Why Now Is the Time to Start Your Social Enterprise
Since starting my company Words With Heart almost 3 years ago, the social enterprise scene in Australia has changed a hell of a lot. When people casually asked what I did for a living, it wasn’t unusual to get a lot of perplexed looks when I told them a was a ‘social entrepreneur’. These days, a lot more of us are familiar with companies like Thankyou, Who Gives A Crap and Orange Sky Laundry, and conscious consumerism is well and truly on the up.
This growing knowledge and maturing of the market has brought a whole heap of advantages to those looking to start a social enterprise in 2017.
Firstly – a budding social entrepreneur can pretty much take their pick of social enterprise accelerator programs. Back in 2013 I had the School of Social Entrepreneurs, but today there is Impact Academy, The Difference Incubator, The Crunch and even the newly formed Verge Entrepreneurship Program for teenagers. There’s so much more knowledge in the space, many more experienced social entrepreneurs to learn from, and lots of successful case studies to look to. If you haven’t yet undertaken a business accelerator program, I highly recommend that you do.
Secondly – corporates are much more clued on now to the benefits of social entrepreneurship and are keen to tap into the space. For a new social entrepreneur looking for credibility and kick-starter funding, companies such as ING Direct, Myer, Macquarie Bank and Westpac all have social enterprise grants available. And if you have the right product or service, these companies are seriously interested in social enterprise procurement. For Words With Heart, these grant/procurement partnerships have been absolutely instrumental to our success. They’ve given us immeasurable credibility, and lead to $50,000 + orders and joint marketing campaigns that would have taken us years to secure otherwise.
Finally – in the last couple of years, a bunch of social enterprise focused awards and competitions have popped up. This year, Words With Heart was the Australian finalist in the Chivas Venture – a $1 million global competition for the worlds best social enterprises. It took me to study at Oxford University for a week, and then to LA to pitch alongside 29 other incredible social enterprises. It enabled me to connect with some amazing people and investors, and also led to new clients and grant funding.
Right now I’m a finalist in the Australian Women’s Weekly and Qantas Women of The Future Awards (you can check them out and vote here! www.nowtolove.com/womenofthefuture) where there are three prizes of up to $50,000 available. Competitions like these again offer incredible exposure and credibility to social entrepreneurs, regardless of whether or not you win the grant funding.
But perhaps the biggest advantage of starting a social enterprise in 2017 is the wonderful community that has emerged in Australia. With so many social enterprises supporting each other, sharing winnings and learnings, posting about each other’s enterprises across social media, collaborating on ventures – it’s this kind of activity that is creating a successful market for all of us. I can’t wait to see what another 3 years will bring.