Originally Published in Forbes Nonprofit Council on January 4, 2022.
By Aaron Katler.
As we continue to navigate the pandemic, two things become poignantly clear: the workplace will never be the same, and holding on to old ways of doing things will be at the expense of our future.
While the workforce navigates hybrid work, workplace wellness and other pandemic-related issues, the world of entrepreneurship is also shifting. Over the past two years, millions of Americans launched businesses, and Bloomberg reports that the U.S. Census received almost 40% more business applications last year when compared to 2019.
Social entrepreneurship is also about to have a moment. Post-Covid, entrepreneurs are seeing huge opportunities for social impact, and funders are looking to join forces and help propel real change.
Covid proved that connection matters.
People need and want to connect with others to deepen the meaning in their own lives and the world around them. Connecting in more meaningful ways will have the ability to improve communities. The social entrepreneurs who see this desire to connect as the incredible opportunity that it is are the ones who will succeed.
And there should be a sense of urgency for entrepreneurs. If you don’t build for your community, someone else will. The marketplace of connection and meaning is more competitive than ever, with companies and ideas focused on creating community. Take Peloton. The experience creates meaning for people and helps create a community for those who need it. The social entrepreneurs who understand this will come out ahead.
Entrepreneur support organizations (ESO) are a good solution for social entrepreneurs.
One of the barriers to entry for entrepreneurs is access to funding, and that’s even more true for social entrepreneurs. This is where ESOs, particularly ones catered to help social entrepreneurs, can be massively important.
ESOs are companies that mentor, train and, in some instances, fund entrepreneurs. Ultimately, ESOs care about people – and the engine of innovation. They understand why it’s important to invest in people and their ideas. They understand it’s so important to create a supportive environment, encourage risk-taking and provide access to capital – and do it with an urgency to create impact but with the patience for growth.
The whole world is looking towards reimagining the future, and now is the time to take risks. If you’re a social entrepreneur looking for an ESO, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Well-being, resilience and innovation travel well together.
Social entrepreneurs lack a natural community of peers. Cohorts build a community that creates relationships and connections that allow for more risk-taking and smarter growth. In fact, the community and network of mentors, investors, and like-minded entrepreneurs is one of the most important parts of working in a business incubator.
2. Good partners will help you keep a critical eye towards both the journey and the destination.
Operate with a bias towards action, patience for growth, and impatience for impact. Incubators and experienced VCs understand this. It’s incredibly helpful to have mentors who have gone through the process before and help entrepreneurs avoid common pitfalls – particularly first-time entrepreneurs.
3. Find an ESO that creates an enabling environment for social entrepreneurs to thrive.
Smart incubators support inter- and intra-sector collaborations. It’s important for entrepreneurs to cross pollinate, but stay in your lane. Create a healthy ecosystem. Don’t play someone else’s part or overstep while collaborating, and instead end up creating an “ego-system.”
People are looking for connection right now. There is unprecedented opportunity for social entrepreneurs looking to help communities connect and thrive. Finding the right entrepreneur support organization can be a wise first step.