Get All Access for $5/mo

What Surprised Me Most As a Social Entrepreneur Starting a social enterprise isn't about making sacrifices or doing something extra. It's doing things better in the interest of being more successful.

By Elizabeth Schaeffer Brown Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I gave up things when I went out on my own to become an entrepreneur: job security and a predictable paycheck. I took the risk because I had to pursue my desire for greater freedom and happiness. Freedom to take my own risks, chose my own path and bring my own vision to life. It was the right decision. I discovered that independence, freedom, dignity and happiness were synonymous for me.

Early on in my path as an entrepreneur I discovered a surprise: It wasn't enough to focus only on my own happiness. When I figured out that success was a group enterprise -- that, as a social creature, I could not be truly happy without caring about other people's freedom -- I discovered social enterprise. Then I made a second surprising discovery: Starting a social enterprise is not about making sacrifices or doing something extra. Social enterprise is about doing things better in the interest of being more successful.

Can you really make a great product if you don't care about your consumers or employees? Quality is not about cutting corners. It is about being accountable. It is not only surface. It is substance. People know the difference. They recognize it instantly and we are taught this value as children. Yet, for short-sighted reasons, we are awash in the misleading, cheap and cruel.

Related: When Does Being Socially Responsible Hurt Your Business?

The more I became interested in social enterprise, the more I sought out clients with a similar interest in quality. When I heard Hugh Jackman describe the rationale for his company, Laughing Man Worldwide -- a business incubator that gives 100% of profits from its stake in its companies to charity with a focus on education, community development and new businesses across the globe -- in terms of liberating people to seek their own happiness, I knew I had found a great client. Jackman's vision is simple and inspired: People with a high quality of life and who feel that their work is valued -- people who are happy -- produce high-quality products.

My third surprising discovery was that more and more people are coming to this realization. Everywhere I go I find people who share my excitement and who hope to change the way we do business. I am convinced the link between quality of life and quality products will one day be self evident and inform most business decisions. Let's be proud of the work we do together.

Here are three ways to be more of a social entrepreneur in your business:

1. Look for opportunities to account for all that is your product. Quality is accountability.
2. People want to find meaning in their work. A business must have organizational intelligence to support a community in which employees can create high-quality products.
3. Entrepreneurship may start with a desire for your freedom, but it doesn't end there. To be successful, it needs to liberate us all.

Related: Why Milton Friedman Could Love Social Entrepreneurship

Elizabeth Schaeffer Brown is a founder of Uncommon Union, a New York-based branding agency serving social enterprises.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Starting a Business

He Started an 'Accidental' Business at 25 With Just $2,000 — Then Gave His Product to the Pope: 'Anyone Can Be an Entrepreneur'

Michael Aram, founder of the namesake luxury home and jewelry brand, learned the art of metalworking in India — and used it to launch a global brand.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

Elon Musk Endorses Trump, Says He's Faced Two Recent Assassination Attempts: 'Dangerous Times Ahead'

Elon Musk endorsed former President Trump minutes after the failed assassination at a rally in Pennsylvania and says two attempts have been made on his life while living in Texas.