When you think of the word “entrepreneurship,” the concepts that come to your mind are probably profit motivated. Bigger businesses do sometimes contribute to social change campaigns, but often their motives are in question. After all, how much is the measly amount they contribute compared to the amount they make, and how much is it actually helping an issue in the long run? Well, that’s where the idea of social entrepreneurship comes in.
If you’re not aware of what social entrepreneurship is, it’s entrepreneurship for the purpose of social change and innovation. While a social entrepreneur’s organization could be profit focused, it is often nonprofit. Regardless of how the business is set up legally however, the reason it exists is never for the money; it’s for the social progress and change to be made. In the same way that you’re never too young or old to be an entrepreneur, you can start making a difference in the world at any age.
eCommerce has a valuable place in social entrepreneurship. How could it not in the age of the internet? According to TechCrunch in 2016, 79 percent of Americans shop online. Social entrepreneurs like Blake Mycoskie of TOMS and Jeffrey Hollander of Seventh Generation are two large-scale social entrepreneurs who use e-commerce in their projects every day. Because these sorts of things still involve marketing and sales, even with a different purpose in mind. Here are a few practical tips on using e-commerce with social entrepreneurship endeavors.
Know the Issue
You can’t fake philanthropy. Proper social entrepreneurship starts with the right understanding and education, and if you don’t have that, the public will be able to tell. So start learning. There are obviously programs at four-year colleges that give you the know-how through business, sociology, psychology, and social work classes. However, there are also online social work school programs if your schedule does not permit a traditional education.
Internships and volunteer programs are also wonderful ways to gain knowledge but not just of the issues at hand. No, these can add behind-the-managerial-scenes experience to your knowledge and know-how as well. Field experience, behind-the-scenes experience, and formal education are all important for social entrepreneurship. Combine them and you can be unstoppable.
Choosing your e-commerce distributors is a big deal because it’s what ensures that you will be able to present and sell your innovations and products to the world. Without it you may simply not be seen. Some people set up online stores through Storenvy, Big Cartel, Etsy, Wix and Shopify. These typically differ in how compatible they are with websites and what kinds of users and consumers they attract. As a nonprofit company, it’s very important that whatever platform you use for e-commerce complies with your ethics as well. If they keep too much money or exploit those who they work with, then stay away from them.
Bigger distributors like Amazon and Ebay are also options to keep on your radar. If your products are the kind of thing people use every day or enjoy — such as media devices, tools and house fixing up products, clothing — e-retail sites make good middlemen to go through for the purpose of exposure. While these companies are typically more for-profit, they can be good mediums to promote your product and therefore your message. However, first think to see if your product is the kind that they sell on those sorts of websites anyway.
Some of the pathways you can use allow you to split profits to multiple receivers. This becomes convenient when whatever profit comes in is divided between covering costs and going to a seperate charity or employees. This also cuts out the effort you put into dividing it all up yourself. However, this can be pretty risky and may actually require more work than you think.
The legal problems you may get into if the numbers are wrong can be problematic. So if you have your middleman website dividing the profits up before sending them to you, make sure to keep track of all the receipts. If there’s ever a problem you run into, then you will want to be sure you have all available financial records to fix it. You do not want the law or the news media on your case should it seem you are indulging in money intended to go toward other places when there was just a mistake in the sales reporting.
Whatever organizations, charities, and influencers that you work with need to be in line with what you’re doing. Whoever you partner with needs to have your goals in mind. When it comes to e-commerce, you need to make sure that the ethics of your storehost line up closely with yours. Additionally, it is wise to look into ways you may be able to partner with your e-commerce middleman — it never hurts to reach out. Additionally, selling partnering organizations and influencers’ products by means of your e-commerce channels could be a way to use your partnerships to drive more traffic and sales.
You will take the same steps that you would to gain financial security in your personal life for your business to stay financially responsible. After all, the life of an entrepreneur isn’t all fun and games — in fact, it’s an enormous amount of responsibility. Working with accounting companies that work exclusively with nonprofits may be best if you run your organization as a nonprofit. If you don’t, you should still try to find an accountant or financial advisor that understands what you do and a) doesn’t charge you too much, and b) allows you the freedom to keep running in a way dedicated to social change, not personal gain.
How have you social entrepreneurs reading this used e-commerce in your endeavors? It’d be great to hear about — leave your response in the comments below!