how to be a social entrepreneur
At first, all I knew was that I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to help as many people as possible.
I didn’t know where to begin, so I just began with what I knew. When I was a teen, I would have conversations with guys who were a year younger than me (because no one else seemed to value my opinion much) and they would tell me about what they were struggling with and I would try to see how I could help.
A couple of years later, I dropped out of college to serve the homeless and the sick. I tried to console, heal, and guide people who had very little financially, physically, or spiritually.
This is true of life: You can only lead people as far as you have gone.
As a 19 year old, I didn’t have much, but I did have more than someone homeless (or so I thought… one time I met a homeless guy who had a plastic bag with $6,000 of cash on him), and by that point I had dedicated the majority of my life to my own spiritual growth and development.
So I gave what I had.
But after 3 years of that, I realized that there were people I couldn’t help.
One time, I met a woman whose husband had recently passed away so she was now raising two teenagers by herself and inheriting a multi-million dollar business she had no ability to run.
I felt so much compassion, I felt a deep desire to be able to make a difference for her family, and I also felt so powerless.
This is when I realized that having good intentions is not enough to make a difference.
You need to be able to solve peoples’ problems to be able to make a difference.
So, I embarked on a journey I never saw coming. I dropped everything, went into the world of real estate to flip houses.
I wanted to learn other important skills. I was forced to face the fact that I knew nothing about business and money after meeting that widow, so I resolved to learn all I could so I wouldn’t have to be powerless if I faced a similar situation again.
Actually, this drives all the learning that I do, it’s because I know it can help someone some day. The more I know, the more resources I have to help someone (that’s also why I write).
So where am I going with this?
You want to be a social entrepreneur, awesome!
What problems can you fix? Who can you help?
The bigger the problem you can solve, the better chance you have at it being a business you can build around it.
Many aspiring social entrepreneurs want to solve the biggest problems on the planet, but the biggest problems require many resources. It requires deep and vast relationships, it requires a suite of skills and deep understanding across many spheres of knowledge, and requires the ability to understand real world incentives at play. You don’t get there overnight.
You will need to invest many years learning those skills and pooling together the network and resources to begin moving the needle on those big problems.
So where do you begin?
Solve small problems.
Begin with what you know. Begin with the people you know. Begin with your local community.
Learn, soak up knowledge, learn how money works (it is a tool, it is not inherently “bad”), learn how people work, learn how to influence, learn how to lead, learn how to organize a team, learn how to spread an idea, learn how to teach, learn how to be a good student, learn to ask good questions, and learn from those who have been there and done that (i.e. find a mentor).
And while you are learning those things, find people who care about the same thing so you can support each other and learn together.
I learned social fluency and how to coach/mentor/speak/teach in working with the homeless and sick.
I learned investing, general business savvy, basic real estate law, marketing, sales, how to communicate professionally, how to build strong professional relationships, and how to build trust with clients in doing real estate investing.
I am currently learning how to build systems and processes, how to work well
my confounding team, how to train successors, how to build curriculum, and how to design event experiences at my current social enterprise atOrenda Academy
Whatever I commit to next will add to my suite of skills and also leverage what I’ve already mastered. I’ve been on the journey for 7 years and I know it will take at least a decade to get to where I want to be.
Start with what you have.
Solve small problems, and then bigger ones.
Okay so you're already doing your masters in neuroscience, and you're asking what you need in terms of more education to become a social entrepreneur? Hmm. Have you heard of the term 'pointless paper chase'?
Here's my humble opinion: Nothing.
You see, to be an entrepreneur (let's not even think social yet), you don't collect papers. You collect results. Validation. Revenue. Growth. You don't think of wasting time studying for a doctorate when you could be using all that time and money to devise a solution that would actually make more money AND help people in the process.
My suggestion is to stop thinking more certificates will get you more opportunities. At some point, a PhD does nothing for you but get you more research/academia roles. If you want to be a social entrepreneur, use your background in neuroscience and apply that into everyday life. Is there a segment of people you feel passionate for? Is there a social cause you would love to advocate for? Now think about how neuroscience can help and align with that segment, that social cause?
Build a business plan. I suggest using the Business Model Canvas by Alex Osterwalder. Who are your paying customers? Who are your beneficiaries? Are they the same people (ideally they shouldn't be by the way, but if you have a revolutionary model, by all means go for it)? Seek market validation from both your customers and beneficiaries. Collect data as to what will work, and amplify that. Collect data as to what won't work, and pivot. There's way more but I'm sure you can find out exactly what you need from the answers on Quora. If not, feel free to PM me.
Entrepreneurs don't collect certificates. They collect experiences.
Find a very specific problem to solve. Immerse yourself to that community. Find their need, look for the gaps, empathize. Incubate your idea by joining to boot camps or start-up incubator. Network with people. Apply for funding. Get started! Don't loose the drive, that will keep you going.
The best education to become an entrepreneur of any type is to get out there and start doing it. You're going to fall down, feel like a failure, but it's what you learn from those moments of falling from grace. Yeah there are college courses on business topics and even entrepreneurship, but college doesn't teach you how to fall with style, learn and drive on.
I really can't tell you what to do, each person is different. What I can say is do a lot of research online, follow other entrepreneurs who you can look up to, learn from and implement to your own strategy.