Becoming A Social Entrepreneur

It may not seem like a good time to start a social business when the economy is struggling, but The New York Times believes the time is now. So, what does it take to be a social entrepreneur?

Don’t feel guilty if you make money.

If you choose the profit-making model, stick with it — without apology. A few years ago, Assaf Shafran founded a nonprofit in Israel that offered a smartphone-based dispatching system for first responders, like firefighters and emergency medical technicians.

But his social venture, called IsraeLife, had an impossible time giving the system away to volunteer organizations, largely because the organizations were suspicious of giveaways — they demanded exclusive rights or they got mired in red tape related to receiving gifts. Mr. Shafran decided he could do more good by selling the systems.

Enlist creative hiring techniques.

Despite paying less than mainstream companies, social enterprises have the ability to hire talented people.

Mathieu Senard is chief executive of Alter Eco Americas, a San Francisco-based company that sells organic Fair Trade products, including dark chocolate bars, quinoa, rice and sugar to retailers.

Alter Eco broke into Whole Foods early on, but its products were not widely distributed nationwide. Mr. Senard feared that he could not afford the industry talent he needed to capture more shelf space. His big break came unexpectedly, four and a half years ago, when Kate Tierney, vice president for sales at a big natural foods distributor, agreed to serve on Alter Eco’s board.

Photo by Sweetie187

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