10 questions to get you started as a social entrepreneur (part 1)

In today’s world, young generations are increasingly seeking meaning in their work. And as a result, social entrepreneurship has become a key element, attracting young talents with a drive to become leaders of change and positively impact society. Launching a social enterprise, however, is not unlike launching a traditional business and calls for thorough reflection and self-assessment before jumping in. We’ve drawn up a list of 10 questions to help you size up your project and get started.

1. Why do you want to start a social enterprise?

In other words, what are your motives for becoming an entrepreneur? Understanding where your entrepreneurial drive is coming from and why you want to go out on your own or pursue a social enterprise project is important. Why do you want to leave your current job? Is your turn toward entrepreneurship out of necessity? As opposed to what some people may imply, social entrepreneurship is not for everyone. There are many challenges involved, maybe even more than in “traditional” entrepreneurship. Beyond the standard challenges of business creation, you’ll need to devise a sustainable model that combines economical viability and a social mission.

A wide range of tools and tests are available online to help you take stock and validate (or invalidate) your desire to become an entrepreneur. For example, the entrepreneurial potential self-assessment. And to take things a farther, check out our article on the qualities of a good entrepreneur.

2. Which societal issue most affects you?

It’s very important to have a clear social mission. In light of your project’s aim, it’s crucial to inquire as to the true needs in your area. Social entrepreneurship goes hand in hand with local impact and anchorage in a specific territory. The UN has classified the key issues of our era into 17 major categories, which could help you better define your social cause.

Start by meeting other social entrepreneurs to discuss and swap ideas: you’ll see that people are much more open to sharing their experiences than what you might expect. Use successful social models and innovations from other countries as inspiration. And take your time: dig deep to really get to know the ecosystem you’re looking to work in.

To help you along with this, we recommend reading the article Validating your project’s social need.

3. What do you hope to accomplish?

Describe your ideal project. Try to imagine your project how it would most fulfill your dreams (and ignore the constraints for now). In this exercise, try to look 1 year into the future, then 2-3 years and try to identify just what it is you’re hoping to accomplish with your project as specifically as possible. Even if you are only in the first stages of your project, it’s extremely important to think about your vision, your mission and your objectives.

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4. Do you have the skills needed to implement your project?

Let’s get back to reality, because we can’t change the world with strong values alone! Daring to become an entrepreneur means a change of lifestyle that can be quite drastic. Identifying your strengths and talents is essential: areas where you’re naturally gifted and the skills at your disposal. Assess the range of skills you will need to see your project through. Will you need any certifications or specific degrees to access a regulated profession? Do you already have them, and if not, how will you get the training you need?

Overall, which of you own skills will you be able to capitalize on and which ones will you need to find externally (for example, by finding an associate, looking into partnerships with other professionals, etc.)? A simple exercise that can help you pinpoint the skills to bring to the forefront and those to develop for future stages of your project is to list 5 professional or associative experiences in which you felt you were able to use your full potential. For each one of these, try to extract 5 skills you leveraged. Now synthesize your skills list into those you view as priorities for yourself and the path that lies ahead.

5. What are your overall needs?

In order to bring your project to fruition, you will need a number of things: to feel supported, have a professional network and most importantly have the money required to get off the ground. Once you’ve listed your specific needs, take stock of everything you already have. Where and how will you find the other elements you need? What actions will you have to implement?

For the financial aspect, once your project is moving forward, we suggest trying the business launch equation (“equation de la création”, site only available in FR). This exercise will help you put numbers on your project to see if it’s worth pursuing and focus on key points to work through.

More to come in the next article!

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