doing this, find a team committed to this cause. It also will be beneficial to build a team that has a diverse skill set and can dedicate time towards the project at hand.
From what you have learned from your interviews, research, and general background knowledge, develop an idea of how what innovative ideas you have to make your vision a reality.
Access Current Resources and Identify Missing Resources
Once you have decided on an idea, think of what resources you have and what resources you need. Often times you will find that you will need professional support, expertise, and/or funding. For funding, check out our page about funding for social entrepreneurs. Using this, make a plan for how you can leverage resources at your disposal and how you will obtain other necessary resources. Consider services in the community and the university where you may be able to get free or reduced services and talk with others to find out about additional opportunities and resources that may exist in their networks.
With this information start further developing your idea so that when you need to present it, you will be ready.
Develop a Presentation
In order to get the resources you seek from various groups/organizations, you will have to pitch the idea to potential investors, partners, volunteer, and/or community organizations. Find a way to make an interesting yet professional presentation that outlines the vision, how your project or idea can make it a possibility, and why it is a wise investment of money, time, or talent for your audience.
Consider your audiences’ interests and capacities while developing your presentation in order to optimize their reception to your project.
Present Your Case
Once you have developed a presentation, reach out to groups that you wish to target. Be systematic in your process and don’t get discouraged when people do not respond or do not offer what you were looking for. If people are not responding, follow up politely, and if people cannot extend you funding or resources, be polite and ask for feedback on how to develop your presentation or the idea as a whole. Furthermore, ask if you could get in touch with their colleagues to continue making presentations. Above all, stay persistent and stay positive.
Implement Your Ideas
Once you have the resources necessary, work on implementing your ideas. Remember to constantly re-evaluate and work to better your programs. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal of social entrepreneurs is to enact the social change you envision in a sustainable way.
Resources for Social Entrepreneurs
Creating a social enterprise
IDEO Social Entrepreneurship Toolkit Free toolkit for social entrepreneurs created by IDEO, an award-winning global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organizations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow. (Registration required)
Professor Jeffrey Robinson's Guide to Social Ventures Guide to create social ventures created by Professor Jeffrey Robinson at the Stern School of Business at NYU
MeetUp NYC MeetUp group for entrepreneurs in NYC
Starting Bloc Annual conference in NYC for young social entrepreneurs to gain the necessary skills and build a network to succeed in their social entrepreneurship ventures
YWSE Network for young female entrepreneurs in NYC with a socially conscious agenda who are founders and leaders within businesses, non-profits, and government organizations
In addition to the resources below, reach out to businesses, investment groups, and local civic organizations whose values/missions may align with yours. Even if you do not receive funding from the first batch of people you contact, you will be able to build a network and be able to learn of additional funding opportunities as a result.
Davis Projects for Peace An initiative for all students at the Davis United World College Scholars Program partner schools to design grassroots projects for the summer with $10,000 grants given out to selected projects.
YWSE Fund for start-up companies in NYC dedicated to clean energy sources, sponsored by Young Women’s Social Entrepreneurs.
NCIIA A program created by the Lemelson Foundation to support social entrepreneurs in college to create socially beneficial or technology based ventures by awarding students with grants, workshops, and networking.
KickStarter The world’s largest fundraising platform for creative projects. You can use it to get pledges to fund early stage prototypes of ideas
Dell Social Innovation Challenge Competition for college students to get funding for socially innovative ideas, sponsored by Dell