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Mixing Business With Passion

As a social entrepreneur, you can indulge your passion for social issues and make a profit at the same time. We show you how.

By
This story appears in the June 2009 issue of Start Up.

If you've ever thought it impossible to make money while making a dent in the social problems of the world, think again. The resounding success of socially responsible businesses and mission-driven ventures has ushered in a new model for the 21st century: social enterprise. Armed with business acumen and market-driven strategies, social entrepreneurs stay focused on their number-one goal: saving the world, one customer at a time. Some even turn a profit while they're at it.

Of course, social enterprise isn't for everyone. In many ways, it requires an entrepreneur capable of launching both a business and a charitable organization (think the brains of a VC-backed internet startup with a soup-kitchen soul). But success can be doubly rewarding, too. "By incorporating a social mission into their business ventures, entrepreneurs can make profits in a way that affirms their values," says Shena Ashley, a nonprofit consultant and professor of public administration at Syracuse University's Maxwell School.



Think you have what it takes to start a social enterprise? Get off to a good start with these seven key steps.



1. Define your mission. As obvious as it sounds, a surprising number of people who start new businesses can't articulate the problem they're trying to solve. If you're starting a mission-driven venture, it's even more important to be able to rattle off your elevator pitch. Realize that as a social entrepreneur, you may have to articulate more than one goal, since the very concept of social entrepreneurship is built on the idea that market-based approaches can be effective in solving social problems. For example, your goals may include promoting responsible agriculture and generating profit through your sales of organic, locally sourced food products. Knowing your mission and allowing it to govern your decision making will help keep you focused when you confront the tough choices ahead.

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